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North Bergen ordinance would limit number of cannabis licenses

The North Bergen Board of Commissioners introduced the ordinance at the Nov. 23 meeting.
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The North Bergen Board of Commissioners introduced the ordinance at the Nov. 23 meeting.

The North Bergen Board of Commissioners has introduced an ordinance that would amend the township’s pre-existing cannabis ordinance to further define regulations and restrictions.

The ordinance would amend the original ordinance adopted in July to: set forth specific provisions for cannabis microbusinesses; set additional limits on the number of cannabis businesses in the township; include medical cannabis related businesses within various requirements of the ordinance; and provide additional factors to be considered by the Cannabis Committee in evaluating cannabis business applications.

In order to operate any cannabis business in North Bergen, an entity would first need permits or licenses from both the state and township. The township would issue its license, valid for one year, through the Cannabis Committee consisting of the Township Administrator, Chief of Police, and the Director of Community Improvement, or their designees.

Including microbusinesses 

Township Counsel Tom Kobin described the changes being made to the original ordinance at the Nov. 23 meeting.

“When we adopted the initial cannabis ordinance back in July, it focused on exclusively adult use,” Kobin said. “So we are going to allow two adult use dispensaries, retail establishments. They are going to be allowed along Tonnelle Avenue, one uptown and one downtown.”

According to the ordinance, there would still be only two township-issued licenses issued to cannabis retailers, defined as establishments where “cannabis items and related supplies are sold to consumers.” But now microbusinesses and medical cannabis dispensaries will count toward the two-retailer limit.

“One of the things that came up is we didn’t define how we’re going to handle microbusinesses,” he said. “Those are smaller operations with a smaller number of employees, 2,500 sqaure feet or less. People were asking if that was considered one of the two adult-use retail places, things like that. So one of the changes we made is to say that if we have a microbusiness, it counts against the cap of authorized licenses.”

One retailer would be located north of 43rd and the other south of it. They cannot be within 1,000 feet of each other nor within the range of any school.

Limiting the number of licenses

“We didn’t put any restrictions on the number of cultivators, distributors, and wholesalers that were going to be allowed,” he said. “We did bar delivery services from their brick and mortar locations in North Bergen, but otherwise we didn’t have cap on the number of cultivators. We did bar, in the initial ordinance, cannabis consumption, which is still the case.”

The new ordinance would limit licenses for cannabis cultivators, distributors, manufacturers, and wholesalers permitted in the township’s industrial districts. There will be three licenses issued for each type, with one of each being a microbusiness.

“We want to make sure we proceed cautiously, with baby steps, with respect to the cultivators, manufacturers, wholesalers, and distributors,” he said. “We want to put a cap on those. So what this amendment does is it allows up to three of each of those categories, one of them being a microbusiness.”

Under the ordinance, microbusinesses would not be permitted to expand to a standard license. Medical cannabis cultivators or wholesalers would be permitted and also count toward the three-license limit for each type.

“We needed to handle medical cannabis licenses,” he said. “That wasn’t part of the original ordinance. So if there’s a medical license issued, zoning-wise it will be in the same zones. Medical dispensaries would be located in the Tonnelle Avenue corridor, same zone as the adult-use retail. Medical cultivators and manufacturers would be located in the industrial zone, just like the adult-use. And if there’s a medical license, it counts against our cap.”

More changes ahead?

Cannabis delivery services and consumption areas are still prohibited. In total, there would be 14 establishments including two retailers, three cultivators, three wholesalers, three manufacturers, and three distributors.

“We’re being cautious,” Mayor Nicholas Sacco said. “Many municipalities have turned down any cannabis use in their town, any retail, or growing, or cultivating. So it’s 70 percent out. We are one of the 30 percent that are in. I think it’s something that is the right thing to do. It’s allowed in New Jersey, and we should at least reap the benefits financially of having it in our borders.”

Kobin agreed with Sacco that the ordinance will likely be amended again in the future: “We will see how we go with these caps and how things play out… How this stuff plays out, and the questions that are coming up, it’s all brand new.”

A public hearing for the ordinance will be held at the next North Bergen Board of Commissioners meeting on Dec. 8 at 11 a.m. at Town Hall at 4233 Kennedy Boulevard. For more information, go to northbergen.org and click the event on the calendar webpage.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com. 

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