FREEHOLD – The Borough Council has established regulations for cannabis companies that could potentially operate in Freehold Borough.
In a July 19 meeting, council members voted 4-1 to pass an ordinance that sets out the locations where cannabis businesses can be permitted to operate in Freehold Borough and how operators of those businesses can be licensed. .
On a motion to adopt the ordinance, Borough Council President Annette Jordan, City Councilor George Schnurr, City Councilor Margaret Rogers and City Councilor Adam Reich voted “yes”.
Councilor Sharon Shutzer voted “no” to the motion. City councilor Michael DiBenedetto was absent from the meeting.
The council’s action follows the New Jersey Cannabis Regulation, Enforcement Assistance and Market Modernization Act, also known as A-21, which was approved by lawmakers in state in February after New Jersey voters in 2020 approved a constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana.
The law legalizes the recreational use (also known as adult use) of marijuana for certain adults, subject to state regulation; it decriminalizes possession of small amounts of marijuana and hashish (a concentrate of marijuana); and it is removing marijuana as a Schedule I (high abuse potential) drug.
Under the Freehold Borough Order, A-21 established six market categories of licensed marijuana businesses: grower, manufacturer, wholesaler, distributor, retailer, and delivery.
A marijuana delivery business will not be permitted to operate in any area of Freehold Borough, according to the ordinance; however, delivery of cannabis products and / or supplies to addresses within the Freehold Borough by a delivery service based outside the Borough cannot be prohibited.
Determined municipal officials that marijuana retailers will be permitted to operate in commercial manufacturing zones and modified commercial zones on lots fronting on Throckmorton Street and between the intersection of Throckmorton and Rhea streets in the west to the borough limits ; in office commercial areas, restricted professional office areas and general commercial areas on lots bordering avenue du Parc (route 33) and between the intersection of avenue du Parc and rue Sud Est up to the boundaries of the borough; and commercial manufacturing areas and general commercial areas on lots fronting on Jerseyville Avenue and between the intersection of Jerseyville Avenue and Parker Street on the east to the borough limits.
Cannabis growers, distributors, manufacturers and wholesalers will only be allowed to operate in the city’s commercial manufacturing district, according to the ordinance.
Cannabis growers and manufacturers would each pay an annual license fee of $ 10,000, while cannabis wholesalers, distributors and retailers would each pay an annual license fee of $ 5,000. According to the ordinance, a maximum of two licenses will be issued for each type of business.
Cannabis growers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers would each have a 2% commercial sales tax in Freehold Borough. Cannabis wholesalers would have a 1% commercial sales tax in the Freehold borough, according to the ordinance.
Among other site standards, public hours of operation for each marijuana business will be limited from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., unless the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission designates different hours.
Every cannabis business must have at least one security guard and be equipped with security cameras, and security footage must be provided to the Freehold Borough Police Department upon request. Operations will only be authorized indoors.
During the public hearing preceding the council vote on the ordinance, Hugh Giordano, a representative of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, which represents workers in the cannabis industry, expressed support for the ordinance.
“I want to thank the council and the mayor for having the courage to allow good union jobs here at Freehold Borough,” said Giordano. “These jobs are unionized from seed to sale and the construction and modernization (of cannabis companies) will be done by carpenters, IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) and steam fitters.”
Resident Chris Velasco offered a different point of view, saying, “You (the governing body) want to zoning from South Street to Park Avenue until the end of town. There are residents there, there is an apartment complex there.
“You want to put it on Jerseyville Avenue. There are locals in the area. If you have a problem with people getting drunk and passing out on the streets of Freehold Borough, what does that mean they don’t go walking around drunk? ” she asked.
Velasco said officials in neighboring municipalities were taking action to ban cannabis companies from operating within their borders.
“When the surrounding big cities say no to that, why is Freehold Borough saying yes? ” she asked. “They have the space to put this type of facility and you want to put it in someone’s neighborhood with someone’s kids.
“The licenses are $ 5,000 to $ 10,000. It is not a source of money for the city. But yet the detriment, residents’ quality of life, risk, safety and increased traffic outweigh any kind of pros, ”said Velasco.
Mayor Kevin Kane and business administrator Stephen Gallo pointed out that when the issue of legalizing marijuana came up in the November 2020 ballot, more than 70% of Freehold Borough residents who turned out to vote voted in favor of the legalization of marijuana.
Kane, who would have voted on the ordinance only in the event of a tie, said he supported local legislation.
Shutzer pointed out that his opposition to the proposed ordinance stems from uncertainty over state regulations for cannabis companies and borough officials not being able to change city regulations for five years if the ordinance is passed.
“If we choose to have legal sales in our city, we are stuck there for five years whether it works or not,” the city councilor said. “If we decide that we want to wait a year to see if the rules and regulations are things we can live with, it won’t negatively affect our city, we can opt. And I don’t know what the Cannabis Regulatory Commission is going to come up with.
Shutzer shared Velasco’s concern over the ban on cannabis businesses by neighboring municipalities.
“I am very concerned about what kind of Freehold Borough hub will become,” she said. “I have to vote ‘no’ because I don’t think committing to five years with rules that we don’t even know yet and that aren’t clear is what’s best for Freehold Borough.”
Jordan said a special committee has been formed to set regulations for Freehold Borough’s cannabis businesses.
“(The committee had) residents, business owners, representatives from our police department and members of the governing body,” said the chairman of the board. “We looked at the pros and cons of this. And it is on this (ordinance) that we landed. As a board member, I am confident in my vote tonight to bring this to Freehold Borough. “
Respond to concerns Of people under the influence of marijuana on the streets of the borough, Schnurr said most of the cannabis business classes are not retailers.
“There are different classes of licenses where you wouldn’t be able to tell what’s going on behind closed doors,” the city councilor said. “Retail is another story, but we’re going to limit what (type of business) to what it can go for. Most licenses do not relate to pedestrian traffic or retail (operations). “
Schnurr said neighboring towns banning cannabis companies would benefit Freehold Borough.
“I was encouraged by this,” he said. “This means that businesses that want to expand here in the city will be very successful. “
Rogers concluded that allowing cannabis companies to operate in Freehold Borough would not have a negative impact.
“I support this (ordinance) because the cannabis is already here,” Rogers said. “This (prescription) gives us an idea of how to manage it, how to treat it, how to control it.
“I am comfortable with the types of licenses we allow, I am confident that we will limit the retail aspects of the cannabis industry, I am comfortable that we do not allow deliveries and certain activities.
“I don’t use marijuana, I don’t intend to use it, but there are people who use it and they will continue to use it. We need to address this problem in a way that allows them to use it legally, ”Rogers said.
“This ordinance is very structured on how people can use it by state law. We are not going to have the expected activity with people walking around, smoking joints.
“I think it’s good for Freehold from a tax standpoint, from a community standpoint, from a business standpoint.
“I don’t think it’s going to have a negative impact on our community because it doesn’t have a negative impact now. People are already using it. This ordinance regulates more (of cannabis) than allowing people to run around freely with it, ”Rogers said.