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Boroughs lean in to cannabis sales

by Amie Rukenstein

While Hopewell Township has signaled its unwillingness to allow cannabis sales in the Township, Hopewell Borough and Pennington Borough are more enthusiastic.

In an email to MercerMe last month, Mayor Paul Anzano spoke positively about the benefits of allowing the sale of cannabis, the use of which has been decriminalized since March. The State is now working on legislation to regulate the cultivation, sale, and use of cannabis. Municipalities will collect sales revenue from every type of sales, from wholesale to retail.

Anzano stated: “Council and I are strongly in favor of permitting the business of marijuana in the Borough. Borough voters approved the referendum question with approximately 75% in favor. We are currently revising our master plan to identify appropriate areas for some form of marijuana businesses.”

Like Hopewell Township (click here for story), Hopewell Borough will initially opt out of allowing any marijuana business while they plan for “what types of marijuana businesses we think would be best for Borough residents, how many of the various marijuana related businesses/processes to permit and where to permit them,” according to Anzano.

Anzano indicated, however, that Council recognizes a need “to act as quickly as possible so that the Borough is in a competitive position when compared to other municipalities.”

According to the NJ League of Municipalities, State law requires that municipalities make a decision about cannabis regulation within 180 days (by August 21, 2021) of the law that decriminalized cannabis. If the municipality completely opts out, as Hopewell Township and Hopewell Borough are doing, they can opt back in at any time. If the municipality makes no decision, then any type of cannabis-related business – from cultivation to manufacturing to retail sales – must be allowed and no change may be made for five years. 

Towns also have the option to legislate right from the beginning, accepting certain types of sales and prohibiting others. Pennington Borough has decided to go that route.

At its June 7 meeting, Pennington Borough not only welcomed a new mayor, it introduced an ordinance to allow cannabis retail sales in some parts of town. New mayor, Jim Davy, explained to MercerMe that initial discussions had been about several locations throughout the Borough, but that by the end of the meeting June 7, they settled on three retail licenses in the “highway district,” which means along Route 31.

The ordinance introduced on June 7 is here. It requires that one of the three licenses must go to a medical dispensary; the other two can be retail shops. The ordinance does not allow for cannabis cultivators, manufacturers, or distributors. It now goes to the Planning Board and then for public hearing before it can be considered for adoption by the Council.

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