NJ Political Potpourri. “Let Patients Grow their Own Pot” Edition

Assemblyman Jamel Holley says that real social justice accomplishments in NJ were imminent before Gov. Phil Murphy went to war with leaders in the NJ legislature. He says that if the full marijuana legalization bill had passed, the social justice effects would have been much greater than with the current expungement effort.

One column. Three unrelated vignettes. That’s what we’re serving today.

Union County NJ

The drama surrounding Assemblyman Jamel Holley is wellchronicled on these pages. Holley’s zeal for whacky conspiracies has caused nothing but headaches for Union County Democrats. The arrest of Stephanie Hazelton, among Holley’s most vocal supporters, for her role in the Capitol Hill riot is the latest embarrassment for Mr. Holley who clearly didn’t do his homework before taking up with racists and insurrectionists.

For the company he keeps and especially the dangerous conspiracies he spreads, Jamel Holley knew he probably wouldn’t get the Union County party line for reelection in November. Because of the ballot design in NJ, whoever gets the party line almost always wins.

Spurned by his county committee, Jamel Holley challenged (former) running Senator Joe Cyran for his seat in the upper house.

But wait!

According to one off-the-record Union Democratic Committee members, “it looks like Union County is waiting for Holley to have a come-to-Jesus moment and agree to run for Assembly on the line. Cryan does not want him as a primary opponent.”

That’s the buzz in Union where it looks like Holley has more leverage than I wanted to give him credit for.

Union Democrats won’t have a convention to pick their 2021 line. Instead the roster is chosen by municipal chairs of Elizabeth, Roselle, Union, and Hillside, an insider-y process if ever there was one.

Homegrow v Homegrow

The penalties for growing your own pot remain stubbornly severe in NJ, a state where voters overwhelming legalized cannabis last November. Less than five plants can fetch 3-5 years in jail plus fines up to $25,00o! That punitive approach also applies to patients enrolled in NJ’s medical cannabis program.

Two bills emerged last week to remedy NJ’s ban on home cultivation.

One bill came from an unlikely source, longtime cannabis contrarian Senator Gerry Cardinale (R-Bergen).

When Cardinale began pressing the home cultivation issue last November, it seemed designed to highlight poor Democratic stewardship of a medical cannabis program that favors dispensaries over patients. Patients, sick of paying $500 for an ounce of state-sanctioned dispensary weed, loved watching Sen. Cardinale at his irascible best. But Cardinale wasn’t really trying to reform NJ’s crappy drug laws. He was playing to the crowd and making the democrats look bad. That’s why, when Cardinale sponsored his bill permitting home cultivation, many in Trenton didn’t take it seriously.

On the other hand, Senator Troy Singleton (D-Burlington) has credibility because he walks the walk on drug reform. Singleton dropped another bill that permits the home cultivation of medical cannabis. The bill’s eight-plant canopy would put NJ roughly in line with other states (ie: most of them) where patients can grow their own.

“Medical cannabis has the potential to treat a vast range of health conditions, especially those often addressed with opioid prescriptions,” said Senator Singleton. “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. By authorizing home grow we can ensure that cannabis is accessible to all potential medical users, regardless of income.”

NJ would be better and fairer if we passed Sen. Singleton’s bill and stopped locking people up for growing pot. Permitting people with cancer to grow their own marijuana should be the easiest, most self-evident thing NJ lawmakers do in their entire career.

Which probably means they’ll take far too long just to mess it up.

Undercooked 

It’s a sad fact that, in the year of our Lord 2021, rape and misogyny are still very much a thing in NJ politics and in life. The Working Group on Campaign Harassment was assembled to address sexual assault and harassment on NJ political campaigns.

There was fanfare and self-congrats when several Working Group recommendations made it into legislation. Despite the “we did it” tone of one sponsor the anti-harassment legislation put forth leaves one feeling underwhelmed.

Koren Frankfort has written about this harassment stuff longer than anyone. And if she’s not satisfied then neither am I.

The money quote: “the reforms being put forth are woefully inadequate and the general treatment of those seeking real change appears to be abusive, misplaced, and counterproductive in NJ and nationally.”

One of the bills actually, expands the role of the NJ Election Law Enforcement Commission to manage complaints of harassment and assault on campaigns. So we’re basically deputizing an already overburdened NJ ELEC to police campaign workplace sexual impropriety. It’s a curious new role for NJ ELEC, which typically regulates campaign fundraising and lobbying activity.

It’s probably a good idea for NJ ELEC to conduct harassment training. But enforcement? Why? Especially since we already have a Department of Labor with four regional offices in the civil rights division already tasked with “enforcing the Law Against Discrimination (LAD) within the State of NJ.”

Their mission?

“The eradication of illegal discrimination based on race, religion, color, national origin, handicap, age, nationality, ancestry, marital status, familial status, affectional or sexual orientation, and sex, in areas such as employment, public accommodations, and housing. The Division serves as a fair and impartial forum for addressing claims that the LAD has been violated.”

The Department of Labor might be better equipped to deal with rape and harassment allegations in a workplace setting.

These well-intentioned but “woefully inadequate” anti-harassment bills still need work. Trenton should, at the very least, reconsider if NJ ELEC is up to the huge responsibility before then should these bills pass.

Jay Lassiter is an award-winning writer and podcaster who’s not impressed with all the self- congratulations going on in Trenton all the time since forever. 

 

 

 

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