New Jersey’s cannabis laws have been in the news lately. On April 21, after years of anticipation, adult marijuana sales began in the state.
What if you wanted to grow your own weed? After all, buying weed in New Jersey can be expensive – the state has some of the highest marijuana prices in the country and there are only 13 dispensaries in the state that have been licensed to sell weed. recreational marijuana to adults.
Well, according to New Jersey state law, you still cannot grow your own cannabis plants.
“Having only 13 adult-oriented cannabis stores open really makes a case for allowing people to grow a little garden,” said Chris Goldstein, a New Jersey-based marijuana policy advocate who helped push through Philly decriminalization laws. “New Jersey in particular is kind of ironic because we’re the garden state.”
The only people allowed to grow cannabis are companies with approved grower licenses. These companies go through a process of getting approvals, paying fees, and keeping their cultivation system up to state standards, among other procedures. No such system is in place for individuals wishing to grow cannabis on their own property.
Additionally, New Jersey Senate leaders are not yet supportive of locally grown cannabis. New Jersey Senate Speaker Nicholas Scutari told a virtual conference in January for the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association (NJCBA) that growing cannabis at home won’t be allowed anytime soon, but it could happen. in the future.
“We have to let this industry take off – it’s not even happening yet,” Scutari said.
Scutari pointed to anecdotal evidence from other legal states seeing a “proliferation of domestic growth that floods the adult market.” He also claimed that homegrown weed can lead to health and safety issues with cannabis products due to lack of oversight and the fact that homegrown weed can be used to supply markets. cannabis out of state.
It depends. Many marijuana policy advocates across the country are urging New Jersey state regulators to allow home cultivation of cannabis. “The main reasoning is that it’s safe. It’s profitable. Once you learn some basic techniques, it’s like growing tomatoes – it’s relatively easy,” Goldstein said.
Additionally, the belief that locally grown cannabis will hurt legal dispensary sales is not true, according to DeVaughn Ward, senior counsel for the national cannabis policy group, Marijuana Policy Project.
“The reality is that I think lawmakers are concerned that if you allow ‘cultivation rights,’ you’ll see this huge proliferation of cannabis plants in every community,” Ward said. “What more mature markets like Colorado, California and Oregon have shown is that just isn’t the case.”
Many home growers treat growing cannabis like they would any home garden, says Goldstein. “It’s not necessarily something that all consumers will accept as a full-time source of supply,” he said. “Just like [in the summer,] I don’t buy all my vegetables at the store, I grow them myself. But I don’t grow everything I eat.
According to Ward, education and understanding of what growing at home means for adults will lead to new laws.
“It really depends on the legislators. Cannabis legalization was a contentious debate in the New Jersey legislature,” Ward said. “I think lawmakers need a little more time to get comfortable even thinking that people are using cannabis legally, and I think cultivation rights will eventually come along as well.”
In an October 2021 interview, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said he would be open-minded when considering changes to the current law. Additionally, several bills have been introduced in the Senate and New Jersey assemblies that would legalize locally grown cannabis — but none have passed.
Growing your own weed in New Jersey is very illegal and could send you to jail.
“Not only is it illegal — it’s very illegal,” Goldstein said. “I’ve been in the courtroom for [medical marijuana] patients who have [faced] 20 years in prison for [growing] 17 plants. In this case, the patient ended up being sentenced to eight years in prison.
If you grow your own cannabis, you can enter serious difficulty. Here’s the breakdown of what you could be sentenced with:
Third Degree Crime: Growing less than 10 plants can cause you to three to five years in prison with a maximum fine of $25,000.
Second degree criminality: Growing 10 or more plants – but less than 50 plants – can cause you to five to 10 years in prison with a maximum fine of $150,000.
First Degree Crime: Cultivating 50 or more plants can lead you to 10 to 20 years in prison with a maximum fine of $300,000.