New Jersey Uses Marijuana Revenue To Fund Violence Prevention Programs

Revenue from legal marijuana in New Jersey will cover a third of the cost of a grant program aimed at violence intervention and prevention in the state, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) and Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin (D) announced this week.

Of the $15 million in grant money that will be available to community organizations for the coming fiscal year, $5 million comes from the state’s Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Fund. The fund, which was established through the state’s marijuana legalization law, consists of monies from taxes on legal sales, industry fees and civil penalties.

With the new $15 million injection, the state’s support for Community-Based Violence Intervention (CBVI) programs now totals $40 million since 2021.

“These funds continue to put resources in the hands of grass roots organizations so that communities are part of our public safety mission,” Platkin said in a press release on Tuesday. “Our comprehensive approach to public safety focuses support for community-led violence intervention efforts that are disrupting cycles of violence at the ground level.”

Murphy said his administration has been committed to addressing pockets of violence throughout the state “since day one” of his time in office. “Through initiatives such as the Community-Based Violence Intervention Programs, we have made great strides on that pledge,” the governor said.

Patricia Teffenhart, executive director of the Division of Violence Intervention and Victim Assistance, which is part of the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety, called the grants program “a critical piece to building our public safety infrastructure.”

State guidelines around the CBVI program say a minimum of $5 million from the state cannabis fund must support the program. Some of that money is from the state’s Cannabis Impact Zone Funds, which focus on addressing the disproportionate impacts of the drug war. Eligibility for those funds is contingent on applicants operating in so-called impact zones, defined by measures such as high rates of criminal convictions for marijuana activity, disproportionate law enforcement activity and high rates of unemployment.

The deadline for organizations to apply for the CBVI grants is September 26. Application forms and other documents are available online.

There are two categories for grant applicants: one capped at $750,000 for organizations serving “those already engaged in violent behavior or at high risk of violence due to past victimization or as a result of retaliation” and another capped at $500,000 for groups serving “individuals who are at risk due to living in high rates of community violence, or due to a risk factor like involvement in the juvenile justice system or having a family member who is gang-involved.”

Currently the state’s CBVI grants support 31 community organizations “in every region” of New Jersey, Platkin’s office said.

New Jersey is among a majority of states with legal cannabis that route at least some portion of revenue toward community reinvestment.

Earlier this week, California announced it was opening applications for $48 million in marijuana tax-funded community reinvestment grants, which support job placement, legal assistance, treatment of mental health and substance use disorders, referrals to medical care and other services for communities that have been disproportionately affected by the drug war. That program, which awards grants of up to $3 million, is funded exclusively through state cannabis revenue.

In June, California regulators at the Department of Cannabis Control (DCC) announced the award of $4.1 million to 18 local governments through a first-of-its-kind program to support cannabis business licensing programs and curb the illicit market.

DCC also recently awarded nearly $20 million in research grants, funded by marijuana tax revenue, to 16 academic institutions to carry out studies into cannabis—including novel cannabinoids like delta-8 THC and the genetics of the state’s numerous “legacy” strains. And in February, California officials announced the award of $15 million in grants to support local efforts to promote equity in the marijuana industry.

Meanwhile, Illinois paid out $45 million in grants last year under its Restore, Reinvest, and Renew (R3) program, which was established under the state’s adult-use cannabis legalization law. Funds went to 148 programs run by organizations operating on relatively small budgets in communities designated as socioeconomically disadvantaged.

Arizona sets aside 10 percent of marijuana tax revenue for a justice redevelopment fund, which funds public health services, counseling, job training and other social services for communities that have been adversely affected by marijuana arrests and criminalization. Applications for the state’s first round of grants under that program became available in March.

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