Can I grow my own marijuana at home in New Jersey?

New Jersey’s cannabis laws have been big news lately. On April 21, after years of anticipation, adult-use marijuana sales started in the state.

But what if you want to grow your own weed? After all, buying weed in New Jersey can be costly — the state has some of the highest prices of marijuana in the country and there are only 13 dispensaries in the state that have been approved to sell recreational marijuana to adults.

Well, according to New Jersey state law, you still can’t grow your own cannabis plants.

“The opening of just 13 adult-use cannabis shops really makes the case to allow people to cultivate a small garden,” said Chris Goldstein, a New Jersey-based marijuana policy advocate who helped pass Philly’s decriminalization laws. “New Jersey especially is quite ironic because we are the garden state.”

The only people allowed to grow cannabis are businesses with approved cultivator licenses. Those businesses go through a process of getting approved, paying fees, and keeping their cultivation system up to state standards, among other procedures. No such system is set up for private citizens who want to grow cannabis on their own property.

Additionally, leaders of the New Jersey Senate are not in support of homegrown cannabis just yet. New Jersey Senate president Nicholas Scutari said in a January virtual conference for New Jersey CannaBusiness Association (NJCBA) that growing cannabis at home won’t be allowed anytime soon, but that it could happen in the future.

“We’ve got to let this industry kind of get off the ground — it’s not even off the ground yet,” said Scutari.

Scutari pointed to anecdotal evidence of other legal states seeing a “proliferation of home grow that floods the adult market.” He also claimed that homegrown weed can lead to health and safety issues with cannabis products because of the lack of oversight and the fact that homegrown weed can be used to supply out-of-state cannabis markets.

It depends. Many marijuana policy advocates across the nation are urging New Jersey state regulators to allow cannabis to be grown at home. “The main reasoning is that it’s safe. It’s cost effective. Once you learn a few basic techniques, it’s just like growing tomatoes — it’s relatively easy,” said Goldstein.

Additionally, the belief that homegrown cannabis will hurt the sales of legal dispensaries isn’t true, according to DeVaughn Ward, a senior attorney for the national cannabis policy group, Marijuana Policy Project.

“The reality is, I think there’s a there’s a fear among lawmakers that if you allow ‘grow rights,’ you’ll see this huge proliferation of cannabis plants throughout every single community,” said Ward. “What the more mature markets like Colorado, California, and Oregon have shown is that just simply is not the case.”

Many home growers treat the cultivation of cannabis like they would any home garden says Goldstein. “It’s not necessarily something that all consumers will take on as a full-time supply source,” he said. “Just like [in the summer,] I don’t buy all my vegetables at the store, I grow some of my own. But I don’t grow everything that I eat.”

According to Ward, education and understanding of what home grow means for adults will lead to new laws.

“It really comes down to lawmakers. Cannabis legalization was a contentious debate in New Jersey legislature,“ said Ward. “I think lawmakers need a little bit more time to get comfortable, with even the thought of folks consuming cannabis legally, and I think eventually grow rights will come along as well.”

In an October 2021 interview, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said that he would be open-minded when considering changes to the current law. Additionally, there are several bills that have been introduced on the New Jersey senate and assembly floors that would legalize homegrown cannabis — however none have been passed into law.

Growing your own weed in New Jersey is very illegal and could send you to prison.

“Not only is it illegal — it’s very illegal,” said Goldstein. “I’ve been in the courtroom for [medical marijuana] patients who’ve [faced] 20 years in jail for [growing] 17 plants.” In that case, the patient ended up receiving an eight-year prison sentence.

If you grow your own cannabis, you can get into serious trouble. Here’s the breakdown of what you could be sentenced with:

  • Third-degree crime: Growing less than 10 plants can land you in prison for three to five years with a maximum fine of $25,000.

  • Second-degree crime: Growing 10 or more plants — but less than 50 plants — can land you in prison for five to 10 years with a maximum fine of $150,000.

  • First-degree crime: Growing 50 or more plants can land you in prison for 10 to 20 years with a maximum fine of $300,000.

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