The Township of Hopewell committee held its bi-monthly meeting on Monday, September 13. The committee voted unanimously to approve the new cannabis ordinance after hearing comments and questions from the public.
During the August meeting, the township committee approved an ordinance entirely refusing to allow any cannabis industry to operate in the township. This was to meet the state deadline of August 21. The committee presented a new ordinance at that meeting, however, to allow a very restricted area in the township in which a resident could apply to operate a cannabis cultivation / manufacturing business.
Mayor Julie Blake explained that it had been brought to the attention of township committee members and staff that the state was imposing a short deadline to accept applications for the most lucrative (township) cultivation permit. “We thought it was worth exploring when we saw that the licenses that are going to be awarded will probably not be available to us after this year,” she said.
Blake explained that there are only about 12 to 15 “macro” grow licenses available to farmers throughout New Jersey. “There’s a lot of agriculture here, but there are a lot of standards and regulations that wouldn’t normally apply to farmland. If a licensee is approved, the township will be able to levy a two percent tax on the proceeds from each sale. In a large cannabis operation, this could represent a windfall of several thousand dollars for the township.
The new township ordinance requires that applicants’ locations be located within two miles of a 295 interstate interchange, on a state or county highway, and on land of at least 50 acres. Those wishing to apply also need an affidavit letter from the appropriate municipal officials to confirm local zoning requirements and presentation of evidence of local support for the suitability of the location.
“It gives a lot of power to the Township of Hopewell committee, which means if there are multiple nominations, and we designate that we have certain values or certain criteria… we can actually select them if there are multiple nominations. . I don’t think that in a realistic world there will be multiple applications. I think we would be lucky as a city to get some, ”said Blake. These requirements are in addition to the large amount of environmental requirements required to build a greenhouse in which cannabis would be grown.
Residents expressed concerns that ranged widely from the two-mile radius requirement, racial fairness, and how those who don’t own 50 acres can enter the industry. One of the first issues that residents raised was the two-mile radius decision. The radius includes parts of Scotch Road and Pennington Road in the southern part of the Township of Hopewell.
“I just want to know why two miles,” asked John Hart, a township farmer, businessman and former township mayor, and committee member. “Two miles encompasses only like three farms. Not even that, so I think this should be changed for the whole township as there might be some pretty remote areas that are not close to any heavy [density] residents ”Hart also said he had conducted his own research and understood that concerns raised by some residents, such as tractor-trailer traffic and manufacturing smells, would not be issues in the township.
Blake explained that the two-mile radius was established by town planner Frank Banisch, who was not at the meeting and unable to comment. “That being said, if people think differently about it, we can go back and change it,” Blake said. “We want to start slowly. And then if the candidates ask for something different, we will go in that direction. As discussed at the August Committee meetings, the state’s requirement to make a decision by August 21 means that after fully withdrawing, municipalities can withdraw at any time. There are currently seven lots within the two mile radius that are eligible for these licenses.
When residents mentioned that this ordinance only allowed wealthy owners of large plots, Blake explained that part of the reason the state is pushing for cannabis is to right some of the wrongs committed during the period of “War on drugs”. “I think the reason we have this cannabis law in this state is that people saw it as a way to remedy so much of the harm caused by the war on drugs against people of color,” Blake explained. .
Township resident and farmer Tomia MacQueen explained that the parameters of ordinances and laws, in general, make it increasingly difficult for the demographics she claims to help. “The settings to be two miles from the freeway, the 50-acre requirement, which has a very high socio-economic bracket that most cannot afford in this county. How come that fixes the damage caused by the war on drugs if those most affected cannot afford this land? ”MacQueen asked.
Those who don’t have 50 acres or not within a two mile radius may want to consider acquiring a micro-license, which would be approval for a much smaller operation. Blake explained that due to the tight schedule for macro licenses, the committee focused on these first. Micro-licenses will be considered by the township later, “Now it is important for everyone to know that if you are interested in applying there will be micro-licenses which will be granted by the state,” said Blake . “We weren’t designed for this [in approving the current ordinance under consideration]. The reason is that these micro-licenses can occur continuously after this next cycle for larger applications. These micro-licenses have no expiry date.
The committee unanimously approved the ordinance to allow eligible people to apply to the state for a license. The National Cannabis Regulatory Commission is expected to start collecting applications in the near future. To read the full prescription or for more information, go to this link.
If you rely on MercerMe for your local news, please support us.
To keep the news coming, we rely on the support of subscribers and advertising partners. Hyperlocal, independent and digital – MercerMe has been providing Hopewell Valley with news since 2013. Subscribe today.