Hopewell Borough to hold public hearing on opt-out ordinance prohibiting cannabis businesses in May


Members of the Hopewell Borough Council have introduced an opt-out ordinance to prohibit all classes of the cannabis businesses in the borough.

A public hearing is scheduled for May 6, after the ordinance was introduced on April 8 at a virtual Borough Council meeting.

“This is what we are commonly calling the opt-out ordinance as the regulations and procedures are being further developed at the state level and guidance is being issued in terms of how licenses would be offered and distributed,” Borough Administrator Michele Hovan said. “This gives towns the opportunity to determine whichever classes of cannabis business to accommodate, whether it is retail or grower, those regulations are not really in place yet.”

She added that the opt-out ordinance is really a placeholder, so that when those procedures and regulations come through, the borough is not bound to the state law standard. There are no limits to municipalities to when they can opt in if they choose to opt out by Aug. 21.

“We would have the opportunity to amend ours, otherwise we would be stuck with standard for the next five years,” Hovan said.

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.

Hopewell Borough can choose which of the six licenses would be allowed, but would not be able to deny delivery services to come through town to residents.

To prohibit any of the licenses, Hopewell Borough would have to pass the 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.

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.

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

However, if the Borough 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.