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Guest Post: The Need for New Jersey Medical Cannabis Home Cultivation

New Jersey medical cannabis patients are suffering while home cultivation remains a felony. The bills legalizing it need to pass the legislature now.

Despite adult-use cannabis being legal in New Jersey for three years, we are still the only legalized state without legal home cultivation.

The absence of rational arguments against medical home grow is glaring and, frankly, unacceptable. Patients are suffering within the current New Jersey cannabis regulatory scheme. They struggle to secure consistent, reliable, and affordably priced medicine.

New Jersey Medical Cannabis Home Cultivation Issues

Take my friend Andrea for example. She has epilepsy and uses cannabis to treat her symptoms. Unfortunately, she cannot find a dispensary in New Jersey that offers the specific cultivar or strain she needs.

Instead, most of the offerings in the dispensaries cater to recreational consumers. The shelves are stocked with inflated THC potency, ignoring terpene and cannabinoid profile diversity. It’s life or death for patients like Andrea. She needs proper medicine to prevent her seizures, which can lead to life-threatening outcomes like SUDEP. Frustrated by the lack of suitable options, Andrea and many New Jersey medical cannabis patients have turned to home grow for a reliable source of medicine.

Medical cannabis patients and caregivers in the Garden State need legal protection to grow their medicine. There have been arrests of registered medical cannabis patients for home cultivation of just a few plants within the past 20 months since adult use sales began. Individual families have lost more in fines and lawyer fees than any single corporate cannabis company in New Jersey has been fined for ignoring medical patients. This needs to change.

Hope for a New Jersey Medical Cannabis Home Cultivation Bill

Fortunately, it appears there is some talk of movement on the New Jersey medical cannabis home cultivation legalization bill S342. It legalizes home cultivation for medical use only. The bill would allow registered patients and caregivers in the New Jersey medical cannabis program to cultivate up to four mature and four immature cannabis plants.

The legalization of medical home grow may also help invigorate the medicinal cannabis program, which has seen a decrease of over 20,000 medical patients within the past year.

The Problem with Plant Counts Versus Limiting Canopy Size

One major concern from the community regarding S342 is using plant count as a measurement tool. Some cannabis plants with effective cannabinoids and terpenes tailored for specific ailments may yield just a few ounces per harvest. Unfortunately, they would likely produce an insufficient amount to provide a patient’s need when restricted to only four mature plants.

Plant count limits can also be exploited by growing massive outdoor plants. It makes more sense to limit the mature plant canopy area for medical home grow. Thus, those growing medicinally can have enough space to do so.

To properly cultivate cannabis for medicinal needs, time and research go into perfecting the right phenotype or type of plant that works for a specific individual. A typical pheno-hunt of looking for the right strain and evaluating a single cultivar’s genetics can take up to ten plants. About half of those will be male and need to be eliminated.

Only female cannabis plants can be consumed.

The plants will be induced into flowering early. They can provide a small amount of cannabis used to evaluate cannabinoid and terpene profiles. If successful, the desired phenotype can be cloned to provide the consistent genetics and chemical profiles a New Jersey medical cannabis patient requires.

Unfortunately, this nuanced approach to cannabis cultivation is not profitable within the commercial cannabis industry. As a result, it is not accommodated.

Which brings us back to the main point: Legalize Medical Home Grow Now.

The movement needs your help. Email your support and thoughts on S342 to

New Jersey Senate President Nick Scutari (D-Union) at SenScutari@njleg.org and Health Committee Chair Joe Vitale (D-Middlesex) at SenVitale@njleg.org.

Or simply click here.

The following change to S342 is recommended:

3. (New section) a. A registered qualifying patient who is 21 years of age or older, or a designated caregiver for the patient, shall be authorized to cultivate and possess a total mature cannabis plant grow canopy area that does not exceed 100 square feet up to four mature cannabis plants and up to four immature cannabis plants for the patient’s personal medical use upon providing notice to the commission as provided in subsection b. of this section. Any medical cannabis that is home cultivated pursuant to this section shall be cultivated in the residence of the patient or the patient’s designated caregiver, as applicable, at the address indicated in the individual’s current registry information.

Definitions from New Jersey legal code on cannabis, N.J.A.C. 17:30:

“Mature cannabis plant” means a harvestable female cannabis plant that is flowering.

Square footage of a mature cannabis plant grow canopy area is measured horizontally starting from the outermost point of the furthest plant in a grow canopy area and continuing around the outside of all plants located within the mature cannabis plant grow canopy area.

If a vertically tiered or shelving system is included in the cultivation area, the surface area of each tier or shelf must be included in calculating the grow canopy area.

A mature cannabis plant grow canopy area is the total square feet in which a cannabis cultivator plants and grows cannabis plants. And does not include areas exclusively used for harvesting, drying, curing, packaging, labeling, or storing cannabis.

By Kristen Goedde of Trichome Analytical and Paul Davis of Green Dragon Hydroponics.

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