New Jersey is about to legalize cannabis, but home growers could still face up to 20 years in jail

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As the laws are currently written, growing a single plant could result in three to five years in prison while growing 10 plants could lead to a maximum 20-year sentence if an individual is charged with “maintaining or operating a controlled dangerous substance production facility.” Additionally, the charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence, requiring those convicted to serve at least a third of the sentence.

Ed Forchion, a cannabis advocate known as “NJ Weedman”, told Politico that the lack of action on addressing the home-growing penalties is evidence that the state is looking to reap profits rather than help the communities that have been most impacted by the War on Drugs.

“Big guys, corporations, they can violate federal law in the state of New Jersey and grow tons of marijuana,” Forchion argued. “But a little housewife down in South Jersey wants to grow 10 plants in her backyard, she’ll be treated as a first-degree felon.”

In an opinion piece at, Tom Moran writes that the “draconian penalties” for home growing “are from another era.”

“If we’ve learned anything in the failed drug war, it is this: Long prison terms are not just ineffective, they ruin families, and they are invariably imposed on Black and brown defendants at much higher rates. That leaves them economically crippled for life and widens this country’s crippling racial divide,” Moran notes.

In July, Murphy said cannabis legalization carried “a huge social justice piece.” Noted the governor, “The overwhelming percentage of persons nailed in our criminal justice system are persons of colour. It’s a no-brainer in that respect. It’s a job creator, it’s a tax revenue raiser, it checks a lot of boxes. I hope we’ll get there sooner than later.”

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