After months of discussions and public input, the Pennington Council has adopted an ordinance opting in to certain aspects of recreational cannabis businesses prior to the state mandated deadline.
There is an Aug. 21 deadline that had been set by the state for all municipalities to decide on an ordinance opting in or opting out from certain aspects of the six cannabis business licenses. If a municipality did not take action, the state would assume control of the decisions.
With its ordinance, Pennington is restricting cannabis retailers, medical cannabis dispensaries and cannabis delivery services. The ordinance opting in reduces the combined total number of licenses for cannabis retailers and medical dispensaries to two.
After public comment, Council President Catherine Chandler, Councilwoman Deborah Gnatt, Councilman Charles Marciante, Councilwoman Beverly Mills, and Councilman Ken Gross voted “yes” to adopt the ordinance during a council meeting on Aug. 16.
“I think we have been very careful to listen to everyone’s comments and even have made the necessary amendments that we are all comfortable with,” Mills said. “So I do believe we have done our due diligence in thinking about this as carefully as possible and putting everyone’s thoughts forward.”
Councilwoman Liz Semple was absent from the meeting.
“I want to say that I’ve listened to everybody and I think the Borough Council has listened to everybody, which is why after the last three or four months this ordinance has gotten contracted to where the location is, the number of retailers, the hours, and size,” Chandler said. “We have really paired this down. I do not honestly think an opt-out is appropriate, because of the way the town voted. The town overwhelmingly supported legal cannabis and retail cannabis.”
Chandler added that she knows people have concerns and thinks the Borough Council has addressed those concerns with the ordinance.
“We are protected because of our application process and because of our renewal process. Nobody under the age of 21 is even allowed in the retailer,” she said. “These are not protections we have with regard to liquor.”
No more than a combined total of two cannabis retailers and medical dispensaries will be permitted in the business highway zone and the office business zone. One location in the two zones will have to be reserved for a medical cannabis dispensary, according to the ordinance.
Cannabis retailers, delivery services and medical cannabis dispensaries are conditional uses in the business highway zone and the office business zone. Cannabis delivery services are a also a conditional use in the mixed use zone.
“We don’t know that the property owners who on the properties on the highway are going to want this. This is all a wish game,” Marciante said. “If people are thinking there is going to be a big store open with signs, the store owners themselves might not go for this and that closeness of the retail store. We are on guard with this and I am on guard with this. I do not want to see it abused and if I do see it being abused we will take the action necessary.”
Consumption areas are not permitted and 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.
Additionally, in the Town Center Zone cannabis retailers and medical cannabis dispensaries are also prohibited.
The borough regulations also include no more than 2,500 square feet of floor area for a recreation cannabis retailer or medical dispensary; the design of any building or structure is to conform to the area’s character; 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.
Also, the consumption of cannabis products will not be permitted in the facility or next to it.
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.
The Borough Council, with this ordinance, has also increased the application fee of $1,000 to $2,500 for a cannabis retailer, medical cannabis dispensary or cannabis delivery service. Cannabis retailers and medical dispensaries would have to pay renewal fee of $5,000 and cannabis delivery services would pay a renewal fee of $2,500.