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.
That puts police groups and marijuana businesses on the same side of the issue in a Baptist-bootlegger compromise to maintain the last remaining vestiges of prohibition. And that’s a mess.
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.
Gopal says it would be up to local municipalities whether or not to allow dispensaries or growers.
“Sixty seven percent of New Jerseyans voted yes for adult use cannabis. You know, they were voting for, you know, safe, and regulated cannabis, not the Wild West,” he said.
“It’s going to take at least six months to make our initial rules and regulations, and then only at that point, will they start soliciting adult use licenses. And then it will take another 90 days for those licenses to get considered. And only then can they start the process of opening up,” McQueeny said.
As CBS2’s Meg Baker reports, St. Sen. Vin Gopal sponsored a bill to allow anyone 21 and older to grow up to six marijuana plants at home.
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.
“We have some of the most expensive medical marijuana in the country,” Wolski said. “So many patients are just, you know, have already been impoverished by their illnesses that they simply cannot afford this medicine.”
There is a question of safety.
“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.”
Medical patients could grow up to 10 plants. Ken Wolski, executive director of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana, has been pushing for this to open up access to more than 100,000 patients who only have 14 alternative treatment centers to choose from.
“Approving additional cannabis growing, processing and dispensary licenses in the state will immensely help the program, providing patients with more variety and reducing their travel time to obtain their medicine,” Etain CEO Amy Peckam said. “We cannot wait to bring our high-quality products and formulations to the patients and customers of New Jersey.”
And converting to a full legal weed dispensary comes with a $1 million fee for a licensee with three or more retail locations.
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.
The terms of the licenses issued Friday emphasized the importance of ensuring patients’ needs are met before worrying about legal weed. License holders must wait at least one year before applying for a permit to transition into recreational sales and cannot change ownership for two years.