How to Spend Cannabis Tax Dollars?

Stephen Andrews
21 Feb 2024

A study on public opinion in New Jersey is questioning whether money collected from marijuana taxes is repurposed in the right way. Cannabis generates millions in tax dollars each year, which legal states then allocate to finance building of new schools or running substance abuse prevention and treatment programs, among the many initiatives. A significant chunk of money also goes to the law enforcement system.

A public opinion study in New Jersey points out that most people do not think that marijuana tax money should be allotted for police or anti-drug campaigns. 

Marijuana Tax Dollars Should Fund Education and Housing

The New Jersey study, which collected 1,006 answers, asked respondents to pick their preferences on where they’d most like to see marijuana tax revenue reinvested. Public health, affordable housing or funding the police, courts and prisons were among the available answer options. 

It looks like New Jerseyans are not so happy when cannabis tax dollars go to sectors such as the police and prisons, or the very institutions that have once enforced cannabis prohibition. 

The study, recently published in the International Journal of Drug Policy, and conducted by researchers with Rutgers University and Drexel University, shows that not one category scored above 25 percent. Still, it finds that there was “more general support for funding community-based initiatives in public health, housing, and education than for funding police, courts, and prisons.” 

Here’s how New Jerseyans answered on their cannabis tax allocation preferences: 

  1. Education - 23%
  2. Public Health - 21%
  3. Affordable Housing - 15%
  4. Transport and Infrastructure - 13%
  5. Other or Don’t Know - 13%
  6. Police, Courts and Prisons - 11%
  7. Anti-drugs Campaigns - 4%

People Don’t Want Money Spending on Law Enforcement

Legalization advocates in general oppose the idea of using marijuana tax money to support the institutions that until not so long ago sustained the old drug laws, which came with a lot of punitive measures. The same sentiment can now be felt with the findings of the New Jersey’s public opinion survey. 

“Insight into current public opinion of funding priorities suggests a desire for investment in fundamental societal institutions, including education and public health, rather than the punitive enforcement mechanisms that have defined cannabis policy for many decades,” the study authors write. 

The poll further reveals the partisan divides on the tax revenue question. For example, Republicans were more likely to set their preferences on funding the police, courts and prisons rather than any of the other choices. 

The study as well glances at how the War on Drugs played out in a disproportional and unfair way against communities of color. “Only one Black respondent identified funding for police/courts/prisons as their top priority” for cannabis tax dollars, the study authors noted. 

Investigating the public opinion on how marijuana tax money should be repurposed to support disadvantaged communities or achieve health equity is an “underexplored” question, it says in the study conclusion. 

Nevertheless, the data collected from The Garden State makes it clearer that “people largely prefer investment in public health and drug treatment initiatives and schools relative to law enforcement.”

Perhaps the lawmakers in charge will listen. 

Also read on Soft Secrets:

What Impacts Cannabis Taxes?

- Less Than 25% of Cannabis Operators Were Profitable in 2023, Report

The State of Diversity in the Cannabis Sector

Stephen Andrews