Keyport officials may open door to local cannabis businesses

KEYPORT – Borough Council members are taking action to lift a prohibition on cannabis businesses in Keyport by proposing regulations for cannabis businesses that may eventually be permitted to operate in the municipality.

During a meeting on Nov. 9, council members introduced an ordinance that will, if adopted, establish locations where cannabis businesses will be permitted to operate and the standards by which the operators of cannabis businesses may receive a license.

A public hearing on the ordinance is scheduled for the Dec. 7 council meeting. The council members may adopt the ordinance that evening.

The Borough Council’s action follows the enactment of the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act, also known as A-21, which was passed by state legislators in February after New Jersey voters in 2020 approved a constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana.

The legislation legalizes the recreational use (also known as adult use) of marijuana by certain adults; it decriminalizes the possession of small amounts of marijuana and hashish (a marijuana concentrate); and it removes marijuana as a Schedule I (high potential for abuse) drug.

According to the ordinance, A-21 established six marketplace classes of licensed marijuana businesses: cultivator, manufacturer, wholesaler, distributor, retailer and delivery.

After A-21 was enacted, elected officials in New Jersey’s municipalities were given until Aug. 21 to establish their own regulations for cannabis businesses or to prohibit the operation of cannabis businesses within their borders. If neither action was taken, cannabis businesses would be permitted in the municipality for a five-year period under state regulations.

In August, Keyport’s council members adopted an ordinance which prohibits all six types of cannabis businesses from operating in the borough.

However, the ordinance stated that municipal officials sought to establish land use regulations and licensing standards for regulated cannabis businesses in Keyport upon the receipt of adequate regulatory guidance.

The proposed ordinance states that borough officials determined cannabis businesses present special concerns and should be regulated specifically to permit the uses where appropriate in the borough.

The officials determined all six classes should be permitted in certain zones and at appropriate locations.

According to the proposed ordinance, cannabis retailers and delivery services will be permitted in the Highway Commercial district, in the Industrial district and on specific lots in the General Commercial district.

The lots in the General Commercial district that would permit cannabis retailers and delivery services will front West Front Street between Broad and Beers streets, Broad Street between West Front and Third streets, and Main Street between West Front and Barnes streets.

Two cannabis retailers will not be permitted in the same zoning district, according the proposed ordinance.

According to the proposed ordinance, cannabis cultivators, distributors, manufacturers and wholesalers will only be permitted in the Industrial district.

All six cannabis business types would not be permitted to operate within 250 feet of a licensed childcare facility or a residential childcare facility; within 250 feet of any public or private elementary school, middle school, high school, college or university; within 150 feet of any church, synagogue, temple or other place used exclusively for religious worship; and in or upon the same premises of businesses that engage in retail food sales or retail alcoholic beverage sales, according to the proposed ordinance.

Cannabis cultivators and manufacturers will each have an annual license fee of $10,000. The annual license fee for cannabis wholesalers, distributors, retailers and delivery services will each be $5,000, according to the ordinance. Two licenses will be permitted for each cannabis business type.

The hours of operation for cannabis cultivators, manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors and retailers will be from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., according to the ordinance. Cannabis delivery services will have their hours of operation determined by the Cannabis Regulatory Commission.