An ordinance amending a chapter of the township zoning law will allow all township zones, except residential, to be legal locations for cultivation, manufacturing, wholesale distribution, retail and delivery of cannabis, as adopted by the Township of West Milford Council on Wednesday. The decision was made despite feedback from residents, that they opposed cannabis businesses in the township, as indicated by Mayor Michele Dale, at a council workshop discussion on Feb. 2, prior to the decision to move the new ordinance forward.
If businesses are here, according to prevailing sentiment, there should at least be the fiscal responsibility to work with the community on drug prevention programs and education. The original ordinance designating certain zones where cannabis sales would be allowed was adopted in 2021. In passing the amended ordinance, the local governing body is expanding the places where such businesses might operate in the municipality to include all zones except for those zoned residential.
Passage of the amended ordinance has accomplished the council’s desire for the change, expressed at the earlier workshop discussion, before they introduced the document and set the public hearing date for March 2.During the earlier council discussion, Councilman Michael Chazukow stressed urgency to get the amended document adopted so that applicants would be able to obtain their necessary state of New Jersey licenses.
Minimum cannabis business lot size
There was discussion regarding the allowed minimum lot size for the business, because micro licenses are among those that are going to be issued. Administrator William Senande wants to hold off any action to change the one acre lot requirement in order to first have the township planner make a review of what is involved before any change is made.
Attorney Dawn Sullivan indicated that changing the one acre lot requirement would be substantial. The fee should be paid for by the owner, and this would also apply to the annual inspection, Councilwoman Marilyn Lichtenberg said. The rest of the council agreed and stipulated it in the new ordinance.
Regarding any nuisance calls, it was noted that equipment exists to measure particulates. Lichtenberg wanted it clarified in writing that there will be no gifting of any kind, such as buy two and get one free – since no taxes are collected on a gifted amount. Mayor Michele Dale said that is not possible because it is not illegal to do so – and this is something the state may crack down on.
Cannabis gifting issues
Councilman David Marsden indicated that social media (involvement) is problematic. Councilman Kevin Goodsir was concerned about any gifting to children. Sullivan responded to him that it is illegal for minors to be in possession of the product. Marsden pointed out that the purpose of allowing the cannabis sales in the township was the ability it provides for township regulation, and if is gifted it is not being tested so there would be no knowledge of the contents. Mayor Dale indicated that whenever there is a concern of that nature, especially where minors are concerned, Township Administrator William Senande should be contacted, and he can go directly to the Police Chief with the information.
The mayor believes this is a temporary issue that would correct itself. Chazukow agreed and said he fully expects that once the licenses are issued the rules will be enforced. He is a consumer advocate and does not favor gifting entities. Lichtenberg said she would like to see tax money that comes in go toward law enforcement and education through the Municipal Alliance Fund.
There was discussion about the allocation of funds, as the state may be putting some of it toward things that may be redundant. Chazukow suggested that money coming to the township be placed in areas other than where the state money will be spent.