Meanwhile in Washington, D.C., Sen. Cory Booker is leading the charge to legalize cannabis at the federal level. Yet somewhere between Booker and Gopal, the New Jersey Democratic Party seems to have lost the script. Advocating for a simple home-grown solution should be a simple policy decision for a political party focused on the people.
The good news is, it hasn’t been all bad news on the cannabis beat in Trenton. Since July 1, when marijuana legalization took effect, New Jersey has expunged more than 360,000 marijuana convictions while also dismissing pending marijuana cases. The bad news is that expunging their records doesn’t repair the damage done to those 360,000 lives, inflicted by New Jersey’s criminal justice system. To fully correct these injustices of the Drug War, New Jersey must do more than simply expunge some records.
So, how did New Jersey find itself in this idiotic situation? Last November, the people of New Jersey voted for a constitutional amendment to legalize cannabis. But at some point during the negotiations to draft the enabling legislation, the home-grow provisions were cut out of it. Cut out by whom — and for what reason — remains unclear.
New Jersey is a great place to grow cannabis. But unfortunately, New Jersey is one of two states where adult-use cannabis is legal, but home cultivation is not. It’s possibly the only thing that New Jersey has in common with the other non-homegrow state, Washington, and it’s nothing to be proud of. The good news is: New Jersey can fix it. To paraphrase a former New Jersey official, it’s time for some homegrown in Fort Lee.
No one said ending prohibition would be easy. This is what happens when states are left to their own devices without the benefit of a functional Congress. But that’s no excuse for New Jersey to not get this right when the stakes are so high. Real people go to real prison when we get this wrong.
Cannabis reform groups support Gopal’s efforts, including NORML and the Marijuana Policy Project. Both groups advocate for consistent consumer access. For homebound patients who need medical marijuana and for adults who don’t live near a retail dispensary, residents of New Jersey need the ability to grow at home. Yet despite this attention from national groups, the leaders of the New Jersey Legislature just don’t seem motivated to fix this problem.
But here’s the problem: although it is legal in New Jersey for any adult to buy cannabis, it’s still not legal for anyone to grow a single plant. If a police officer in New Jersey catches anyone growing cannabis, that person can go to prison for five years and face a $25,000 fine — for growing one plant. That is an untenable situation that lacks any legal logic, and it stinks like Mark Sanchez’s mask after the butt fumble.
That puts police groups and marijuana businesses on the same side of the issue in a Baptist-bootlegger compromise to maintain the last remaining vestiges of prohibition. And that’s a mess.
As we unwind the cannabis prohibition at the state and federal level, issues like these need to be dealt with. And this one seems to be rather simple. How is the New Jersey Legislature going to deny homegrown cannabis in the Garden State? Just make it happen.
Applications for marijuana distributors, wholesalers, delivery companies or medical marijuana dispensaries looking to convert to recreational sales will not be accepted until a later date.
And while the commission can only issue 37 licenses for cannabis cultivators before February 2023, there is no cap on the number of licenses the commission can award to manufacturers, testing laboratories or dispensaries.
CRC Executive Director Jeff Brown outlined the prioritization process regulators will use to determine which applications are handled first.
“Equity” applicants, filed by those who have been convicted of marijuana crimes or live in economically disadvantaged areas, been convicted for marijuana charges, are placed at the front of the line, followed by applications with diverse ownership and those located in impact zones.