The Bayonne City Council has voted to adopt two ordinances that restrict the location of cannabis establishments in the city and overhaul the existing cannabis regulations ordinance.
The council voted to adopt both ordinances at its April 20 meeting, a day before recreational cannabis sales began in New Jersey. The move also came on the day celebrated by cannabis enthusiasts each year, noted by City Council President Sharon Ashe-Nadrowski.
“I would be remiss if I didn’t note it was 4/20, given the cannabis regulations we’re hearing today,” said Ashe-Nadrowski, prompting laughter from the audience.
Restricted to the ‘back highway’
The first ordinance restricts 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 also restricts cannabis retailers and suppliers from the IL-A and IL-B Light Industrial Districts. Instead, the locations of all cannabis establishments is 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.
In response to questions, Ashe-Nadrowski confirmed that under this ordinance, establishments would only be allowed along the “highway corridor” along Route 440. Previously, some establishments would have been allowed on Broadway among other areas.
“This is about cannabis and the zoning requirements,” Ashe-Nadrowski said. “It changes where these types of businesses can be located and in what zones.”
New cannabis regulations
The second ordinance completely revises the previously approved cannabis ordinance. Specifically, the ordinance features new rules and regulations regarding the cannabis application review.
This ordinance establishes a Cannabis Preliminary Review Board. The board reviews preliminary applications for cannabis cultivator, cannabis manufacturer, cannabis retailer and cannabis delivery operations based within Bayonne, conduct hearings with the applicants, and provides a recommendation to the council for a resolution of support.
The Review Board will 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 will be appointed for that matter only and would serve as a temporary member.
The mayor will 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 will be appointed on an annual basis at the city council’s reorganization meeting. The Director of Public Safety or their designee will also be appointed on annual basis.
Cannabis retailers will 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 will 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 will not be allowed to be parked on the street overnight.
Establishment hours will 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 also places a two percent sales tax on all cannabis transactions. For more information on both ordinances, read past reporting at: hudsonreporter.com/2022/03/30/bayonne-considers-major-changes-to-cannabis-ordinance.
Council on board, mostly
Third Ward City Councilman Gary La Pelusa said he reviewed the ordinances with the Law Department, calling them “very necessary.” La Pelusa added this was the first of what would likely be more amendments in the future.
“There will probably be more amendments down the road. The state did a lot of tuning of this, and we kept going back and forth, and it kept getting revised. It’s very important since tomorrow is the first day of recreational marijuana in New Jersey to be legal.”
While the first ordinance was adopted unanimously, Ashe-Nadrowski voted against the second ordinance. She cited she was concerned with the members that will make up the Cannabis Review Board.
“This is great, I agree with everything in here,” Ashe-Nadrowski said, explaining her opposition. “But there’s a review board in here. And I’m not quite comfortable with the members that sit on the Review Board.”
However, it passed 4-1, with the other members voting to advance it.
Cops banned from cannabis consumption
Another topic of discussion was cannabis use by law enforcement.
Former city employee Gail Godesky first praised the Bayonne police and fire departments before asking if they would restrict cannabis use among members, citing a directive by Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop that their police would not be permitted to use cannabis off duty. The move comes in the face of a directive from the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office earlier this month that said otherwise, that all law enforcement in the state were able partake during off hours.
Hours before the council meeting, Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis, who himself is a retired police captain, followed suit. Davis said he would support a similar initiative in Bayonne, which Ashe-Nadrowski noted. However, there is no official policy in effect just yet.
“I don’t think we have any official policy yet,” Ashe-Nadrowski said. “I know Mayor Davis, right along with the mayor of Jersey City, said he would also restrict for the police. I didn’t hear any mention of firemen.”
Law Director Jay Coffey noted has had long conversations with Police Chief Robert Geisler and Deputy Chief Joe Scerbo regarding this issue, which he said will likely be “a very hot topic over the next couple of months.”
“There’s no shortage of opinions down in Trenton on how to handle this,” Coffey said. “The sticking point really is, how do you test someone on the job for the level of marijuana?”
Testing for cannabis an issue
Coffey noted it is hard to test for cannabis intoxication in the way that someone can be tested for alcohol and have immediate results. Scerbo then took the podium, stating that the police department is providing guidance to the officers based off the law, per guidance from the Law Department and the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office.
“We prohibit three things as per the law,” Scerbo said. “We don’t want police officers to be under the influence of cannabis, to possess cannabis while on duty, and to use cannabis while on duty. The law states police officers are permitted to use cannabis while off duty, and that’s the way we’re proceeding right now.”
Coffey noted that that meant regulated cannabis, not unregulated cannabis, to which Scerbo confirmed. Godesky thanked Scerbo for the break down of the information: “Thank you chief. I know our brave service men and women will do the right thing.”
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.