New Jerseyans support cannabis tax revenue being used for education and public health initiatives

Education, public health initiatives and housing — that is where the majority of New Jerseyans want to see revenue from cannabis sales spent.

According to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll released Monday and conducted in partnership with researchers Nathan Link of Rutgers University – Camden and Jordan Hyatt of Drexel University, when asked where they would like to see tax revenue generated from cannabis sales spent, half of New Jerseyans agreed that the state should invest in education and public health initiatives.

“While education and public health initiatives edge their way to the top, preferences span a number of important state issues, with a notable number of New Jerseyans wanting to prioritize things like affordable housing and transportation,” Ashley Koning, an assistant research professor and director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University – New Brunswick, said.

According to a statewide poll of 1,006 adults contacted from Aug. 30 to Sept. 8, slightly more than one in five people polled supported spending cannabis revenue on education (23%) and public and community health initiatives, including drug treatment centers (21%). Less than one in five said it should be spent on affordable housing development (15%) or transportation and infrastructure (13%), and ever fewer supported funding for police, courts and prisons (11%).

New Jerseyans least supported using the revenue for campaigns on the dangers of substance use (4%). Thirteen percent gave another answer or were unsure what the revenue should be spent on.

When first and second priorities are combined, about half of all New Jerseyans agreed that the revenue should be spent on education and public health initiatives.

“This is a big deal and a needed conversation,” Link, assistant professor and graduate director in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice at Rutgers-Camden, said. “What sets this legislation apart from that of the other states that have legalized and decriminalized cannabis are the critical benefits for social and racial justice that arise from implementing a permanent funding structure that potentially targets schools, health and the well-being of people living in New Jersey’s most disadvantaged communities.”

Democrats (25%) and independents (25%) were more likely than Republicans (16%) to say investing in education should be the top priority. Republicans instead said the top priority for revenue should be funding police, courts and prisons (21%).

“Investment preferences are divided by familiar partisan lines,” Jessica Roman, a research associate of the Eagleton Center, said. “Republicans’ first priority for the revenue is reminiscent of their overall ‘tough on crime’ approach, whereas police, court and prison funding are the farthest thing from Democrats’ minds.”

Black residents (38%) are more likely than residents of other races and ethnicities to feel the state should primarily invest the revenue in affordable housing development.