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NJ Medical Cannabis Home Grow Advocates Make Progress

Advocates have made progress in gathering support for New Jersey medical cannabis home grow legalization in the State Senate and the industry.

Despite the dozens of dispensaries now open in New Jersey, it remains a felony.

With the New Jersey legislature in session, it’s the perfect time to wander the halls of the State House to bump into legislators.

New Jersey Medical Cannabis Home Grow State House Lobbying

So Sativa Cross advocate Edward “Lefty” Grimes and Jesse Villars of the Baked By The River Dispensary went to the State House to lobby. They ran into New Jersey Senate President Nick Scutari (D-Union). 

“It’s definitely not going to happen this session,” he noted.

Lefty praised progress in the market of more types of cannabis strains available. He cited the need for even more strains for patients.

“If it weren’t for me, you wouldn’t be able to get it,” Scutari noted.

While he went up a staircase, Lefty couldn’t follow in his electric wheelchair. 

“He just ran away from us,” Lefty noted afterward.

“His administration denies me all the time when I call his office because I don’t live in the district,” said advocate Taylor G, who was also there to lobby.

Lobbying the Health and Human Services Committee Chair

New Jersey cannabis advocates then went to a New Jersey Senate Health and Human Services Committee hearing to lobby the Chair, State Senator Joe Vitale (D-Middlesex).

Vitale praised Andrea Raible, who explained they’re growing public support.

She is a very sickly New Jersey medical cannabis patient with epilepsy in desperate need of alternative medicine.

“Let us know how we can move it forward,” Raible noted.

She noted the difficulty of meeting and speaking with Scutari on the issue.

“He’s hard to find,” Vitale admitted.

He suggested she call the NJ Senate Majority office and say a group wants to discuss New Jersey medical cannabis home grow legalization.

“We are getting more industry support. Also, we are the first licensed testing lab in New Jersey. We have licensed retailers that are also in support of this,” Kristen Goedde of Trichome Analytical explained. “I know the primary reasoning was to allow the industry to establish. We’re the industry. We’re telling you it’s established. We want to help move this forward. It has bipartisan support. It has public support. How do we get this done?”’

“You got to talk to Senator Scutari. He’s the gatekeeper,” Vitale said. 

“We aren’t sure about how to go about it,” Goedde said.

“Let me speak with him and see where he is. Then I’ll get back to you on where he is,” Vitale replied.

Progress

He is not among those sponsoring the bill S 342 legalizing New Jersey medical home grow. Thus, his support of assistance represents progress. 

“It seems like there’s no reason we can’t have an informational hearing,” AR noted regarding the process.

But Scutari needs to approve the hearing first. Thus, the power of the office he holds is very significant.

Vitale would likely chair the hearing.

Raible indicated in previous conversations Vitale was open to it and would convey the message of industry support.

Villars and others wanted to testify on the issue even though the bill was not the subject of a hearing. Maude’s Planted Pot dispensary co-owner Abby Kalmbach and New Jersey conditional cannabis cultivator license holder Eric Jiang were also there supporting New Jersey medical cannabis home grow legalization.

Legislative Issues

In the Assembly, Tom Giblin (D-Giblin) is among those sponsoring it. He is retiring, with Alixon Collazos-Gill replacing him. Since she served as a cannabis consultant, she told Heady NJ she wants to get clearance from the ethics counsel before supporting it but doesn’t see how that would be an issue.

In the 2021 election, Assembly sponsors Eric Houghtaling and Joann Downey lost. It hurt the New Jersey medical cannabis home grow legalization campaign.

With the lame-duck session nearly over, the New Jersey medical cannabis home grow legalization campaign will continue. The new legislative session begins next Tuesday. The beginning of the year is the best time of the year to push the issue. A lot of controversial issues take multiple legislative sessions to become law.

Home grow sponsors Senators Vin Gopal (D-Monmouth) and Troy Singleton’s (D-Burlington) senior staffers were pessimistic New Jersey medical cannabis home grow legalization would pass during lame duck.

Cannabis Industry Issues With Possible Competition

Scutari has claimed multiple times he fears legalizing New Jersey cannabis home grow could harm the industry.

Governor Phil Murphy (D) recently parroted talking points that home grow would harm the industry too.

There is a sense that success in the cannabis industry is a zero-sum game where home grow could cut into slim profits after the upfront costs and taxes are paid. 

But the amount of people that would grow is not likely that large. Also, people who grow tomatoes still buy tomatoes. Why wouldn’t this be different?

A lot of the cannabis corporations that are Multi-State Operators (MSOs) that are owned by White men unharmed by the War on Drugs that sell moldy cannabis don’t like competition or unions. They also don’t like home grow in any state. They have the money to donate to politicians and hire lobbyists to oppose it for them and push for the repetition of their anti-home grow legalization talking points.

Executive Director Todd Johnson of the New Jersey Cannabis Trade Association (NJCTA), which represents licensed New Jersey medical and adult use dispensaries, told Heady NJ they are for New Jersey medical cannabis home grow legalization.

“We will continue to support the Coalition for Medical Marijuana – New Jersey and their efforts around homegrown cannabis for patients. The NJCTA firmly believes the legalization of home growing will expand patient access and improve care. Providing patients with the option to cultivate their own cannabis allows for the customization of strains and control over the cultivation process to create a product that treats an individual’s specific medical needs,” he explained.

Cannabis Industry Endorses Home Grow Legalization

Goedde recently launched an email writing campaign to gather New Jersey cannabis industry support. She did so with the help of Heady NJ event sponsor Green Dragon Hydro Founder Paul Davis. 

Several dispensaries featured in Heady NJ, like Hashery, the recently launched Phasal, and the upcoming Rec House and Nightjar dispensaries, among others, have signed onto the letter showing industry support.

In addition, ButACake edibles manufacturer Matha Figaro and her partner Jimmy Barrett, entrepreneur Josh Alb of Cannademix have signed along with New Jersey cannabis attorney and State consultant Jessica Gonzalez.

Advocates Dr. David Nathan of Doctors for Drug Policy Reform and UFCW union leader Hugh Giordano signed the letter as well. New Jersey medical cannabis advocate Shramuel has gotten more involved as well.

As Heady NJ Editor and Publisher, I signed the letter too. I moderated a panel on the issue at the 420 Expo in 2022 and held a forum in Trenton on the New Jersey cannabis home grow legalization.

Goedde is concerned that a mere limit of plants is not good since a lot of plants might not produce quality medical cannabis. A small canopy of the top of plants growing size of 10 by 10 feet is the alternative they are advocating for. 

She said Singleton’s office is open to changes.

(Updated with a quote from NJCTA Todd Johnson after publication.)

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