The Board of Aldermen of Dover in Morris County has unanimously passed a cannabis regulatory ordinance that favors local micro-businesses after initially passing a ban.
While only two standard licenses from any of the six categories will be allowed, micro-businesses of all categories will not be limited.
“We’re going to produce or grant as many licenses as people qualify and provide the application for retail,” Alderman Edward Correa said.
“We’re very much putting small businesses first,” he added. “We’re leaving the door open in case a big company wants to come in and create maybe dozens or hundreds of jobs in our community.”
“I’ll be glad to see this passed tonight,” Alderman Adrian Ballesteros said.
“The work that went into drafting and analyzing this ordinance was quite extraordinary. It has the input of a lot of people,” Correa said.
He noted they held two community forums on a Saturday and a weekday to hear from as many community members and policy experts as possible. In addition, they visited Garden State Dispensary (GSD) in Woodbridge to better understand the nuances of a dispensary.
Sativa Cross activist Chris Velasquez liked that the cannabis regulatory ordinance only allows two large companies to obtain licenses.
“We do not want large MSOs to come in and take over. We want Dover to become a craft cannabis hub made up of many micro cannabis businesses that are resident and diversely owned,” he said.
Noting that cannabis consumption lounges are prohibited, Velasquez said that “the Dover Cannabis community would like to see cannabis lounges be a part of the ordinance. Having a lounge where you can safely medicate is very important.”
“Thank you for passing the micro cannabis licenses,” Chris Almada of Sativa Cross said.
He also advocated in favor of lounges as well.
“There is a lot of housing places that don’t let disabled people medicate in their homes. In the wintertime, they’re forced to go outside and smoke,” Almada said. “It’s not only a recreational lounge. I’m sure a lot of patients would use it.”
Correa said the request for lounges was reasonable. But part of the agreement on the passage of a cannabis regulatory ordinance entailed eliminating them.
“In order for the piece of legislation to pass, they were very comfortable with just retail,” he said. “In the near future, we will revisit… entering and adding amendments to allow consumption lounges.”
“This is quite a piece of legislation,” Robyn Klein said.
She believed that the Cannabis Regulatory Commission had yet to release its regulations when in fact, the interim cannabis regulations many had been waiting for were released on August 19th.
Thus, she wanted to delay implementation.
Town attorney Timothy Downs noted Dover is seeking guidance from the Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) regarding the content of cannabis license applications.
“We want to make sure our applications are consistent with what it is the state, uh, puts into place. So, once we receive some guidance from the state, we’ll be able to put together those applications and move forward,” he said.
Klein thought there could be a theoretical conflict with the state in the final regulations.
Since Spring, Velasquez and Almada have been aggressively building public support and pushing the Board of Aldermen to pass a cannabis regulatory ordinance.
Dover’s Cannabis Regulatory Ordinance
The town of Dover set up a thorough application process. The application will require an applicant to demonstrate they have experience in a regulated industry. Like the CRC’s regulations, it favors companies that allow workers to form a labor union. Extra points are also given for those with strong ties to the community, along with being minority-owned. It’s also noteworthy that cannabis licenses cannot be transferred.
Micro-businesses will only have to pay half the fee that ranges from $2,000 for a delivery license to $10,000 for a dispensary license.
“We do appreciate a lower cost for the microbusiness. We would, however, like that fee to maybe match the state’s annual license fee of $1,000 annually for micros,” Velasquez said.
“We do look forward to starting the process. Hopefully, we can have a craft cannabis industry here made up of the residents of Dover,” he added.
The Dover Police Chief is included in the process of reviewing cannabis licenses for compliance. It gives the Chief the power to deny all applications in theory. If one is approved, the Municipal Clerk must convene a committee including the Police Chief, the Clerk, Town Business Administrator, the Zoning Officer, the Mayor, and the Board of Aldermen’s Economic Development and Redevelopment Committee to review the application. After the committee reviews the application, the Mayor and Aldermen decide whether it will be approved.
Sixty-six percent of Dover voted in favor of the cannabis legalization referendum last year.
Dover was among the towns that banned cannabis companies within their borders ahead of the August 21st deadline. Like others, they were planning to craft an ordinance at their own pace. While well-intended given the many delays in the progress of New Jersey cannabis, the deadline was not something towns were going to make. Many wanted to take the time to explore different options and seek guidance from the CRC.
The final passage of cannabis regulatory ordinances is expected in Princeton, Tinton Falls, Maplewood, South Orange, and Camden, among others, in the coming weeks.