First reading of ordinance calls for allowing all licenses of recreational cannabis in North Brunswick

NORTH BRUNSWICK – Municipal officials in North Brunswick need more time to decide which of the six licenses that can be issued in relation to recreational cannabis they will allow in town, so they have preliminarily introduced an ordinance that would, if adopted in its present form, permit all six licenses with no restrictions.

Township Attorney Ronald Gordon provided three options for council members to consider.

Option 3, which was ultimately chosen for now and introduced through the first reading of Ordinance 21-11 during the July 26 Township Council meeting, authorizes all six licenses of retail, delivery, wholesaler, manufacturer, cultivator and distributor.

This action gives the council members more time to decide what and where they agree on, if the ordinance is adopted after a public hearing.

Gordon said if the council members move forward, there will be an additional process to implement the zoning process as to where cannabis businesses may operate, how many licenses would be issued and what restrictions would be put in place.

Gordon also presented Option 1, which would allow retail and delivery licenses only along the Route 1 corridor and in shopping centers of at least 25,000 square feet of building area.

The shopping centers would need to have direct access to Route 1 to keep customers out of residential areas, Gordon said.

That would allow for 10 different locations.

Option 1 would also allow for the cultivator, manufacturer, wholesale and distributor licenses to be authorized in specific areas of the I-1 industrial zone, limiting those licenses to facilities within a 35,000-square-foot warehouse in a newly created Licensed Cannabis Business Overlay Zone.

That would allow for eight locations along Jersey Avenue.

Gordon explained this would simply authorize locations and there would not be the maximum number of locations per area. As part of the protocol, a potential license holder has to negotiate with the property owner and then apply to the state. If the applicant receives a license from the state, it would also need approval from the municipality.

Option 2 would eliminate retail and delivery sales as authorized uses. Instead, cultivator, manufacturer, wholesaler and distributor licenses would be permissible only along Jersey Avenue in the special overlay zone.

For options 1 and 2, North Brunswick would receive transfer and use taxes as authorized by state legislation: a 2% tax for all uses except wholesale, which is 1%.

For options 1 and 2, each license would be limited to two types per class. Businesses could not be located near a church or school, nor within 500 feet of another business of the same class.

The introduced ordinance for Option 3, if adopted, would permit the operation of all six cannabis licensed businesses by amending the municipal code and by creating new Chapter 140 entitled, “Cannabis, Licensed Businesses” and new Chapter 308 entitled “Establishment of Cannabis Transfer Tax and User Tax.”

Mayor Francis “Mac” Womack consulted with Director of Community Development Michael Hritz and Gordon on the different zoning scenarios.

Since the Planning Board is responsible for North Brunswick’s master plan, a zoning ordinance would go before the Planning Board for review since this is a new type of use that did not exist during the last master plan review, Gordon said.

Councilman Ralph Andrews said he would like the cannabis licenses to be vetted properly, similar to how liquor licenses are approved.

The council members voted to approve the first reading of the ordinance pertaining to Option 3; Gordon explained that a “yes” vote during the meeting would only be a vote to introduce the ordinance, not necessarily a vote in favor of the ordinance.

Council members can vote how they wish after the public hearing concludes and if a motion is made to adopt the cannabis ordinance. The public hearing has been scheduled for Aug. 5. Visit northbrunswicknj.gov for meeting information.

Municipalities are required to adopt an ordinance by Aug. 21, either allowing or prohibiting any or all of the cannabis licenses, or else the state will have control of the matter.

The decision to opt in is for a term of five years; any municipality that opts out could opt in at any time.

If a municipality opts in initially, but opts out after the initial timeframe, any cannabis licenses that had already been approved would be grandfathered in.

Contact Jennifer Amato at jamato@newspapermediagroup.com