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Hopewell Borough Council adopts opt-out ordinance for cannabis businesses

Hopewell Borough Council members have given the governing body time to determine if any classes of the cannabis business will be accepted in the borough.

The council adopted an opt-out ordinance to prohibit all classes of the business on May 6. However, there will not be any limits to the borough to opt-in by choosing to opt-out prior to Aug. 21 deadline set by the new cannabis laws.

Council President Charles Schuyler Morehouse, Councilman Chris Fossel, Councilman David Mackie and Councilwoman Samara McAuliffe voted “yes” on the ordinance during a virtual council meeting on May 6.

Councilman Ryan Kennedy and Councilwoman Debra Stuhler were absent from the meeting.

“We are not banning anything. We are taking a pause,” Mayor Paul Anzano said. “In passing this ordinance we are saying we are reviewing our master plan right now, which will flow to a review of the zoning ordinance and we will make a determination about which of the six categories we may or may not want in the borough and how much of them.”

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

“Are we appropriate for a grow and cultivation facility, are we appropriate for a processing facility, are we appropriate for a dispensing facility, are we appropriate for a delivery facility?” Anzano said. “We have not had time to do that. We are a very small community. We need the time to think about it. The recreational adult referendum passed in the borough 75% to 25%. We want to do this orderly and appropriate within what the community can tolerate and accept.”

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

To prohibit any of the licenses, Hopewell Borough had to pass the ordinance by Aug. 21. If the municipality had failed to adopt an ordinance by then, cultivators, manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors would automatically become permitted uses in all of the industrial zones of the municipality.

Additionally, the retail selling of cannabis would be a conditional use in the commercial or retail zones.

“You are doing this because there is a window of 180 days from the time that the legislation passed until it becomes an effective date. At that point you would be held to whatever the regulations were to come,” Borough Administrator Michele Hovan said to members of the council. “They have not been written yet, so you do not have them yet. Part of the reason for the opt-out is to allow for the rest of the details to come through, the licensing and codification of the regulations, as you consider how it would be implemented or permitted in the borough. And if you did not do this you would be bound to whatever was in effect.”

If the Borough Council failed to adopt an ordinance by Aug. 21, the borough would have been 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.

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