Cannabis consumers should come first in legalization debate –

As we consider marijuana legalization in New Jersey, the rights of everyday consumers should be at the forefront, and stay there. But the cannabis industry and out-of-state regulators have been hogging the table.

Legalization means far more than a right to buy. It also means creating spaces for social use, ending workplace discrimination, clearing records, and importantly on the economic side, it means allowing people to cultivate their own plants.

Growing a few seedlings in a small plot isn’t for everyone. It takes time, dedication, and some know-how. Still, the option is critical to the concept of getting people to adopt a regulated atmosphere.

That’s why it was an unwelcome shock when New Jersey state Sen. Nicholas Scutari — who has been a leading voice on cannabis legalization for more than a decade — introduced a bill last month that left out many provisions that are critical to consumers, including home cultivation.

The legislation, SB 3195, is a loose template of ideas that will need a lot of work to achieve some real-world goals.

For instance, it would do nothing about New Jersey’s particularly harsh prosecutorial practices that regularly send people to state prison, sometimes for a decade or longer, over fewer than 20 plants. Leaving the worst marijuana laws on the books will keep the dangerous game between small-scale growers and cops going at full-steam.

Moreover, if New Jersey wants to reap the full economic benefits of legalization, we need the thousands of entry-level jobs in hydroponics, nutrients, lights, and gardening supplies that come with personal cultivation.

What’s odd is that Scutari (D., Union) used to be a strong advocate for green flower hobbyists. He had included such provisions in his original medical marijuana bill and in the last two versions of his

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