Bayonne proposes further amendments to cannabis regulations

The city is looking to further restrict where cannabis establishments can open and change aspects of the application process

Bayonne plans to again amend local recreational cannabis regulations, this time pertaining to the preliminary application and review process, administration fees, support resolution, and the location of establishments, among other topics.

The City Council has introduced an ordinance amending the existing cannabis regulations at its August meeting. Inside the 18-page ordinance, there are many changes both big and small.

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The council first codified recreational cannabis regulations by adopting an ordinance in March of 2021. Then, in April of this year, the council adopted an additional two ordinances that restricted the location of cannabis establishments in the city to the commercial and industrial area east of Route 440 and overhauled many of the existing cannabis regulations.

Now the city is again amending the regulations, as the proposed ordinance would further restrict where cannabis establishments could be located. Currently, establishments are only allowed in the H-C Highway Commercial and Selected Light Industrial District, as well as the I-H Heavy Industrial District.

While those districts mostly exist on the east side of Bayonne to the east of Route 440, some of that zoning extends into the west side of Bayonne, abutting residential areas on Avenue A near the Bayonne Bridge. To prevent establishments from opening in that area, the council is contemplating restricting the establishments strictly to the east of Route 440 and outside of certain I-H properties.

Under the regulations, the city allows Class I Cannabis cultivator licenses, Class II Cannabis manufacturer license, Class V Cannabis retailer licenses, and Class VI Cannabis delivery licenses. Bayonne is permitting one cultivator, one manufacturer, two retailers, and two delivery service licenses in total.

Adjusting cannabis regulations

There are a number of other minor changes proposed under the new ordinance. The new changes would see that any applicant would not apply for a preliminary license seeking a Resolution of Support without first obtaining a conditional license from the state of New Jersey. The fee for the preliminary application for a Resolution of Support would be raised for cannabis deliverers to match the other licenses at $2,500.

The regulations further delineated rules for cannabis delivery services, outlining that the delivery vehicles should be equipped with secure lock boxes to transport the cannabis, as well as retaining a GPS device for identifying the geographic location of the delivery vehicle, among other rules.

Additionally, cannabis would be transported by a human, not an unmanned vehicle or drone, and the cannabis delivery service would only travel between the business premises and the drop-off location, with few exceptions.

While the due date for all application was initially June 17, this would be changed to the due date indicated on the license application. Instead of notices for hearings going out back on July 15, the applicants would be notified in writing as to the date and time of the hearings, whenever that may be.

The new ordinance also clarifies the stipulations of the Letter of Zoning Compliance needed from the Zoning Officer. The cannabis regulations also still include that the establishments would go before the Planning Board for final site plan review.

Under the proposed ordinance, the applicant would also be required to provide a sustainable packaging plan that reduces or eliminates the use of single-use plastics and promotes the use of recyclable or green packaging. When it comes to signage, cannabis establishments would not be able to include words like “weed,” “pot,” “marijuana,” or “cannabis” in their signage, of which there would only be one, and it would not be able to depict any image, symbol, logo, shape or any other image of cannabis, cannabis paraphernalia, smoke or any other image or symbol that could be interpreted as cannabis or cannabis product.

Other aspects of the ordinance

In addition to that, a cannabis delivery vehicle would not be able to bear markings, images, symbols, logos, shapes or any other images of cannabis, cannabis paraphernalia, smoke or anything other conspicuous image or symbol that would either identify or indicate that the vehicle is used to transport cannabis. Initial signage and any subsequent changes made must be approved by the Planning Board.

No indoor or outdoor consumption areas are permitted within Bayonne. No outdoor cultivation is permitted within in the city either.

The transfer of ownership of any local license shall first require state approval followed by proof from the state that the new owner has all state and Planning Board requirements for ownership of a cannabis establishment and delivery service in the form and manner prescribed by the Planning Board.

Transfer of location or modification to expand a license shall require state approval followed approval by the Planning Board and a Letter of Zoning Compliance from the City’s Zoning Officer and all necessary zoning, health, public safety and or building approvals.

Violations of the regulations would be punishable by a civil fine, which the minimum would be raised from $1,000 to $2,500 and the maximum from $3,000 to $5,000. In addition, ongoing or repeat offenses would result in the suspension of the certificate of occupancy for a period that would be determined by the Construction Official, Health Officer, Public Safety Director and or Zoning Officer in consultation with the Planning Board or revocation of the municipal license.

This would be enforced by the Police Department, City Engineer, Construction Official, Health Department, Municipal Official of the City of Bayonne or any of their designated agents.

Read the full ordinance at: bayonnenj.org/_Content/pdf/ordinances/O-13-Chapter-39-RECREATIONAL-CANNABIS-8.15.22.pdf.

Another ordinance was also introduced by the council, that would specifically implement the proposed changes to only permit cannabis establishments east of Route 440 into the city’s zoning regulations.

Read the full ordinance at: bayonnenj.org/_Content/pdf/ordinances/O-12-CHAPTERS-35-AN-ORDINANCE-OF-THE-CITY-OF-BAYONNE.pdf.

Council president talks new regulations 

In an interview with the Bayonne Community News, City Council President Gary La Pelusa discussed the proposed changes in the ordinance.

“The only area that retail cannabis would be allowed would be along the Route 440 corridor, which is the eastern side of Bayonne,” La Pelusa said. “The one ordinance eliminates a small section, a four or five block area around Avenue A downtown that was also in that Heavy Industrial Zone. We wanted to eliminate that and make sure, God forbid they built a school or something on that side, we don’t want it near children. This way it could stay on the retail 440 side.”

“The fee structure was a big, big part of that ordinance as well,” La Pelusa added. He said the fee for licenses for a cannabis cultivator is $5,000, for a cannabis manufacturer the fee is $10,000, for a cannabis retailer the fee is $15,000, and for a cannabis delivery service the fee is $2,500.

The license will last for a period of one year before needing to be renewed, and the license fee will again be collected in the same respective amount. An initial $7,000 escrow is required for Planning Board fees, and a $50 fee for the Letter of Zoning Compliance.

La Pelusa said this was one of many likely changes the council will continue to make to local cannabis regulations.

“I believe that there’s going to be a few more changes down the road,” La Pelusa said. “It’s so new that different issues and different concerns keep coming up and different ways to handle the business end. Those are the things we’re going to have to make adjustments as we go along. So I don’t think this will be the last one. I would be very surprised if it was.”

La Pelusa said the council is constantly aware of new facets of the regulations that can be addressed.

“There’s other issues, that in the beginning weren’t thought of,” La Pelusa said. “Things like ventilation for a manufacturer or a distributor or a cultivator. There’s mold and mildew issues and ventilation and drainage issues for watering. All those things needed to be added in and they needed to be checked. There’s got to be guidelines and health guidelines and things like that. All those things were kind of added as went along. So these are all the issues that came up later on. And I’m sure there’s going to be other things thought of that weren’t thought of in the beginning.”

Cannabis Review Board not seated yet

La Pelusa said that after the regulations are ironed out, the Cannabis Review Board will meet. The board will consist of city council designee likely to be La Pelusa, Public Safety Director Robert Kubert or his designee, and Mayor James Davis or his designee.

“It has not met yet, and everything is in the early stages since we’re just passing these ordinances,” La Pelusa said. “So that’s the next thing that has to be done, is organizing the board.”

La Pelusa said he isn’t sure yet if the meetings will be public or private: “I don’t think it’s been determined because the board hasn’t gotten together yet.”

While the board hasn’t met yet, La Pelusa said some businesses are eager to open in Bayonne: “I get a phone call now and then with people wanting to meet and wanting to do certain things.”

However, the city is taking things slow and steady as it determines the regulations it wants to enact, La Pelusa said.

“The applications in Bayonne… we’re going slow and steady and trying not to make any mistakes with this,” La Pelusa said. “We’re not in a huge rush, but at the same time, we don’t want to delay things either… We’re trying to do right by everybody, the public, the business owners, taxpayers, everybody. The only way to do that is kind of just to move slow and steady.”

The ordinance will be up for a public hearing at the September 21 council meeting 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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