Secaucus Town Council considers allowing recreational cannabis establishments

The establishments would be limited to select lots in the light industrial zone

The Secaucus Town Council is considering changing its laws when it comes to recreational cannabis establishments.

Currently, such facilities are prohibited in town due to an ordinance the council passed in 2021. However, officials at the time said it was a placeholder ordinance that would prohibit any recreational cannabis establishments until the town could decide how it wanted to approach the industry.

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After review, the council has voted to introduce an ordinance that would allow recreational cannabis establishments in part of town. The facilities would only be located at select lots in certain parts of the Light Industrial A Zone of Secaucus.

Recreation cannabis in light industrial zone

In an interview with the Hudson Reporter, Town Administrator Gary Jeffas described the gist of the changes proposed in the ordinance. Recreational cannabis establishments would be permitted in the light industrial zone, but must be more than 1,000 feet away from any public or private educational institution, day care center, public library or house of worship, per the proposed ordinance.

“The ordinance will allow recreational sales in the light industrial zone,” Jeffas said. “It’s limited to the area where Harmony currently exists. The council just limited it to a small section to ensure there’s nothing in any of the downtown shopping areas, or near schools or churches.” 

While the light industrial zone is rather large, the section in which the recreational cannabis establishments can exist would be small. The aforementioned light industrial zone is currently already home to Harmony Dispensary, a medical dispensary that was among the first in the state, and otherwise consists of warehouses and other similar uses. 

The ordinance would permit the establishments to five lots, but would not put a cap on the number of licenses, although the lot limit seems to serve that purpose. 

“It’s not going to be for the whole zone, but confined to a small section on the outskirts of the light industrial zone,” Jeffas said.

In terms of limits on types of uses from retail, to cultivator or distributor, the ordinance would permit all of them on any of the lots. This is similar to the license Harmony Dispensary has, Jeffas said, known as a “ladder license” which allows everything from growing cannabis to the sale of the finale product.

What is and isn’t allowed

However, on-site consumption would remain prohibited. Hours would be limited from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., unless on Saturday when establishments would be allowed to remain open until 11 p.m.

Outdoor cultivation would be prohibited. Any facilities would be required to implement noise and odor control. Security cameras would need to cover the entire space and be accessible to the Secaucus Police Department on request.

One state-certified security guard would be required at all hours of operation. And according to the ordinance, the establishment would coordinate with the Chief of Police Dennis Miller or a designee regarding the security of the site.

Additionally, the ordinance would form a Cannabis Control Board to review and approve applications by recreational cannabis establishments to operate in town and would be appointed by the mayor and council for a term of three years. However, the first three appointments would be for one year, two years, and three years each, respectively.

In addition to getting approved by the Cannabis Control Board and licensed by the state, the establishment would need to pay a recurring yearly fee of $2,500 to the town’s Health Department. The license could be revoked by the Health Department due to any violations of the proposed ordinance, with penalties starting at $1,000 per violation.

The ordinance would also levy a two percent tax on all sales, except for those by cannabis wholesalers.

 Harmony Dispensary open to recreational cannabis?

Since Harmony Dispensary falls in that zone, they could also seek to become not only a medical dispensary, but also a recreational establishment.

This is in accordance with the recreational cannabis bill signed into law by Gov. Phil Murphy in 2021. If Harmony Dispensary seeks to open up sales to include recreational cannabis, they could potentially be one of the first recreational cannabis establishments in Hudson County.

“The area that is designated, and the other lots and blocks that you’re allowed to have it, includes where Harmony currently exists,” Jeffas said. “They’re already in that area, so should they opt to go with recreational, they would be permitted within that area to do so.” 

And in terms of Harmony pursuing that, Jeffas said there have been conversations in the past. Those discussions will likely occur again if the council adopts the ordinance.

“They’ve indicated to the town that they would like to break into the recreational cannabis market as the state was doing their regulations and working through it,” Jeffas said. “I would presume they are in that same mindset.” 

Harmony Dispensary could not immediately be reached for comment.

Mayor Gonnelli on board

The council voted 4-3 to introduce the ordinance. First Ward Councilman Robert Costantino, First Ward Councilman John Gerbasio, Second Ward Councilman Mark Denhert, and Mayor Michael Gonnelli voted yes while Second Ward Councilman James Clancy, Third Ward Councilwoman Orietta Tringali and Third Ward Councilman William McKeever voted no.

After the ordinance was introduced, Mayor Michael Gonnelli told the Hudson Reporter he was in favor of the ordinance because of the revenue it would bring Secaucus.

“We earmarked a certain location where we already have cannabis,” Gonnelli said. “There we have Harmony, the medical marijuana dispensary.”

Gonnelli continued: “I voted for it for one reason. Financially, it’s going to get a lot of cash for our town, which is really important right now. And we have a facility in the area already.”

Secaucus is one of at least four municipalities in Hudson County that prohibited the establishments, including Union City, Weehawken and Guttenberg. If it adopts the ordinance, it would join Bayonne, Jersey City, Hoboken, North Bergen and West New York in allowing some forms of recreational cannabis establishments.

The ordinance may be up for a public hearing and vote at the next town council meeting, but first needs approval by the Secaucus Planning Board which may delay it by one meeting. The Secaucus Town Council will meet next on April 12 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall at 1203 Paterson Plank Road. For more information, go to secaucusnj.gov.

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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