(The following is an op-ed by adult-use and medical homegrow sponsors Senator Vin Gopal and Assembly members Eric Houghtaling, and Joann Downey (D-Monmouth.)
What is legalization of marijuana if people are not allowed to grow the plant themselves at home?
Back in November of 2020, the people of New Jersey overwhelmingly voted in favor of legalizing the possession and use of marijuana, in addition to allowing the cultivation, processing, and sale of retail marijuana.
Although that was an important first step in expanding access to medical marijuana for New Jersey residents, many of our constituents recently expressed that they still have trouble accessing their much-needed medicine simply because they can’t afford it. By allowing individuals 21 and older to grow a regulated number of plants in their home, those experiencing financial hardship will gain the ability to fill their prescriptions in a cost-effective manner.
For this reason, we are calling on the State Legislature to hold a hearing on medical marijuana patient access and home cultivation. Now more than ever, with high unemployment leading to reduced income across the state, it is imperative that we provide a pathway to affordable medicine for those who need it.
This Spring, we introduced legislation (S3582/A5552) in the State Senate and General Assembly that would permit the growth of up to six plants for recreational use or ten plants for medical use, with no more than 12 plants permitted per household.
An important goal of legalization is to end the racial and income disparities in the way marijuana laws were enforced and prosecuted. Currently, growing even one plant at home can result in a prison sentence of 10 to 20 years. Leaving residents to face a possible prison sentence for growing a limited quantity at their homes, while it’s legal to buy, sell, possess, smoke and to grow marijuana commercially, would create a new disparity. By passing this legislation, we would eliminate the threat of prison for those who simply seek to fill their prescription, all while maintaining a limit on how much can be grown.
In addition to the obvious benefits of better accessibility and affordability, there are other positive developments such as reducing black market demand. The law enforcement agencies in states that have legalized homegrow, such as Oregon, have noticed that the demand for marijuana on the black market has gone down significantly.
Simply put, people are less likely to turn to the black market when a safe and legal alternative such as homegrow exists.
In order to get this vital legislation to the finish line, we urge you to write to your district’s legislators and tell them to cosponsor S3582/A5552. We have seen time and again how people using their voices leads to real change, and hopefully, this will become another example of such an occurrence. We owe it to those individuals who need their medication and find it hard to pay for the increasing prices of medical marijuana.
There is still work to be done when it comes to living up to the legalization of marijuana that was so widely supported by the people of New Jersey. If you have any suggestions or ideas, please reach out to our office by calling (732) 695-3371, or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Senator Vin Gopal and Assembly Members Eric Houghtaling & Joann Downey represent New Jersey’s 11th Legislative District in the State Senate and Assembly, where they work to make the Garden State more affordable for its hard-working residents.