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OP-ED: Why Homegrow Needs to Be Legalized in New Jersey

(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 on the need to legalize.)

What is legalization of marijuana if people are not allowed to grow the plant themselves at home?

In November 2020, the people of New Jersey overwhelmingly voted in favor of legalizing the possession and use of marijuana. That was in addition to allowing the cultivation, processing, and sale of retail marijuana.

That was an important first step in expanding access to medical marijuana for New Jersey residents. But many of our constituents recently expressed that they still have trouble accessing their much-needed medicine. 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.

We are calling on the State Legislature to hold a hearing on medical marijuana patient access and home cultivation. With high unemployment leading to reduced income across the state, it’s imperative that we provide a pathway to affordable medicine.

Homegrow Progress

This Spring, we introduced legislation (S3582/A5552) in the State Senate and General Assembly. It 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 ending the racial and income disparities in the way marijuana laws were enforced. 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 seek to fill their prescription. It would still be maintaining a limit on how much can be grown.

Homegrow Benefits

There are other positive developments such as reducing black market demand. Law enforcement agencies in states that legalized homegrow, such as Oregon, noticed demand for black market marijuana has gone down.

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. Tell them to cosponsor S3582/A5552. We have seen time and again how people using their voices leads to real change. 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. It was so widely supported by the people of New Jersey. If you have any suggestions or ideas, please reach out to our office. Call (732) 695-3371, or send an email to help@njld11.com.

Senator Vin Gopal and Assembly Members Eric Houghtaling & Joann Downey represent New Jersey’s 11th Legislative District in the State Senate and Assembly. They work to make the Garden State more affordable for its hard-working residents.

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