Council moves on with cannabis ordinance as state deadline approaches

Moorestown is close to issuing regulations for businesses .

Cannabis is coming. 

Whether you support the drug’s legalization or not, it is legal in New Jersey. Voters approved a statewide ballot question legalizing the recreational use of cannabis last November, and the state has given municipalities until Aug. 21 to pass ordinances enacting the regulation of cannabis businesses. 

Moorestown is in the process of drafting an ordinance to regulate hours of operation, locations, manner and type of cannabis businesses and civil penalties for violations of ordinances.

The township formed a subcommittee on cannabis, and at the July 12 council meeting, members continued to hammer out details of the forthcoming ordinance. If council does not pass an ordinance by Aug. 21, all businesses are automatically allowed, with no limits on any kind of license.

The township’s cannabis subcommittee recommended that all six classes of licenses be allowed (grower, manufacturer, wholesaler, distributor, retailer and delivery) in Moorestown, with no limits on their number. The subcommittee also recommended that these businesses are taxed at the maximum allowable rate, which is a 2-percent tax for growers and 1- percent tax on wholesale businesses.

At the July meeting, Councilman Quinton Law said if the township is going to allow cannabis businesses in town, he’d like to see the money earmarked for community reinvestment. He suggested that part of the 2-percent tax could be set aside for youth programs or be given to the police department to help fund community policing programs. 

Councilman Jake Van Dyken agreed with that idea, but he doesn’t think the above should be the sole uses of the revenue stream. 

“The purpose of this is to bring in revenue for the town for multiple purposes,” he noted. Deputy Mayor Sue Mammarella said if the money were earmarked for community reinvestment, that discussion should be up to the public. She suggested council put forth its 10 or so best ideas and seek community feedback. 

Mayor Nicole Gillespie said the committee’s current recommendation is that businesses are prohibited within 1,000 feet of a school and must be 500 feet away from any park. The committee is also proposing 200 feet from residential zones. The mayor added that  council should make Route 38 the exception to the park rule, given Strawbridge Lake is within 500 feet of the highway. 

Resident Kathy Sutherland said restricting cannabis businesses from setting up shop too close to residential zones is extremely important in her eyes. She’d like to see  council follow through on at least 200 feet of distance from residential zones.

“I just don’t want it to be a free for all,” she added. 

Resident Claudine Morano suggested that council  require cannabis businesses to advise patrons of  local laws. Because regulations will vary from town to town, patrons may not know the Moorestown-specific regulations, she explained.

Resident Chris Buoni said in his opinion, Moorestown council is tempted by the opportunity for a “money grab” that the businesses present and is rushing in. He also   suggested council wait to see what happens in other towns before allowing the  businesses in Moorestown. 

“I’m not sure you’re making Moorestown a better place with this decision,” he added.

Council plans to put forth an ordinance at its next meeting on Monday, July 26, at 7 p.m.