Stone Hill seeks temporary approval for cannabis manufacturing at its warehouse facility on Reed Road

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Township would have to amend cannabis ordinance to allow Stone Hill’s temporary proposal

Stone Hill Manufacturing is seeking approval from Hopewell Township to temporarily allow for cannabis manufacturing at its warehouse facility on Reed Road.

The company presented the new proposal at a Township Committee meeting on April 3 that would allow for manufacturing operations at the warehouse facility until its main facility, which is under construction, becomes operational.

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Township Committee members did not make any decision and are further studying the proposal.

The Committee would have to amend its cannabis and land use ordinances if the governing body approves the proposal in the Hopewell Special Industrial [SI] Zone.

The current cannabis ordinance only allows for cultivation and manufacturing to occur in the Valley Resource Conservation zone.

“By the zoning ordinance, although the district does allow manufacturing, in this case, cannabis manufacturing is a significant difference from what we have had before,” Township Attorney Steven Goodell said.

“Plus, we have restricted in the cannabis ordinance that cannabis can only be allowed where it is specifically referenced. I think we would have to amend the zoning ordinance.”

Stone Hill anticipates utilizing their manufacturing facility on Reed Road until their main operations at 147 Washington Crossing Pennington Road become operational.

“That depends on planning, construction, and any supply bottlenecks. But I would say 2-3 years,” said Rob Piasio, co-founder and CEO of Stone Hill Manufacturing.

The company previously submitted Class 1 (cultivation) and Class 2 (manufacturing) licensing applications to the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission.

The company has completed the investigation phase by the Cannabis Regulatory Commission and currently await the Commissioners approval of the applications.

Permanent plans for cultivation and manufacturing at the project site remain unchanged, but Stone Hill is changing its commercial strategy due to an extended approval process for applications.

“So, because of how much time has elapsed since we originally proposed our idea, planned or commercial operations, and where we are now, several things have changed. One of which is the current market conditions for the cannabis industry in New Jersey,” Piasio said.

He added that the state continues to suffer from a severe lack of shortage of product and high prices are a result.

“Those applicants that have been approved have had difficulty launching their operations to fulfill some of those gaps in production,” Piasio said.

Greenhouse operations combined with manufacturing is still going according to plan at Washington Crossing Pennington Road.

“However, that is going to take a while to execute and even more so now with supply and material bottlenecks. So, we have another proposal to the town to fill that period of time we are under construction,” Piasio said.

Speed to market is a major priority for Stone Hill.

“We are pursuing the idea of launching our manufacturing operations prior to cultivation. Previously it was the other way around,” he said.

For Stone Hill, the main facility on Washington Crossing Pennington Road is going to supply their manufacturing operations with their own cultivated plants.

“In the time since we last met here there has been a development of a wholesale market of raw material that you can use to supply manufacturing operations,” Piasio said.

The model Stone Hill would use is purchasing distillate oil, which is oil that has been extracted from the plant, and using that oil to manufacture products.

“We can actually manufacture now using wholesale distillate oil for our products while we are building out our original plan,” Piasio added. “What we are proposing is to locate just our manufacturing operations in the lowest possible impact place in the town. That zone is the Hopewell Special Industrial [SI] Zone, which is essentially adjacent to 295.”

The distillate oil will be sourced by a third party and not produced onsite at the temporary facility on Reed Road.

At the location there is no cannabis cultivation, no retail, no odor, no lighting, no noise and is manufacturing only, according to Piasio.

The location is around Reed Road and Stone Hill has identified a number of properties that would be suitable.

Piasio informed the Township Committee that they have a letter of intent already that is contingent on the town’s determination on this proposal.

“Manufacturing is not growing the plant, it is basically taking the extracted oil from the plant and using that oil to manufacture finished products. Examples of finished products are edibles,” Piasio said.

“In New Jersey, currently soft and hard lozenges are permitted. So, you infuse that lozenge with THC. In addition, we would be manufacturing vape cartridges, which is basically a piece of hardware that you put the oil inside and people inhale that in the vape product.”

Other products that Stone Hill would consider manufacturing in the future would be gummies, beverages and additional edible products that are infused with THC.

Piasio noted that manufacturing has less nuisance factors than cultivation.

“Most of these nuisance factors relate to cultivation. With manufacturing there is no lighting issue, so we are operating with normal lighting conditions during normal business hours,” he said. “There is not extraneous lighting to what we are doing. Business hours are normal business hours, sort of a 9 a.m.-5 p.m. operation.”

With the exception of noise from the HVAC system at the facility, Plasio said there are “no other major noise producing issues” with manufacturing.

Their full operation would consist of 25 to 30 employees.

Additionally, deliveries to facilities are going to be done by vans with limited 18-wheeler trucks visiting the facility, according to Stone Hill.

Piasio stressed that Stone Hill continues to be committed to Hopewell.

Stone Hill in partnership with the township still does intend to preserve the historic house on the property site and a portion of the property above Woolsey Brook, according to Piasio.

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