METUCHEN – With cannabis essentially “already here,” the Borough Council had a decision to make on whether or not they would participate in and benefit from the new legal marketplace in the state.
“Metuchen residents can visit any existing dispensaries or have [the cannabis] delivered to their homes,” Council President Jason Delia said noting there are 19 medicinal and recreational and nine medicinal only businesses in the state and the borough cannot prevent cannabis delivery companies to deliver to a Metuchen address.
“A number of towns have opted into some form of cannabis in their borders with more on the way including many in our neighboring towns. It’s been legal here since 2010 with medical marijuana and if we are honest with ourselves, it’s been here illegally for a long, long time.”
The Council in June opted out of allowing cannabis businesses in the borough in order to have more time for guidance from the state.
Six months later, with much thought and discussion, the Council unanimously adopted an ordinance conditionally permitting Class 3 Cannabis wholesale businesses and Class 5 Cannabis retail businesses within certain zoning districts at a meeting on Oct. 24.
“Deciding on a number of licenses [to allow] was a little bit trickier,” Delia said, noting there are six licenses – cultivator, wholesaler, retail, manufacturer, distributor and deliver – the borough can choose from. “Despite what one may think, we do not really have a say on a number of businesses [that can come into] town. The market is what drives the operation.”
With the same for the cannabis industry, Delia said the borough can limit the number of licenses in certain zones. With the adoption of the ordinance, the borough has proposed to allow two wholesale licenses in light industrial zones in the Liberty Street area and three retail licenses in the highway retail zones on Route 27, Central Avenue and Amboy Avenue.
The highway retail zones are less compact and less walkable with typical onsite parking. There will be no cannabis businesses on Main Street, Delia said.
All proposed cannabis businesses will be a conditional use, which means any application will come before the Planning Board and residents in the vicinity of the application will be notified, Delia said.
The Borough Council made the decision with discussion with Mayor Jonathan Busch, members of Council and Borough professionals Borough Administrator Melissa Perilstein, Director of Special Projects Jay Muldoon, and Police Chief Arthur Flaherty.
The proposed application fee for the businesses is $2,500 and the proposed annual license fee is $15,000, according to a cannabis presentation at the meeting.
Borough officials expect cannabis sales to possibly constitute a “significant revenue stream” for the borough. The maximum allowed for taxation is 1% of receipts from each sale from the Class 3 cannabis wholesalers and 2% of the receipts from each sale from the Class 5 cannabis retailers, Delia said.
Conditions and limitations are proposed, which include:
- Hours of operation are between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m.
- Queuing of customers outside a cannabis facility is prohibited.
- Not within 200 feet of a K-12 school.
- No cannabis product or paraphernalia shall be visible from the outside.
- No onsite consumption.
- Limitation on noise and odor.
Delia said although recreational marijuana is legal, it cannot be smoked or used in public similar to public consumption of alcohol. Smoking or vaping marijuana is also not allowed where cigarettes are prohibited.
“Recreational cannabis can only be smoked in a private residency,” he said.
Councilman Tyler Kandel said the cannabis ordinance has been one of the most discussed since he came on council. He called the ordinance approved as “incredibly thoughtful.”
“I think it has common sense restrictions in this ordinance that I think will set us up for success and a revenue stream that will help our budget,” he said.
Councilman Joel Branch said it was not an easy process with such a spirited topic with a lot of opinions on it.
“If we can put a solid plan on this, then I’m excited for plans in the future,” he said.
For more information, view the Council’s presentation on the proposed cannabis ordinance http://www.metuchennj.org/metnj/Announcements/Cannabis%20Retail%20and%20Wholesale%20Presentation.pdf?1666715729.