Republican Senator Gerry Cardinale Introduces NJ Cannabis Home Grow Bill

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Senator Gerry Cardinale (R-Bergen) introduced NJ cannabis home grow legislation yesterday to legalize owning up to six plants.

The bill is S. 3407, “Legalizes possession of six or fewer marijuana plants, subject to enactment of legalizing marijuana or cannabis for personal use.”

“The people of New Jersey made it clear in November that they want to lift the prohibition on cannabis,” Cardinale said. “The Legislature has spent three months fumbling around with what should have been a simple task and complicated the legalization effort.”

He voted against the narrowly passed referendum enabling bill S. 21 and the decriminalization bill S. 2535, which passed with Republican support. Cardinale,86, represents the 39th Legislative District of northern Bergen County on the New York border.

Cannabis homegrow’s criminal penalties are severe and worse than mere marijuana possession. Neither cannabis bill changed that.

Advocate and Entrepreneur Patrick Duff recounted that Cardinale told him he’s been against the bills. He said they didn’t represent the people’s will as represented in the referendum.

The NJ cannabis home grow bill says the enabling and decriminalization legislation needs to become law before cannabis homegrow.

“My bill more accurately reflects the intention of the voters,” Cardinale said. “If an adult wants to use marijuana for personal use, they should be allowed to cultivate it at home.”

“By a 2-to-1 margin, voters approved legalizing pot,” said Cardinale. “This is what people voted for, not a complex web of special interests, political priorities, and expensive fees that will price legal pot out of the market for many residents. What will Murphy tax next? Growing carrots?”

The bill currently has no sponsors, companion in the Assembly, nor actual text to read.

The Politics of NJ Cannabis Home Grow

Duff said that after the Senate Judiciary Committee, he spoke to Cardinale. They discussed the NJ cannabis home grow citizen bill and petition “Jeff’s Law,” named after the late activist Jeff Oakes. He explained Cardinale cited the referendum as the reason he changed his opposition stance. They spoke for 30 minutes about NJ cannabis homegrow. It included the hydroponic industry, business development, and a system to regulate NJ cannabis home grow by allowing dispensaries to sell clones and impose taxes.

“He was very receptive to it all,” Duff said. “It’s a great start to have someone introduce something for the homegrow community.”

Legalization Issues

National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) NORML advocate Chris Goldstein explained he has no reason to view the bill favorably. He has not seen the bill’s language. Goldstein compared Cardinale supporting cannabis homegrow to Ron Rice’s (D-Essex) stance bill on decriminalization that mandates drug rehabilitation and former Governor Chris Christie’s strict medical cannabis policies.

“Rice’s bill really sends people to drug treatment. And not decriminalization,” Goldstein said. “Christie created the worst medical cannabis program in the country. “I’m used to the opposition co-opting progress. I think Gerry is playing his old games.”

In terms of a motive, Goldstein opined that “He knows (Senate President Steve) Sweeney and (Judiciary Chair Nick) Scutari don’t like homegrow,” he said.

In his years of testifying in Trenton, Goldstein said Cardinale has been a fierce opponent to cannabis legislation.

Goldstein said cannabis homegrow came out of the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act (CUMMA) Act at the 11th hour when it was being debated in the legislature in 2009.

Many grassroots activists are passionate about home grow legislation, such as Jo Anne Zito of CMMNJ, Sativa Cross, Weedman, and others testified for cannabis homegrow and have been advocating to legalize it for years. However, their many pleas for cannabis homegrow fell on deaf ears in New Jersey during the legalization hearings.

State Senator Vin Gopal (D-Monmouth) said he favored medical cannabis homegrow last year, as did Shaya Brodchandel of Harmony dispensary in his position as New Jersey Cannabis Trade Association (NJCTA ) President. The NJCTA represents the dispensary license holders in the state.

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