Of the states with a legal weed program, New Jersey is the only one that bans growing marijuana plants at home. State Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Monmouth) introduced a bill that would allow those age 21 and older to grow a set amount on their own.
The most glaring omission, activists argue, is that growing cannabis without a license remains a felony, a third-degree crime with a maximum five-year prison sentence for growing just one plant.
"Home grow" language was included in the state's original medical marijuana bill in 2010, but was a late cut before the legislation was passed and signed into law.
It is “no small task,” commission Chairwomen Dianna Houenou said during Monday’s inaugural meeting, adding that New Jersey can provide the nation a model for legalization “by applying the values of safety and equity.”
In an earlier interview with NJ Spotlight News, Houenou promised to “instill a culture where every decision we make is through the lens of equity.”
And the clock is ticking.
“Now, this will take time,” Houenou cautioned. “It will take us several weeks before we develop procedures to guide our operations and hire full-time staff.”
Adult use marijuana is now legal on both sides of the Hudson. But while New York’s law allows residents to grow up to six marijuana plants at home, in New Jersey, cultivating 10 plants in your basement could get you 20 years in prison.
Gopal is not sure why home grown was not part of the legalization but given the overwhelming support the question received he believes it needs to be included.
"Homegrown is true legalization. That's what the people of New Jersey voted on. To legalize this, to move on from this topic and we can focus our criminal justice tax dollars on violent criminals and not non-violent offenders," Gopal said. "It's obviously also important for medical patients who can't travel, giving residents of New Jersey that choice."
“So to truly legalize cannabis home growers should be an option, “Gopal said. “It’s no different than other states like California who have adopted this… . The reality is, as a country and as a state, we’ve spent billions of dollars on the failed war on drugs. And this is just one piece of making sure that it’s truly legalized.”
Police can no longer arrest people for possessing marijuana but there is no legal way to buy it right now. Marijuana industry expert Mike McQueeny says this could be a quicker way to access legal weed. Setting up dispensaries will take longer.
Senator VIN GOPAL
District 11 (Monmouth)
Legalizes growing or possessing up to six marijuana plants for personal recreational use, and up to 10 plants for personal medical use, by persons aged 21 or older.
CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT
An Act concerning marijuana and amending various parts of the statutory law.
Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:
1. N.J.S.2C:35-4 is amended to read as follows:
Sen. Vin Gopal’s bill is geared toward anyone who wants to grow cannabis for recreational use. The bill pushes for up to six plants for recreational use and 10 plants for medicinal use.
“Anyone should be able to have access to this plant, whether it is for medical purposes or for your own personal use,” says Susanna Short.
Even though cannabis is legal, home cultivation is a serious offense in New Jersey. Just one plant can get an offender a three- to five-year sentence. Growing 10 or more plants is a first-degree crime that can put someone away for 10 to 20 years, with one-third of that sentence mandatory.
That is preposterous. It’s botany. It’s weed husbandry. And it is legal in 18 other states, for either medical or recreational purpose or both.
A much-anticipated bill to legalize marijuana in Delaware cleared its first committee hurdle on Wednesday after wide-ranging testimony about how and whether the state should enact the reform.
The legislation, HB 150, filed by Rep. Ed Osienski (D) last week, passed the House Health and Human Development Committee in a 10-5 vote despite vocal opposition from some Republican members of the panel.