Cannabis homegrow remains a felony in New Jersey despite adult-use cannabis legalization
I, Heady NJ Editor Dan Ulloa, moderated the panel with Edward “Lefty” Grimes of Sativa Cross and Jo Anne Zito of the Coalition of Medical Marijuana of New Jersey (CMMNJ).
Lefty explained the late Cheryl Miller, who had Multiple Sclerosis inspired him. Afterward he noted the need for patients to have strains specifically for their ailments.
“I’m learning more and more about terps (terpenes). They always stay the same. I talked to a patient yesterday who realized there’s three terps she needs,” he said.
“There was homegrow in the initial medical bill. But it was removed. I feel like it’s a disrespect to the patients in the state who have been waiting for access. As patients, we’ve been waiting for this, waiting for real access. I went to jail. My children we removed from my care. Thankfully, I was able to get them back,” Zito concluded.
I noted that homegrow lost with the advent of adult-use cannabis legalization. The push for an industry where small businesspeople, minorities, and those most harmed by the War on Drugs were more important for many advocates than the right to grow.
“There are people out there doing it, but it remains a felony,” Zito said.
Cannabis Homegrow Politics
Lefty accused cannabis legalization sponsor and NJ Senate President Nick Scutari (D-Union) of holding up the homegrow bills.
“We did a protest at Scutari’s office a few months ago. People are coming up to us, “it’s legal. Why are you protesting? What’s with the sign? Most Black and Brown people were unaware. It’s creating a whole new Jim Crow,” he said.
Lefty said that he thought that homegrow was going to be part of the implementation of the referendum adding cannabis legalization to the New Jersey Constitution. He was very unhappy that this was not the case.
“We got corporate cannabis shoved down our throats,” Lefty said. “Patients were stepped over. Rich people with money can grow weed, but somebody with cancer can’t grow.”
Progress was made. S 342, sponsored by Troy Singleton (D-Burlington), is a bill to legalize medical homegrow of a reasonable number of plants. Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds Jackson (D-Mercer) is sponsoring A 997. It is the companion bill. S 353 would legalize adult use and medical cannabis homegrow. State Senator Vin Gopal (D-Monmouth) is sponsoring it. Its companion is A 3657. Benji Wimberly (D-Passaic) and Reynolds Jackson sponsored it.
“It is whole plant medicine. We need all parts of the plant to benefit,” Zito said.
She lamented the nature of the long, dragged-out fight.
“The Senate President is holding them up. I think he’s waiting for more legislators to come on board,” Zito said. “He originally had it in the medical bill. Now I think he’s waiting for the industry to catch up.”
Cannabis Homegrow Politics at the 420 Expo
She noted there is bipartisan support for medical cannabis homegrow.
“My tip for cultivating in new jersey is to contact your legislators,” Zito said.
I noted that the referendum passed in 2020 by 67 percent. Thus no in-person rallies were held during COVID in 2020. People passionate about cannabis did not meet. Therefore local politicians did not attend to court favor and were not lobbied by some of their constituents.
“The little conversations that would have happened because of the referendum did not happen,” I concluded.
Therefore it significantly hampered the cannabis legalization movement in New Jersey. It needed to grow to advocate for homegrow and town laws.
The NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission (NJCRC) has made it very clear they do not have the power to implement cannabis homegrow.
Furthermore it’s difficult for many to come forward and become well-known advocates since their underground mentality has remained.
Problems with New Jersey Cannabis
“Patients need FECO, Rick Simpson Oil. It’s not available. The medicine is unworkable because it’s unaffordable. You need a pound of weed a month to make FECO. You cannot afford that in New Jersey,” Lefty said.
If patients could grow it would normalize cannabis, Zito argued. That would help local implementation.
“A lot of them aren’t getting prioritized. They’re still having difficulty getting the medicine they need due to price,” she said.
Zito noted she started the Let Patients Grow website with CMMNJ Board member Jim Miller to push the issue. He said that cannabis activist Jeff King urged Gopal to support cannabis legalization and, through the site, became a supporter of cannabis homegrow.
She noted the late Jeff Oakes was an activist with Sativa Cross that they named their effort “Jeff’s Law.”
Homegrow is bogged down in New Jersey politics. For example Gopal’s district mates, Eric Houghtaling and Joann Downey (D) lost their re-election last year. Republicans less interested in homegrow replaced them.
Lefty didn’t think it mattered a Republican defeated Steve Sweeney. Scutari replaced him as Senate President.
“Is it the same? Seems as business as usual,” he said at the 420 Expo.
Zito agreed with him. In conclusion I said I heard Sweeney was more opposed to cannabis homegrow than Scutari.