A proposed ordinance amending a chapter of the township zoning law to allow all township zones, except residential, to be legal locations for cultivation, manufacturing, wholesale distribution, retail and delivery of cannabis was not adopted by the Township of West Milford Council on Wednesday. Instead, the document was sent to the West Milford Planning Board for additional input and recommendations. It is expected that in two weeks, after the planning board reports back to the council, an updated amended ordinance will be introduced at the next council meeting, on March 8.
About 20 residents appeared at the council meeting to voice their objections to cannabis sales being allowed in the township. They had concerns about children’s safety and the allowed distance from schools where cannabis could be sold; they wanted strict controls, liability assurance, and penalties for any toxin issues.
They called for checks and balances regarding the cannabis businesses and asked that retailing not be a permitted use. They want township officials to carefully consider what the long and short term impact of having the cannabis business in town will be. The significant amount of water needed for growing the cannabis plant was seen as a possible danger to the township water supply.
A speaker indicated that cannabis gifts now being given after purchases of other items, without licenses in place, is another problem. Another said the state would not enforce this law when it comes to cannabis control, and having township police immediately do so was mentioned.
A speaker who admitted she had smoked, described this time as a painful period in her life, and she doesn’t want present young people to have the same experience.People who would like their voices heard on the subject are welcome to submit letters to the West Milford Messenger editor for publication consideration.
During a council workshop discussion on Feb. 2, Mayor Michele Dale indicated that general feedback she got from residents was that they did not want the cannabis business located in the township, but if it is here, 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
.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. 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 wanted to hold off any action to change the one acre lot requirement in order to first have the township planner review 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 to stipulate 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.
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.
Councilman David 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 believed 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.