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Bayonne considers major changes to cannabis ordinance

Two introduced ordinances would overhaul the city's regulations on the industry

Cannabis is coming to Bayonne, but establishments would be limited to the "back highway" under proposed ordinances.

Bayonne is considering a major overhaul of its cannabis ordinance. The City Council has introduced two ordinances that would amend and supplement the original cannabis ordinance and would change the location where cannabis establishments are allowed.

The first proposed ordinance would restrict cannabis retail establishments, prohibiting them from the currently allowed C-1 Neighborhood Commercial District, as well as the CBD Central Business District, Uptown Business District, and ORS Office/Retail Service District on the Broadway Corridor.

It would also restrict cannabis retailers and suppliers from the IL-A and IL-B Light Industrial Districts. Instead, the locations of all cannabis establishments would be permitted in the H-C Highway Commercial and Selected Light Industrial District and I-H Heavy Industrial District.

These zones run along Route 440 and the eastern area in Bayonne. The idea is to limit the establishments to the “back highway,” officials said.

Major revision to cannabis ordinance

The second proposed ordinance would essentially completely revise the previously approved cannabis ordinance. Specifically, the ordinance features new rules and regulations regarding the cannabis application review.

This ordinance would establish a Cannabis Preliminary Review Board. The board would review preliminary applications for cannabis cultivator, cannabis manufacturer, cannabis retailer and cannabis delivery operations based within Bayonne, conduct hearings with the applicants, and provide a recommendation to the council for a resolution of support.

The Review Board would be comprised of three members including: the mayor or their designee, a city council member to be designated by the council, and the Director of Public Safety or their designee. If a member or members of the Review Board are prohibited by a conflict of interest from acting on a matter due to the member’s personal or financial interest, the Health Officer or their designee would be appointed for that matter only and would serve as a  temporary member.

The mayor would serve for as long as their term and the mayor’s designee would serve for the term of the mayor who appointed them and until a successor is appointed. The council designee would be appointed on an annual basis at the city council’s reorganization meeting. The Director of Public Safety or their designee would also be appointed on annual basis.

Licenses and fees

The amendment would limit the number of licenses at six: one Class 1 cannabis cultivator license, one Class 2 cannabis manufacturer license, two Class 5 cannabis retailer licenses, and two Class 6 cannabis delivery licenses. Preliminary application fees for all licenses would be $2,500, except for cannabis delivery licenses which would be $1,500. The certificate of zoning compliance would be $50.

According to the ordinance, all preliminary applications would be submitted by no later than June 17, 2022. On July 15, notices would go out scheduling the date and time of hearings. Per the ordinance, no rescheduling dates would be provided unless for extraordinary circumstances.

During the hearing the Review Board would consider many factors, from the applicant’s owner’s experience in the industry, to their ties to the Bayonne community, among others.

Afterwards, the Review Board would then review, score, and provide a recommendation to the council for a resolution of support in accordance with rankings of scores assigned by priority requirements set by the municipality in a highest priority-based system.

Following that, the board would either provide a recommendation to the council for a resolution supporting the applicant for a cannabis license or deny the application.

The council would then receive the resolution of support and consider it for a vote. If a recommendation for support is subsequently approved by the council, the applicant would then return to the state to finish obtaining a state license.

A waiting list would be kept of the applicants that have gone through the hearing process and ranked by the Review Board for a period of six months from the date the last resolution of support was approved by the council. If an applicant that received a resolution of support was denied a state license, the board would contact the next applicant on the waiting list in order of ranking and determine the applicant’s continued interest in obtaining a resolution of support from Bayonne

Maintaining the license

After the applicant is issued a state license, the applicant would return to the city to complete the application process for a municipal license. Applicants must also submit a site plan to the Bayonne Planning Board and adhere to all requirements.

License fees for applications before the Planning Board are: $2,000 for cannabis delivery; $5,000 for cannabis cultivator; $10,000 for cannabis manufacturer; and $15,000 for cannabis retailer.

All applications to the Planning Board would need to be accompanied by an initial escrow deposit of $7,000 to pay professionals for services rendered during the application process, such as review and preparation of documents, transcripts, review of assets and inspections.

Local license fees from cannabis cultivators, cannabis manufacturers and cannabis retailers would be used for public education and or increased public safety in the area surrounding the dispensary. A separate account would be established for collection and disbursement of said funds by the Cannabis Review Board with the advice and consent of the City Council.

Any local license issued would be valid for a period of three years. Renewal fees are the same as the aforementioned application fees before the Planning Board, except for cannabis delivery which goes up to $2,500.

Penalties for violating the ordinance would include fines ranging from a minimum of $1,500 to a maximum of $3,000. Each day that a violation is committed, exists or continues would be deemed a separate and distinct offense. In addition, ongoing or repeat offenses would possibly result in suspension of the certificate of occupancy for a period to be determined by the Zoning Officer in consultation with the Cannabis Review Board or revocation of the municipal license.

Other restrictions

Cannabis retailers would be located at a minimum of 1,000 feet apart. The establishments must also be a minimum of 1,000 feet away from schools, churches, child day care facilities, public parks, and playgrounds. Cannabis establishments and delivery services are not permitted as a home professional occupation.

No cannabis products or paraphernalia would be able to be visible from a public sidewalk, public street or right-of-way, or any other public place. Delivery vehicles associated with a cannabis delivery services and cannabis retailer would not be allowed to be parked on the street overnight.

Establishment hours would be limited from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Security cameras would be required on all parts of the premises, among other safety protocols. Other restrictions include typical regulations, such as those aimed to prevent loud noise, odor, among others.

The ordinance would also place a two percent sales tax on all cannabis transactions.

The ordinances are up for a public hearing and vote at the next council meeting. The Bayonne City Council will meet next on April 20 at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall at 630 Avenue C. For more information, go to bayonnenj.org.

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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