Legal NJ cannabis home grow arrests

On the three-year anniversary of the legal NJ cannabis bills, the Cannabis Regulatory and Equity and Marijuana Modernization Act (CREAMMA) signing, advocates gathered in Trenton to celebrate the decrease in arrests and demanded home grow legalization.

Some marched across downtown to the State House demanding home grow.

Legal NJ cannabis home grow arrests

“Senator (Nick) Scutari’s comments have been that the industry has to grow. But they’re here today,” Regional NORML Organizer Chris Goldstein said.

“Cannabis consumers in New Jersey are expected to generate one billion dollars in regulated sales in 2024. Now, we’re urging legislators to deliver on some old promises to our community,” he added.

Goldstein served as Master of Ceremonies and introduced the other speakers.

“I commend Governor Murphy and the 67 percent of voters who made this possible,” Kristen Goedde of Trichome Analytical declared.

She also praised the NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission (NJCRC) for its regulations on testing products and establishing the industry.

“A registered medical cannabis patient could end up in jail for five years for growing one plant,” Goedde noted.

She said it would help patients get rare strains that are especially helpful for their conditions but rare to find.

“We’re the industry and we’re here in support of home grow,” Goedde declared.

She urged the NJ Senate push for S 1393 for medical cannabis home grow legalization.

“I want to thank the cavalry for coming. We were waiting for you,” said New Jersey cannabis advocate Edward “Lefty” Grimes of Sativa Cross.

“We’ve made real progress here in New Jersey, but we still have a long way to go,” said Edward “Lefty” Grimes of Sativa Cross. “Make no mistake, people are still being victimized, and even disabled residents are being left out.”

“We’re not looking for giant fields,” Goldstein explained.

He noted they wanted a tent the size of a closet to grow.

Ending Arrests

“I believe as someone in the legal industry it’s a moral imperative,” Jesse Villars of Baked By The River Dispensary in Lambertville in Hunterdon County. “No one should be in prison for cannabis. Unfortunately, we’re still seeing people and legislation putting people in prison. I want to pay attention to legislation that is still putting people in jail.”

She cited the case of the jailed underground legacy operator Daniel Kessel, among other ongoing cases.

Andrea Raible noted she is an unofficial medical cannabis patient.

“Replacing 100,000 arrests with 100 dispensaries is definitely worth celebrating. Patient and legacy operators are still caught in the crossfire,” she noted.

Raible noted she needs rare cannabis strains or types to treat her seizures.

Dr. David Nathan of Doctors for Drug Policy Reform noted that arrested were often minorities and those less fortunate.

“Today these communities remain disproportionately targeted for growing,” he declared. A ban on home grow infringes on their liberty!”

Ken Wolski noted he has been an advocate for legal NJ cannabis since 1966. He is the longtime Chair of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana of New Jersey (CMMNJ.) Wolski noted they are also for home grow and also want medical health insurance to cover medical cannabis for patients.

It does not due to federal prohibition.

“It’s really not going to have much of an impact on the industry itself,” he added.

Wolski noted most hospitals, nursing homes, and prisons do not allow medical cannabis as a means of treatment within their facilities.

Fighting for Justice

New Jersey cannabis scientist and CMMNJ leader Abigal Kalmbach noted the progress in ending arrests and also sought an information hearing on legal cannabis home grow.

“Patients should be legally allowed to grow their medicine,” Kalmbach added. “People have been cultivating cannabis for millennia to produce the types of compounds that are most medically appropriate. However, patients are currently at the whims of operators who are more motivated by market forces. Patients deserve the right to grow.”

“The War on Drugs is a War on People!” Josh Alb of Cannademix declared.

A longtime advocate for legalization, he recently joined the home grow effort and led the marching protesters to the State House.

Evan Nison is the Vice-Chair of National NORML and was a 2020 ballot referendum organizer (along with myself representing the Latino Action Network and several others.)  He noted that stopping arrests was a crucial first step.

“I’m very glad to see those days behind us,” he said. “Possession arrests were one of the most egregious aspects of prohibition, and that’s why today is a cause for celebration.”

“Governor Murphy has been a fantastic leader in this regard and deserves to be commended,” Nison noted. “It’s Senator Scutari who is ignoring the work that still needs to be done, including home cultivation rights.”

CMMNJ leader Jim Miller and UFCW union leader Hugh Giordano also celebrated the end of arrests and spoke in favor of home grow.

A mandate of more than 3 million voters said “yes” to the 2020 legal NJ cannabis referendum. The bills that were signed on February 222, 2021, also decriminalized marijuana possession along with low-level sales.

When Governor Phil Murphy signed the flight of historic reform laws on February 22, 2021, he also ordered an immediate stop to police interactions over a few grams of marijuana.

Progress on making home grow not a felony has been difficult. But a new group of New Jersey cannabis industry advocates is trying to energize the movement. However, they also want to change the proposed limit of less than a dozen plants to a small canopy, which might be difficult.

“As a minority woman, and truly a (underground) legacy to legal operator, I can say that today’s milestone in New Jersey reflects a significant shift in our societal values towards inclusivity and justice,” said legal NJ cannabis manufacturer Matha Figaro of ButACake. “It’s crucial for legal cannabis business operators to continue to push forward on comprehensive reforms like clear records and personal cultivation.”

Before 2021, police across New Jersey were arresting about 100 people every day for simple possession. This was more than for all other substances combined. The harsh racial disparities accompanying enforcement went on for decades.

In 2018, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal issued a memo recommending that marijuana prosecutions be suspended, But police kept up the draconian pace of arrests.

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Dan Ulloa
Dan Ulloa is the Editor and Publisher of Heady NJ, with a background in politics, journalism, and a passion for the cannabis community. He curates and publishes news, events, and insights on the industry. Dan has been a leading voice in the New Jersey cannabis scene, educating and informing the public about this rapidly evolving industry. He ranked #35 on the INSIDER NJ Cannabis Power List out of 100 in 2022.