After years of hesitancy among lawmakers to seriously consider allowing people to grow their own marijuana at home, two lawmakers have introduced bills in the past week that would overhaul the ban.
Sen. Troy Singleton, D-Burlington, introduced a home grow bill Thursday that would allow medical marijuana patients or their caregivers to register as home cultivators. They could then grow up to four mature marijuana plants and four immature plants.
The Democratic senator’s bill is more restrictive than a measure by a more conservative lawmaker, Sen. Gerald Cardinale, R-Bergen. He introduced a bill last week that would legalize growing up to six marijuana plants for medical or personal use, pending the passage of a bill to legalize marijuana for those 21 and older.
Current law makes growing five plants or less punishable by three to five years in prison and a $25,000 fine. Nothing in the legalization bill or a second bill that would allow people to possess up to six ounces of marijuana would change the harsh penalties for keeping plants.
Many states with medical marijuana programs allow patients to grow their own cannabis at home.
Singleton’s bill adds a $1,000 fine on top of current penalties for those caught with registered medical marijuana plants who were not authorized to have or use them.
He also on Thursday introduced a bill to subsidize costs of medical marijuana for patients with financial need.
That measure would allow those enrolled in the state Medicaid program or NJ FamilyCare program to receive 20% off their costs. It would fall to the Cannabis Regulatory Commission to reimburse dispensaries for the discounted pricing.
Both bills aim to ease access to medical cannabis for patients. New Jersey’s strained program has been slow to grow, leading to product shortages and high prices. Health insurance does not cover medical marijuana costs because the drug remains illegal at the federal level.
“We know that medical cannabis has the potential to treat a vast range of health conditions, especially those often addressed with opioid prescriptions. Unfortunately, because the product has to be paid for entirely out of pocket it is rarely a feasible long term option for low income patients,” Singleton said in a statement.
“By authorizing home grow and subsidizing product sold at medical dispensaries, similar to how we cover other medications, we can ensure that cannabis is accessible to all potential medical users, regardless of income.”