New Jersey home-grown cannabis

Governor Phil Murphy (D) was recently asked on a News 12 News Jersey call-in show about legalizing New Jersey home-grown cannabis.

He was on the Monday afternoon “Ask Gov. Murphy” with Eric Landskroner.

A man named Kevin wrote on X or Twitter, “ask him why home-grown cannabis is still unlawful. Mandatory five to ten years imprisonment for just one plant. New York recently allowed home-grown when recreational cannabis was legalizing. Why does New Jersey want to punish patients for wanting to grow their own medicine?”

Murphy said his Chief Counsel Parimal Garg should speak to Kevin.

His email is likely parimal.garg@nj.gov if you want to lobby him.

“I’m very much open-minded to this. If I were a betting man that down the road that’s exactly where this would land. I understand, having said that, yes it wasn’t in our initial regulations,” Murphy explained.

But then he parroted industry talking points against New Jersey home-grown cannabis.

“I think there’s a rightful objective to get in this industry up on its feet and make sure the folks who are in this as a matter of commerce are successful and again with the huge amount of focus on equity. Social justice is how I got here to begin with,” Murphy added.

Murphy did not specify a metric to say when “the industry is off its feet.”

At the pace that began in August, a New Jersey cannabis dispensary will probably open every week for the next two years. Many of those who have done so are local, small, minority, and women business owners.

In addition, Heady NJ hears there will be several independent New Jersey cannabis cultivators harvesting by next June. The cultivation process is even harder and more expensive than opening a New Jersey cannabis dispensary.

They remain eagerly anticipated by many.

Building An Equitable New Jersey Cannabis Industry

“What we’ve done, by the way, has gone really well. It just hasn’t gone far enough. We just gotta do more to get this more proliferated. I think once the industry is up on its feet and it is getting there, I think what the commission has done is good. We just need to see more of it,” Murphy noted.

“I think at some points that’s a consideration we’ll get back on the table,” he added.

Two New Jersey cannabis home-grown bills in the legislature could be passed into law and signed before the New Jersey legislative session ends in January.

The New Jersey medical cannabis legalization bill CUMMA was signed into law on the last day of former Governor Jon Corzine’s time in office in January 2010, for example.

However, New Jersey Senate President Nick Scutari (D-Union) has also voiced concern it would hurt the budding New Jersey cannabis industry.

He can likely be reached at senscutari@njleg.org.

Many New Jersey cannabis advocates want to see local, small businesses succeed. They are especially interested in seeing businesses owned by those who suffered from the War on Drugs, minorities, and women flourish. This is the Goldilocks ideal many are working and advocating for.

Concern for the Goldilocks is an interesting justification for rhetoric largely heard from companies that are owned by White men and don’t believe in a win-win cannabis market.

Many who are pro-Goldilocks might be for New Jersey home-grown legalization. But most are not actively lobbying legislators for it.

Zero-Sum Game Mentality Prevlanent in the Cannabis Industry

Anti-New Jersey home-grown cannabis rhetoric is usually heard from those who support large cannabis corporations that are Multi-State Operators (MSO). They see it as a zero-sum game where only a few can win.

Because cannabis is federally illegal, plant-touching legal cannabis license companies cannot deduct their expenses from their taxes. They are prohibited by Section 280-E of the IRS Tax Code. Thus, they have a very high tax rate severely shrinks their net profits.

In addition, the upfront sunken costs of about $500,000 to $10,000,000 to open the doors of a New Jersey cannabis dispensary or cultivation warps the mindset of many in the cannabis industry.

Land, money, and town approval barriers make entry into the industry difficult. That makes it difficult for most who have not run at least one successful legal business. Previously, even those would not have been able to enter the market when the barriers were even higher in the New Jersey medical cannabis market.

This is why they dislike the underground legacy operators as well. They want their market share.

In Vermont, dispensaries sell the things needed to grow cannabis along with their other products.

Underground legacy operators do not see it as a zero-sum game. They see it as a win-win where the demand for cannabis is great. But they do not have to go through an elaborate process to open and spend a lot of time and money.

Most probably would not grow all their own cannabis. It’s an elaborate process to grow great cannabis if you don’t like to grow things in the first place. However, winemakers and tomato growers enjoy buying wine and tomatoes too.

Social Justice Efforts Focused Elsewhere

Many non-profit organizations advocated for social justice in the New Jersey cannabis legalization process. But they are now more concerned about other issues of discrimination and over-policing, like reigning in the Paterson Police Department’s history of brutality.

Even Sativa Cross, which spearheaded the New Jersey cannabis movement, has been focusing on the safety of the disabled more than legalizing New Jersey home-grown cannabis recently.

The pro-legalization group NORML has been leading the effort under Evan Nisan. They plan to build support in Scutari’s district to get locals to persuade him to support New Jersey home-grown cannabis.

Many in the New Jersey cannabis community want home-grown cannabis legalized. Several are very frustrated at the lack of progress and the nature of the process.

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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.