At its January 25 meeting, the Hopewell Township Committee held a public forum to discuss the potential of opening cannabis retail spaces. The Committee heard from industry experts, the school district, police, and the public to understand what should be taken into consideration moving forward.
Associate at Parker McCay, Scott Miccio, began the meeting by giving an overview of cannabis law, how that affects retail, and what the State and municipalities can control.
“The State law has several requirements for what goes into a cannabis store, for instance the store has to be licensed by both the State and the Township. The store can buy cannabis from cultivators, manufacturers, wholesalers, and then sell it directly to consumers. Retailers can also use a delivery service to take orders from customers,” said Miccio.
In order for a cannabis retail business to locate itself in the Township, the business would need approval from both the State and the Township. The state application process for cannabis retailers opens on March 15.
“The state application requirements are pretty extensive and it’s expected that the process will be very competitive,” said Miccio. Applicants must submit an operating plan that highlights prior experience, recall plans, inventory control, odor mitigation practices, record keeping, waste disposal, security, storage and sanitation. They must also provide a description of the proposed location, zoning approvals and proof of local support.
Applicants must submit a social responsibility plan that summarizes how they will have a positive impact on the community, and describe any cannabis educational activities they plan to implement.
“The State has given municipalities a lot of leeway to dictate how and where to allow cannabis businesses. Municipalities can choose the zone or zones in which cannabis is permitted,” Miccio explained.
Mayor Courtney Peters-Manning presented a map that shows the current retail zones in Hopewell Valley, which can be found here. In addition to choosing the zone, the Township can also require that cannabis retail spaces be a certain distance from schools, playgrounds or places of worship.
Police Director Robert Karmazin touched upon the flow of traffic in the area and potential security issues. “Any newly built facility will have an increase in traffic flow, I would imagine an influx of people will be coming in from outside the community.”
According to state law, cannabis cannot be carried across state lines. Deputy Mayor Michael Rugar commented on how close Hopewell Valley is to the border of Pennsylvania and the security risks involved.
Dr. Rosetta Treece, Superintendent of the HVRSD, spoke about how cannabis retail can affect young people. “Our charge is to protect the well-being and safety of our most vulnerable and fragile residents — our children and young adults,” she said.
On behalf of the school district, Treece requested that the Committee consider at least a 1,000- foot buffer between any cannabis dispensaries and cultivation sites from schools and athletic fields.
The District is also asking that a portion of tax revenue generated be directed to a public and school-based education about cannabis use and the effects on the adolescent brain. They also asked for a policy review, training, and legal implications regulating the treatment of students and staff suspected of using cannabis on school properties.
“To ensure that all of these goals are met, the District urges the consideration of a cannabis task force to address issues surrounding legal cannabis.”
Concerns that were brought up by the public included high potency products getting into the hands of young people and wanting to keep a family-oriented feel. Others were more open to the idea as it will bring more revenue and funds from the town.
Edited 2/6/22. Thanks to Mayor Peters-Manning for sending us the map, which is now attached, above.
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