By REBECCA HERSH
EDISON – In the haze of confusion over opt in, opt out, or do nothing about regulating cannabis businesses in the municipality, the Edison Township Council, during a special meeting on Aug. 19, decided to opt in by passing an ordinance that sets very strict guidelines about how all cannabis business operations (manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, retail sales) could function within Edison.
They joined other communities like New Brunswick, Highland Park and Woodbridge that have opted to take advantage of their ability to regulate and restrict cannabis operations, without losing out on the fiscal benefits that could come with the business.
Gov. Phil Murphy signed a law on Feb. 22 to legalize recreational marijuana use for adults in New Jersey, as well as allowed for the cultivation, processing and sale of retail marijuana.
More than 67% of New Jerseyans voted in favor of legalizing the use of cannabis in a 2020 referendum, including a majority (55%) of Edison voters.
Under the state law, municipalities do not have the authority to ban cannabis use in their towns, nor can they prohibit delivery businesses from operating, but the towns did have until Aug. 21 to opt out or set guidelines for cannabis sale.
Municipalities cited several variables that factored into their votes. Although opting out now would have allowed an opportunity to opt in at a later date, municipalities like Edison considered that the delay would result in losing the potential revenue benefit that would go to other communities that opted in by Aug. 21. Doing nothing would have meant the municipality would have ceded regulatory control over cannabis business operations to the state for at least five years.
The ordinance that passed last week, with one dissenting vote by Council President Robert Diehl, regulates the number of licensed cannabis businesses in the township, along with their location, manner, times of operation, and licensing fees.
Township officials are looking to allow all six classes of marijuana establishments in one section of the municipality (Raritan Center and Heller Industrial Park), but those interested in operating them will have to pay hefty annual licensing fees.
Specifically, “the area southeast of Woodbridge Avenue between Amboy Avenue and Mill Road” will be the only area cannabis establishments can be based.
While allowing all six types of cannabis establishments, the council members were determined to keep such establishments away from any place that might be offended by such an operation.
The ordinance permits 10 cannabis establishment licenses, with a maximum of three for retailers and the remaining seven distributed among cultivators, manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors and delivery, with no less than one license per class.
If after six months applications are accepted and no application is submitted for a particular class, then up to two licenses will be permitted for the remaining classes, the ordinance states.
Cannabis businesses would not be allowed to also sell alcohol or tobacco products and there could be no on-site consumption of food, alcohol, tobacco or cannabis by patrons.
The ordinance also states that businesses could be open to the public from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily and no one under age 21 would be allowed in a license cannabis establishment.
Licensed cultivation and processing operations would be required to provide air treatment systems with odor absorbing ventilation and exhaust systems so any odors from inside the facility are not detected outside. Those businesses also would be required to provide noise mitigation features to minimize disturbances from machinery, processing, packaging and loading operations.
All cannabis businesses would be required to be equipped with security cameras to cover the exterior parking and loading area, entry points and interior spaces open to the public or used for storage or processing of cannabis products. Police will need to be provided with access to security footage upon request.
In addition, all cannabis businesses would be required to provide at least one security guard during all times the facility is open to the public; lighting cannot spill over into residential neighborhoods; and cannabis businesses cannot be located 1,000 feet from residential use or residential zone property, within 1,000 feet of a licensed child care facility, elementary, middle or high school and public or private college or university. Cannabis businesses cannot be located within 500 feet of a halfway house or correctional facility, within 500 feet of another cannabis business or 1,000 feet of a public park or house of worship.
The health department, zoning official, police or fire department will make “periodic” inspections to check for compliance with the detailed regulations of the ordinance.