Can You Grow Weed in New Jersey?

For all its legislative debate setbacks and slowdowns, New Jersey has led the way for new social equity standards in its legalization laws.
RXD Co Website Blog Post Poster NEWJERSEY
April 2, 2024 • 5 Min Read
By Alison Lucek
Understanding Cannabis Legislation in the Garden State

New Jersey is a state of many contradictions, and its cannabis laws are no exception. At just 7,417 square miles, New Jersey is the fifth-smallest state in land area, but with over 9.3 million residents, it ranks 11th in population. Of that densely populated, small amount of real estate, roughly 16% of NJ is considered farmland… And yet, our “Garden State” is also a place where the question made famous by NJ’s own Joe Piscopo, “What exit?” (of the 365 exits and entrances on the Garden State Parkway) can tell a lot about a person.

Likewise, when it comes to the regulation of marijuana in the “Garden State” of NJ where possession of up to 6 ounces of recreational cannabis is legal, cultivation of just one marijuana plant (even for medical use) is considered a crime punishable by a sizable fine and significant jail time.

The History of Cannabis Legalization in New Jersey

Like motorists on the Parkway, once marijuana reform finally started to move in NJ, it moved fast! And with much debate, failed policy initiatives, and legislative reform.

Beginning with the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act (CUMMA) signed in 2010, New Jersey became the 14th state to legalize medical marijuana. Among the 16 states at the time that permitted medical use, NJ was described as having the strictest medical marijuana laws. Though 2012 saw the first Alternative Treatment Center (ATC) open, measures to add new illnesses to the list of qualifying conditions and expand access were met with considerable resistance from then Governor Chis Christie who in 2014, called the medical program a “front for legalization” of marijuana.

It wasn’t until the Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act passed the legislature and was signed into law by Governor Phil Murphy in July 2019 that significant expansion of the medical marijuana program was enacted. Under this act, the Cannabis Regulatory Commission was created to supervise the medical cannabis program, access and restrictions to the program were eased, and the sales tax on medical cannabis products was eventually phased out.

Then in 2020 the NJ State Assembly and Senate passed two bills—the Marketplace Modernization Act and the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Enforcement Assistance Act—that provided the legal framework for recreational cannabis in New Jersey. The following year in 2021, Governor Phil Murphy signed several bills into law that legalized cannabis use and possession for persons 21 and older, decriminalized possession, and established the legal consequences of underage possession and consumption.

Finally, just shy of 4-20-22, on April 21, 2022, licensed recreational cannabis sales began in New Jersey and with just 13 dispensaries located across the state, opening day saw $2 million in cannabis products sales!

Since adult-use in NJ officially began, the market continues to evolve. Within the 2024-2025 state legislature, there is much potential opportunity to reform drug policy with more than a dozen bills filed on issues of marijuana regulation including interstate commerce, home grow, banking, and employment protections.

For all its legislative debate setbacks and slowdowns, New Jersey has led the way for new social equity standards in its legalization laws. From significant licensing percentages set aside to prioritize social equity applicants to securing adult-use tax revenue to fund “impact zones,” NJ cannabis laws can be celebrated for progressive efforts to serve disadvantaged individuals and communities.

The Garden State Where You Can’t Grow Weed (Yet):
Home Cultivation is Illegal in New Jersey

New Jersey stands alone as the only state in the nation with full-service gas pumps and now among the country’s 24 adult-use states, the Garden State remains the only state in the nation that allows recreational sales, but does not permit anyone, even medical cannabis patients, to grow at home.

Personal cultivation of even one pot plant for any use, medical or recreational, is a crime in NJ and punishable with hefty fines and considerable jail time. Growing under 10 plants in NJ can land you 3-5 years in the slammer and a $25,000 fine. If your home grows are discovered with 10-49 plants, you can expect to spend 5-10 years of your life in jail and pay the state $150,000 in fines.

Though home cultivation of marijuana in NJ is currently illegal and heavily discouraged with these incredibly stiff penalties, there is hope for weed to soon grow in the Garden State! Democratic Senator Vin Gopal from Monmouth has re-introduced a bill to legalize home grow for the 2024-25 legislative session. Bill S-1985, now in the Senate Judiciary Committee, would legalize growing or possessing up to six marijuana plants for personal recreational use, and up to 10 plants for personal medical use, by persons aged 21 or older.

NJ Governor Murphy has said if a bill legalizing home-grown cannabis were to make it to his desk, he would sign it so use your green thumbs to write to your lawmakers and make your preferences known!

NJ Regulation of Cannabis Purchase, Possession & Use in 2024

While New Jersey state law allows adults 21 years and older to have up to 6 oz of cannabis and cannabis products in their possession, they can only purchase up to 1 ounce at any given time.

Possession of more than 6 ounces of cannabis, like the unauthorized sale of 1 ounce or less is a fourth-degree crime in NJ with prison terms of 18 months and fines up to $25,000. If a violation occurs within 1000 feet of a school or park, fines and imprisonment sentences increase.

Both state residents and visitors with a government-issued identification card to verify proof of age 21+ can purchase up to 1 ounce of cannabis flower or its 4-gram equivalent in solid cannabis concentrates, liquid form, or vaporized formulations, or 1000 mg of edibles from New Jersey’s licensed cannabis dispensaries. Likewise, individuals 21+ can purchase, possess, and use cannabis paraphernalia.

All adult-use cannabis transactions are subject to New Jersey sales tax of 6.625% plus a social equity excise fee of 1/3 of 1%. Although you may legally gift up to 1 ounce of cannabis to another adult 21 years or older, no form of compensation may be accepted.

For qualifying Medicinal Marijuana Program (MMP) medical patients 18+ and their designated caregivers, the law allows the purchase of up to 3 ounces for a 30-day period from state-licensed medical marijuana dispensaries. Terminally ill MPP-registered patients are free from these limits.

Smoking is only permitted in private spaces but be aware that landlords can prohibit cannabis use on their properties.

Impaired driving while under the influence of marijuana or hashish is a serious crime in New Jersey. For everyone in the car, even passengers, consuming cannabis is prohibited and even if you are not currently high, you can still be charged with a cannabis DUI if police believe the presence of cannabis in your system has impaired your ability to drive safely.

Finally, if you are planning to ride that Garden State Parkway out of the Garden State, remember it is illegal to transport cannabis across state lines so travel safely and leave the green at home.

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