Pennington Council to discuss next steps with new cannabis laws in May


The Pennington Council will discuss in more depth next month about Pennington’s next steps regarding New Jersey’s new marijuana laws legalizing cannabis.

In May, the council with go through options for the municipality and begin discussions on whether they will opt in or opt out with an ordinance on any aspect of the legislation by Aug. 21. The legislation gives each municipality that option.

“The clock is ticking. There are very few things we can do. The biggest one is that we need to opt in or opt out on the different types of businesses we will allow in Pennington,” Mayor Joe Lawver said during an April 5 council meeting. “Our timeline for this is next month. We will have a more in depth proposal on how Pennington should handle it and then we would introduce no later than July and adopt in August, if we are adopting an ordinance that would restrict the type of operations we would allow.”

There are six types of licenses the newly created Cannabis Regulatory Commission will issue. They are cultivator (grower), manufacturer (processor), wholesaler, distributor, retailer and delivery service.

“We do not want to go to far down this rabbit hole. We do have different business areas in town and what we are taking a look at is, do we want to say no in some areas and do we care in other areas,” Council President Catherine Chandler said on April 5. “We have a lot of homework to do.”

Pennington can choose which of the six licenses would be allowed, but cannot deny delivery services to come through town to residents.

To prohibit any of the licenses, Pennington would have to pass an ordinance by Aug. 21. If the municipality fails to adopt an ordinance by then, cultivators, manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors will automatically become permitted uses in all of the industrial zones of the township.

Additionally, the retail selling of cannabis would be a conditional use in the commercial or retail zones. This would occur only if the township did not choose to adopt an ordinance.

“I will tell you there is a disadvantage to doing a blanket no. A lot of towns are heading in that direction,” Lawver said. “Unsolicited we have had one cannabis business say they want to do this in Pennington they did not do their research, this was a grow operation, they were looking for 6,000 square feet of warehouse space. I do believe there will be a bit of a gold rush and those towns that are thoughtful about it rather than a blanket ‘no’ they may be able to take advantage of that.”

Chandler added that some sections of business, such as grower, Pennington won’t have to say no because there is not the space and structure in Pennington for that type of operation to be possible.

If the Pennington Council chooses to adopt an ordinance the municipality would be able to designate where each could go and to a certain extent the hours of operation.

However, if the council fails to adopt an ordinance the municipality would then be prohibited from passing such an ordinance for five years. Cultivators, manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors would be able to move into the municipality and would not be able to be banned for another five years.

According to the New Jersey State League of Municipalities (NJLM), once a municipality permits a cannabis establishment or distributor operations in their community, that action remains valid for five years, after which the municipality will receive another window of 180 days to prohibit or limit operations.

There are no limits to municipalities to when they can opt in if they choose to opt out by Aug. 21.

Pennington is also allowed to adopt an ordinance that would impose a tax on the sale of cannabis and cannabis items. The maximum permissible tax for sales by cultivators, manufacturers and retailers is 2% and for cannabis wholesalers it is 1%.