NJ marijuana advocates huddle on next steps, including home grow
TRENTON – Recreational marijuana is now legal in New Jersey – on the books, though not on store shelves for a while. But its advocates are already talking about next steps, including what many see as the missing link: the right to grow marijuana at home.
Bill Caruso, an attorney and New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform steering committee member, said he’s “very confident” medical marijuana patients will soon gain approval to grow perhaps up to six plants at home for their own use.
“The ability to allow patients the function of achieving the relief they need through some limited medical home grow isn’t really scary any more to a lot of people,” Caruso said.
David Nathan, founder and board president of Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, said home-grown marijuana should be allowed for patients who need a specific strain or people who can’t afford the prices charged at dispensaries.
“They should be allowed to do that, just as people are allowed to brew their own alcohol. It’s not going to make a big change in the cannabis industry, and it’s not going to create greater health issues,” Nathan said.
Nathan said his next personal effort related to marijuana legalization will be on proper labeling of cannabis products so it’s easy to follow and understand a product’s THC content and serving size.
Dan Ulloa, vice president of communications for the Latino Action Network, said there is optimism around a bipartisan medical home-grow bill written by Sen. Troy Singleton, D-Burlington. He is also looking ahead to the expansion of licensed marijuana sellers.
“We need almost hundreds more, arguably, depending on what towns are able to have it,” Ulloa said.
Amol Sinha, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, said the new Cannabis Regulatory Commission needs robust public participation in recommending how marijuana tax revenues are spent on social equity purposes as required by the legalization law.
“Which I hope will see to it to make sure that those communities that have been hardest hit by the war on drugs will serve as the beneficiaries of that money,” Sinha said.
Lobbyist Lynn Nowak, executive vice president at Porzio Public Affairs, cautions that no matter where the legalization law says the money should go, the yearly budget can overrule that.
“So that’s something, and we’re going to have to be vigilant year after year after year,” Nowak said.
Caruso forecasts that adult-use recreational marijuana won’t be available for purchase until late 2021 or early 2022.
In the interim, advocates such as Todd Edwards, political action chair of the NAACP New Jersey State Conference, are already working on education efforts around changes in the law, such as ending any financial penalties for underage possession.
“I’m out spreading in my community telling the youth if you do have police interaction, don’t run because now you’re going to open yourself up to other charges, to eluding and all of that,” Edwards said.
Sinha of the ACLU said the change was sought based off what happened when adult-use marijuana was legalized in Colorado – arrests for pot charges skyrocketed for minority youth, even while dropping for white youth.