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Pennington amends cannabis opt-in ordinance restricting retailers and medical cannabis dispensaries

Cannabis consumption areas will no longer be permitted by the Pennington Council after amendments were made to its cannabis ordinance restricting cannabis retailers, medical cannabis dispensaries and cannabis delivery services.

The Borough Council had proposed three amendments to the ordinance at a council meeting on Aug. 9. The public hearing for the ordinance was then carried on Aug. 9 to an Aug. 16 meeting when members of council will decide on the ordinance’s adoption.

“I do not think it is worthwhile to have consumption where they sell it and possibly create problems near the highway or getting on the highway. So if we can remove that I would be comfortable with this law,” Councilman Charles Marciante said on Aug. 9.

In addition to no longer permitting consumption areas, the Borough Council will increase the application fee of $1,000 to $2,500 for a cannabis retailer, medical cannabis dispensary or cannabis delivery service and reduce the number of licenses from a combined total of three for cannabis retailers and medical dispensaries to two.

“Anyone who is given a license in town must meet with the council to get a renewal. They must pay a $5,000 renewal fee and must come to council to renew,” Council President Catherine Chandler said. “So if there are any issues we do have that ability to review them or even end the license.”

With there being no more than a total of two cannabis retailers and medical dispensaries permitted in the business highway zone and the office business zone, one place in the two zones will have to be reserved for a medical cannabis dispensary, according to the amended ordinance.

“As the chair of the Finance Committee I saw how difficult it is to pay for everything it takes to run a town of our size. There are not many places for money to come in except for increasing taxes,” Councilman Ken Gross said. “Before joining council if you told me $20,000, $30,000 or $50,000 makes a difference I would have said no way. But I saw with the budget and that makes a difference in what we can do.”

There is an Aug. 21 deadline that has been set by the state for all municipalities to decide on an ordinance opting in or opting out of six cannabis business licenses. Members of the Borough Council must decide on an ordinance and adopt it or the municipality would be automatically opted in to recreational cannabis class licenses after the deadline.

Pennington would also then be prohibited from passing an ordinance for five years.

According to the ordinance, cannabis delivery services will not be limited in number, but would only be permitted in the the business highway zone, office business zone and mixed use one zoning district.

Prohibited uses in any zone of the borough include cannabis cultivators, cannabis manufacturers, cannabis wholesalers and cannabis distributors, medical cannabis cultivators, medical cannabis manufacturers and clinical registrants, according to the ordinance.

The borough regulations also include no more than 2,500 square feet of floor area for a recreation cannabis retailer or medical dispensary; controlled operating hours for a licensed retail facility (9 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily); and the regulation that cannabis products cannot be visible from a public sidewalk, public street or right-of-way or any other public place.

A cannabis retailer or medical dispensary application would be required to have Borough Council support through a resolution indicating that the application complies with borough regulations.

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