But as the state’s recreational industry revs up, neither Senate President Sweeney nor Sen. Nick Scutari – the legislative doyen of legal marijuana – has thrown his support behind Gopal’s bill. To get some answers why the bill has stalled, Dave D’Alessandro of the Star-Ledger Editorial Board spoke with Gopal, and what follows is an edited version of that discussion:
Q. State the case for allowing home grown marijuana, particularly for medical patients.
A. Fundamentally, it’s about respecting the rights and the will of the voters. When New Jersey voted overwhelmingly to legalize cannabis, I had communities in my district that are very conservative like Freehold Township and Colts Neck that voted in strong majorities. So, if we’re talking about criminal justice and social justice and preventing corporations from coming into our state to profit, then we need to be like New York and every other state and have a true home grow policy.
Q. Everyone knows that the existing penalties for home grow is off-the-charts idiotic. You can be charged with a first-degree crime and go to jail for years for 10 plants. You’d think that would demonstrate the urgency for this bill.
A. Absolutely, the penalties are ridiculous. All we’re doing is strengthening the black market by keeping those penalties in place – which was not the will of the voters last November.