New Jersey farmers see a chance to add a profitable new crop now that the state legalized medical marijuana last month.
“We would all like to grow it because we think it would be a good cash crop — literally,” said Fairfield, N.J., nurseryman Roger Ruske, reports Joseph P. Smith of the Vineland Daily Journal.
The idea is being taken seriously ever since outgoing Gov. Jon Corzine, in one of his last official acts, signed the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act.
The New Jersey Farm Bureau has looked into the issue in depth, and found both good news and problems with the concept.
Farm Bureau research associate Ed Wengryn said the legislation isn’t written clearly enough for the state Department of Health and Senior Services to write regulations.
“But I will say there are growers interested in it,” Wengryn said.
“(Whether) the economics work in the long run is really going to be the driving factor, because the price isn’t going to be set by market conditions,” Wengryn said. “There is no market. You can compare it to street value, but you can only go so much above street value for people.”
The farmers may face stiff competition from another major industry in the state, reports the Daily Journal.
According to Wengryn, New Jersey’s huge pharmaceutical industry is in a favorable position to bogart the marijuana business if it chooses to try.
Drug companies have research farms that could be converted to pot growing, experienced staff, and deep pockets to negotiate their way through the New Jersey state government’s bureaucracy.
“They would be competing with farmers,” Wengryn said. “I think they would be in a better position to go through the hoops.”
The first harvest isn’t likely to take place for a few more years, if only because of the need to research and write regulations, according to reporter Smith.
According to Alfred W. Murray, assistant agriculture secretary, there will be no outdoor growing of marijuana in New Jersey. Everything would be done in “secured greenhouses,” he said.
Wengryn said another cannabis-related crop, industrial hemp, has a higher priority with the Farm Bureau.
“The one we would like to see permitted is industrial hemp,” Wengryn said. “The industrial hemp is a good industrial product.”
“It’s a very green and renewable source of strong fiber,” Wengryn said. “That is something we do have a policy on. We would like that looked into.”