The Hoboken City Council has made headway in further regulating the local cannabis industry ahead of the statutory Aug. 21 deadline by introducing amendments to its cannabis zoning law.
The last-minute ordinance was one of six cannabis ordinances briefly discussed by the council during new business with the others scheduled to come before the council on first reading on June 2.
Through the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act, municipalities may adopt legislation prohibiting or limiting cannabis retail, enacting a local municipal cannabis tax, or prohibiting cannabis consumption in public spaces not already covered by the New Jersey Smoke-Free Air Act, but they must enact legislation doing so before August 21.
If they don’t,the state default regulations will be used.
“Everyone has heard: what is this August 21, 2021 deadline?,” said Ron Mondello, Hoboken’s Cannabis Review Board attorney. “Well, essentially if you don’t take any type of action whatsoever with respect to cannabis, well then the state, the CRC – the Cannabis Regulatory Commission – essentially comes in and they’re going to permit every single class – and there’s six classes. It goes from cultivator to a delivery service will be permitted. The retail will be permitted in your retail zone and then the rest will be permitted in the industrial zone.”
He explained that from his discussions he believes Hoboken is interested only in Class 5, meaning a cannabis retailer license, noting that “it makes sense to prohibit those things that you think you may not want,” adding that it is his understanding that the city will be able to opt in at a later date if need be.
Councilman Phil Cohen asked if the council could wait on voting on the ordinances, noting that he and his council colleagues received the ordinances just two hours before the meeting and had not yet had a chance to read them fully.
Cohen noted that the council could wait two weeks to review the ordinances and then introduce them at the June 2 meeting, then on final reading at the end of June or July well before the August deadline.
‘Ahead of the curve’
Councilman Michael Russo, who sits on the cannabis review board, said it was important to start as early as possible and get “ahead of the curve.”
“What I’d like to do is get a first reading done tonight so that it’s on the books,” said Russo. “If in fact it does get delayed in any way, we have a leg to stand on with the state to say ‘Look, we started this process well before the 21st, we just had to refine some things.’ I think we will have a better standing at that point.”
He said the council still needs to discuss some possible regulations such as regulating how many cannabis licenses are permitted in the city.
Mondello pointed out that the prohibition ordinances are “really just pro forma.”
“I’m guessing out of the six you guys really want to prohibit five- I’m not sure you want cultivation, I don’t think you want distribution, I don’t think you want wholesale storage but if you do – you can do it later on,” said Mondello.
Councilman Jim Doyle noted that the ordinance amending the zoning would have to go to the Planning Board for review, which could delay the process.
The council unanimously introduced the ordinance amending the city’s zoning laws pertaining to cannabis and decided to wait to introduce the other cannabis-related ordinances.
The introduced ordinance amendments require a cannabis dispensary to not only get a state license but also a resolution adopted by the mayor and the council in support of its application. It also eliminates grandfathering, meaning that if a medical cannabis dispensary seeks to also provide personal use cannabis the owner must apply to the city for a new application.
It also broadens the current limit on medical cannabis dispensaries, set at five dispensaries within the city, to include personal use cannabis dispensaries.
This ordinance will now go before the planning board before the council votes on second and final reading.