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Republican Senator Gerry Cardinale Introduces Cannabis Homegrow Bill

Senator Gerry Cardinale (R-Bergen) introduced cannabis homegrow 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. “Since then, the Legislature has spent three months fumbling around with what should have been a simple task and complicated the legalization effort.”

He voted against both 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, which is made up of northern Bergen County on the New York border.

Cannabis homegrow’s criminal penalties are very severe, 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 because legally, they didn’t represent the will of the people as represented in the 67 percent that voted in favor of the referendum.

The cannabis homegrow bill in effect says the enabling and decriminalization legislation needs to become law first before cannabis homegrow could go into effect.

“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 Cannabis Homegrow

Duff said that after the Senate Judiciary Committee, he spoke to Cardinale about the cannabis homegrow 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 cannabis homegrow including its benefits, the hydroponic industry, business development, and a system to regulate cannabis homegrow by allowing dispensaries to sell clones and impose taxes on clones.

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

National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) NORML advocate Chris Goldstein explained he has no reason to view the bill favorably, since he has not seen the bill’s language. He compared Cardinale supporting cannabis homegrow to Ron Rice’s (D-Essex) stance bill on decriminalization that mandate drug rehabilitation and former Governor Chris Christie’s very 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 such as Jo Anne Zito of like 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 was in favor of 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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