Cannabis leaf

ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS –  Borough Council  introduced its ordinance setting out regulations for cannabis operations at  its meeting last Thursday, taking the first step in what could still be a long process with input from several other municipal committees before cannabis businesses are approved for operation.

Action by council comes fresh on the heels of the governing body moving forward with its request to the Commissioner of Education for approval to put the question of a K-12 regionalization  school district on the November ballot. 

The proposed cannabis ordinance faces the possibility of several more meetings including the Planning Board before further action can be taken.  Without any changes by the planning board, the ordinance could be approved July 14 following the public hearing.

The 12 page ordinance appears in full on the borough’s official page, and a public hearing has been set for July 14 at the regular borough council meeting at 7 p.m.

Introduced by Councilman Steve Boracchia and seconded by Councilwoman Lori Hohenleitner, with Councilmen Jon Crowley and Brian Dougherty also assenting,  introduction of the proposed ordinance was opposed by Councilman James Murphy. Councilman Brian Boms recused himself from participating  since he said as a professional involved in real estate he has done business with property owners who may be involved in the cannabis business.  

Murphy did not give any reason for his voting against the introduction of the ordinance.   

The 12 pages are in reality an amendment to Chapter 150, Article II of the borough Code:  Definitions.”  It includes two new sections of the code, Chapter 150-47 entitled Cannabis Facilities and Cannabis Licensing and Taxation to authorize the issuance of certain cannabis licenses within the borough…”

As such they  spell out by law actions the Planning/Zoning Board must follow when processing applications submitted to the board by applicants for any of the cannabis businesses which would be permitted under the ordinance.  

The ordinance spells out boundaries of operation for the local police department and code enforcement officials, sets times of operation, and areas where specific types of cannabis business would be permitted to operate.  It designates regulations for signage, hours and days of operation and other requirements for business owners.

The ordinance also sets $10,000 as the initial application fee for a cannabis license, one of three types which would be permitted under the ordinance, and sets annual renewal fees at $2500. It designates the specific areas of the borough where each of the different cannabis types would be permitted and sets the hours of operation for all but delivery services.

Delivery services is one of the three permitted uses under the proposed code.  Without that permitted service, State law permits delivery by businesses licensed outside the borough in other municipalities to within the borough. That enables those municipalities to receive the local sales taxes generated by the sales, rather than the municipality to which the deliveries are made.

The governing body’s introduction of the ordinance now enables the planning board to consider the ordinance at its July 7 meeting, at which the public will also have an opportunity to be heard during the public portion.

The July 7 meeting enables the Planning Board to meet its obligations to give input on the subject under state law as the borough’s Land Use Board.

State law mandates the Land Use Board review the proposed code with reference to its impact on the borough’s Master Plan. Planners can recommend changes or advise council no changes are being recommended to the proposed ordinance.

In spite of the borough’s official website page identifying a zoom connection for planning board meetings, the board only holds its meetings in person.  

Should the planners recommend no changes, or council not change the original code as introduced, the July 14 public hearing will be followed by a vote on approval of the new code.

Should changes be made, the amended code would then go back to the planning board for final approval, most likely at that board’s Aug. 4 meeting.

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Muriel J. Smith

Muriel J Smith

Muriel J Smith an award-winning journalist, former newspaper editor, book author and historian, Her newest venture is her blog, in...