Meanwhile in Washington, D.C., Sen. Cory Booker is leading the charge to legalize cannabis at the federal level. Yet somewhere between Booker and Gopal, the New Jersey Democratic Party seems to have lost the script. Advocating for a simple home-grown solution should be a simple policy decision for a political party focused on the people.
New Jersey is a great place to grow cannabis. But unfortunately, New Jersey is one of two states where adult-use cannabis is legal, but home cultivation is not. It’s possibly the only thing that New Jersey has in common with the other non-homegrow state, Washington, and it’s nothing to be proud of. The good news is: New Jersey can fix it. To paraphrase a former New Jersey official, it’s time for some homegrown in Fort Lee.
No one said ending prohibition would be easy. This is what happens when states are left to their own devices without the benefit of a functional Congress. But that’s no excuse for New Jersey to not get this right when the stakes are so high. Real people go to real prison when we get this wrong.
So, how did New Jersey find itself in this idiotic situation? Last November, the people of New Jersey voted for a constitutional amendment to legalize cannabis. But at some point during the negotiations to draft the enabling legislation, the home-grow provisions were cut out of it. Cut out by whom — and for what reason — remains unclear.
But here’s the problem: although it is legal in New Jersey for any adult to buy cannabis, it’s still not legal for anyone to grow a single plant. If a police officer in New Jersey catches anyone growing cannabis, that person can go to prison for five years and face a $25,000 fine — for growing one plant. That is an untenable situation that lacks any legal logic, and it stinks like Mark Sanchez’s mask after the butt fumble.
There is no other industry where there is an appropriate parallel. New Jersey residents can grow their own tobacco, brew their own beer and bottle their own wine at home. But marijuana? Forget about it. The Star-Ledger’s editorial board recently referred to this legal disparity as “off-the-charts idiotic.”
Who stands to benefit from keeping homegrown cannabis illegal in New Jersey? Although there are no such allegations being made in the Garden State, there have been reports of marijuana businesses advocating for a ban on homegrown cannabis to protect their own interests in other states, from New York to Michigan.
As we unwind the cannabis prohibition at the state and federal level, issues like these need to be dealt with. And this one seems to be rather simple. How is the New Jersey Legislature going to deny homegrown cannabis in the Garden State? Just make it happen.
Cannabis reform groups support Gopal’s efforts, including NORML and the Marijuana Policy Project. Both groups advocate for consistent consumer access. For homebound patients who need medical marijuana and for adults who don’t live near a retail dispensary, residents of New Jersey need the ability to grow at home. Yet despite this attention from national groups, the leaders of the New Jersey Legislature just don’t seem motivated to fix this problem.
The four vertically integrated licenses were awarded to:
The process was halted for over a year due to a lawsuit by applicants whose applications were rejected due to a file format issue.
The licenses awarded Friday were part of a 2019 request for applications by the state Department of Health, which oversaw the New Jersey Medical Marijuana Program until the CRC was established.