With a perfectly timed break in the freezing cold weather,  a group of about twenty-five protesters and advocates gathered in front of the New Jersey Statehouse today to greet lawmakers as they arrived for inaugural proceedings. The group of patients and citizens were voicing concern for medical cannabis patients’ grow rights.

In the recent cannabis bill proposed by Sen. Nick Scutari grow rights were notably not present and cultivating cannabis at home for medical or personal use would be prohibited under the law. Although Scutari stated the bill may be changed, the current form allowing recreational cannabis would prohibit patient home grow of cannabis.

Peter Rosenfeld, a board member of the Coalition of Medical Marijuana New Jersey (CMMNJ), pointed out that caregivers and patients were expecting home gardens until the provision was removed in 2009 from the Compassionate Use of Medical Marijuana Act. Almost a decade later, and the promises of a robust medical marijuana program have been broken.

Advocates gathered today with signs, cameras, streaming media, and widespread support for their cause of bringing attention to the need for a home grow provision in NJ’s upcoming cannabis policy. An active group of medical marijuana patients have been advocating for more access, compassionate laws, home grow and decriminalization for many years in a variety of ways including podcasts, protests at the statehouse, a strong online presence, among many other strategies. For example, the group uses a hashtag #theyshallgrow, and can easily be found on Facebook and other social media.

Cannabis is likely to be legalized for recreational use in 2018, with the election of Governor Phil Murphy, which very likely could lead to a supply issue for medical patients, as recreational use will be creating a much larger demand on an already strained dispensary inventory. According to Rosenfeld,  “The recreational marijuana bill that Senator Scutari may be introducing today will make the specific strain supply issue much worse, to the detriment of patients. Home cultivation is one way of alleviating this issue.”

Ken Wolski RN, Executive Director of CMMNJ, “Home cultivation empowers patients to take charge of their own healthcare, to grow their own medicine for pennies and to choose the specific strains that best helps their medical conditions.” Unlike other medications, cannabis is not eligible for prescription drug coverage leading to exorbitant costs for patients which a home grow program would help make more affordable and attainable for many patients.

Rosenfeld added, “As New Jersey moves on to full legalization of marijuana we want legislators and Governor-elect Murphy to consider the needs of our state’s medical marijuana patients.”

Many throughout the state are very excited for legalization considering Murphy won by a landslide mainly due to his campaigning openly about legalizing cannabis for recreational use if he were to be elected. Nationwide, cannabis legalization is favored by over 61% of the population.

When New Jersey legalizes recreational cannabis,  the industry and the usage will grow and the patients, well,#theyshallgrow.

 

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