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Secaucus recreational cannabis ordinance to go before Planning Board

Town Administrator Gary Jeffas said the board needed to give comment before the Town Council can vote on it

Recreational cannabis establishments would be allowed to grow and sale the plant among other uses permitted in the ordinance. Photo courtesy of Harmony Dispensary.

For those in Secaucus curious about the state of the town’s ordinance to allow recreational cannabis establishments and sales, it is still alive.

The council previously introduced the ordinance at its March 22 meeting, 4-3 with First Ward Councilman Robert Costantino, First Ward Councilman John Gerbasio, Second Ward Councilman Mark Denhert, and Mayor Michael Gonnelli voting yes and Second Ward Councilman James Clancy, Third Ward Councilwoman Orietta Tringali and Third Ward Councilman William McKeever voting no.

Only medical establishments currently allowed

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.

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.

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.

While the light industrial zone is rather large, the section in which the recreational cannabis establishments can exist would be small, limited to five lots. 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. 

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.

Planning Board must first give comment

While it was announced that the aforementioned ordinance would be up for public hearing and adoption at the April 12 meeting, that did not occur. The council held public hearings and votes for other ordinances, but there was no mention of the one relating to cannabis. However officials did mention previously that the ordinance needed to go before the Secaucus Planning Board prior to approval.

After the meeting, Town Administrator Gary Jeffas told the Hudson Reporter that while the ordinance was noticed on the agenda, that was an error. Jeffas confirmed that the ordinance did in fact still needed to go before the Planning Board.

“It was pulled because it’s got to be sent to the Planning Board for comment,” Jeffas said. “They have to do their comment period and then it’ll come back and go before the council for a vote.”

According to Jeffas, the board can literally only give comment, and does not have a say in the passage of the ordinance. 

“They can’t vote,” Jeffas said. “It just goes to them for comment. So if they had comment one way or another, they would just advise the council.”

Up for hearing and vote in May

The Planning Board is set to hear it at their April 9 meeting, if they have any comment at all. Jeffas said the board may not comment on the ordinance at all. Regardless of if the board has comment, the ordinance will not be up for a hearing and adoption the next Secaucus Town Council meeting.

“It won’t make it on the agenda for April 26,” he said. “So May 10 is likely first date it would return to the council for adoption.”

The council will likely hear the matter next at its May 10 meeting. The Secaucus Town Council will meet at 7 p.m. on May 10 in the municipal chambers in Town Hall at 1203 Paterson Plank Road. For more information, go to secaucusnj.gov.

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.

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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