Nick Scutari

New Jersey CannaBusiness Association (NJCBA) President Ed DeVeaux hosted an online zoom chat with cannabis sponsor and incoming New Jersey Senate President Nick Scutari (D-Union.)

DeVeaux asked about the feasibility of homegrow legislation passing.

“I don’t see it happening any time soon,” Scutari said.

He said he is not against it himself; however, “we gotta let this industry get off the ground.”

Nick Scutari claimed if homegrow were allowed, it would flood the market with cannabis.

Homegrow advocate Jim Miller of the Coalition of Medical Marijuana of New Jersey has noted on the Sativa Cross podcast that Scutari visited Colorado when they allowed more than 80 plants to be grown by an individual. They have since reduced the number of plants allowed to address such concerns.

In stark contrast to what other states allowed, the proposed homegrow bills in New Jersey would only allow eight plants for medical patients in a bill introduced by Senator Troy Singleton (D-Burlington) or six plants for consumers and 10 for patients in a bill sponsored by Senator Vin Gopal (D-Monmouth).

“It’s not a regulated substance. It can be tainted with other stuff,” Scutari said.

He was open to the idea of passing a bill with a cannabis homegrow bill with a regulatory mechanism.

“It’s going to happen. But it’s going to happen with regulations,” Scutari said.

He said he has never consumed cannabis himself.

An Overview of the Legalization Process with Nick Scutari

DeVeaux noted that Scutari was the lead legislative proponent for cannabis legalization for many years.

“I feel like the godfather of it,” Nick Scutari said. “I was laughed at, ridiculed, and told I would have a short career in the legislature.”

DeVeaux noted they worked together on the legalization effort.  

“It can’t be understated how hard this was,” Scutari said.

He noted he introduced the concept a decade ago.

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“Just to get medical marijuana passed was a Herculean effort,” Scutari said. “And I had been working on that for many years.”

“The State of New Jersey voted overwhelmingly… to legalize marijuana, and it still took us months to convince the legislature that’s what they really wanted,” he added.

Scutari noted even with Governor Phil Murphy, Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester), and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (D-Middlesex) pushing for its passage, it was still very hard.

“I couldn’t be more proud,” he said of the legislation, calling it one of his greatest accomplishments.

Scutari said competition from the illicit market will continue unless they are invited into the legitimate market.

“It can’t be understated just what you’ve done,” DeVeaux said. He explained he was involved in the process and attended the hearings the Legislative Black Caucus held. Led by State Senator Ron Rice (D-Essex), they were against legalization.

“Some days, I just shook my head,” DeVeaux said. “What were those conversations like?”

“It was a little surprising,” Scutari said about their response. “I was shocked. People of Color were targeted and the reason for which marijuana and cannabis prohibition was created.”

He noted the long history of cannabis prohibition and how came into force (detailed in my book Cannabis 101!)

“It was more generational than anything else,” Scutari said about the opposition, noting those who were older were more inclined to be against it.

“The concept of the legislation itself was social justice at its core,” he said.

DeVeaux noted that while cannabis was legalized, an underground industry has been selling it for some time and needs to be accepted into the legal market.

“Marijuana is no longer illegal, and it’s not for sale anywhere,” Scutari said. “But it’s getting ingested everywhere. And that’s fine.”

He acknowledged the need to bring in the underground legacy market.

“Some of them know more about marijuana than anybody!” Nick Scutari exclaimed.

“Where does the legislature go, and where does the CRC go?”  DeVeaux asked.

“The CRC has been busy. I would like to see them move faster,” Scutari said.

He noted they are working hard and seeking to be careful in establishing the New Jersey adult-use cannabis industry.

Scutari said he pushed for a quicker end to the 29-month process that it took to resolve the 2019 medical cannabis Request for Applications (RFA).

Like others, he was supportive of letting the existing medical cannabis dispensaries sell adult-use cannabis first. He noted the CRC is monitoring dispensary inventory to ensure there is no supply crisis.

“Some are more ready than others,” he said.

Nick Scutari noted the need for more medical cannabis dispensaries.

He added his mother has become a patient to treat her Multiple Sclerosis and didn’t want to be on opioids, which are more harmful than medical cannabis but cheaper.

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