The Edison Township Council passed an expansive cannabis ordinance allowing all six types of cannabis establishments in Raritan Center and Heller Industrial Park.
According to the ordinance, “The area southeast of Woodbridge Avenue between Amboy Avenue and Mill Road” will be the only area cannabis establishments can be based.
It allows all six types of cannabis establishments. But they are determined to keep it away from any place that might be offended by a cannabis establishment, including a deli, since the ordinance says, “No licensed retail cannabis business shall be located in or upon any premises in which a grocery store, delicatessen, indoor food market.”
Nonetheless, they will allow up to 10 cannabis establishments in town. That includes a maximum of three dispensaries, and the remaining seven distributed among the others with at least one apiece.
That’s “provided, however, that if within the first six (6) months that the Township allows applications, no applications for a particular class are submitted, then up to two (2) licenses shall be permitted.”
Cannabis Establishments Debate
Council Vice President Sam Joshi, who’s running for Mayor with the endorsement of Governor Phil Murphy, made the motion to introduce the ordinance.
Council President Bob Diehl explained the second hearing would be a special meeting for hearing on August 19th in time for the August 21st deadline.
“We had to come up with a plan,” said Councilman Richard Brescher, who chaired their sub-committee on cannabis.
He noted they could have competition from other towns if they don’t act which would hurt them, noting neighboring Highland Park’s passage of a progressive cannabis ordinance allowing dispensaries and lounges.
Brescher said they looked at Iman Ave. as a possible site for cannabis companies but noted it’s not far away enough residents. The area they examined on Talmadge Rd. had similar issues.
“If there were more time, we might have looked at other areas in town,” he said.
“You did guys did some homework,” Bob Diamond said on the cannabis establishment law. He praised them for not doing an outright ban, which was almost a possibility.
Diamond liked the idea of a 1000 ft distance from several locations.
“We have a big Route 1 here, and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t get drive-thru tax getting us sales tax money,” Diamond said.
He also noted there are no small shops in Raritan Center.
Brescher said cannabis establishments on Route 1 were discussed, and Councilman Ajay Patil pointed out the many residences live within 1000 ft of Rt. 1.
“It’s not even close to a cigar,” Diamond said, criticizing the ordinance for the lack of zoned areas.
Social Justice and Research
Cannabis advocate and scientist Josh Alb noted he is a local raised in Edison before embarking on a cannabis career in Oakland, CA, and researching cannabis.
Alb praised their introductory ordinance, saying, “I love the fact that we’re able to get something in.”
He explained he wants to create a cannabis research hub at Middlesex County College. Alb noted he hosted the first cannabis educational event in New Jersey in 2019.
“It means a lot to people who I speak for,” Alb said regarding the ordinance.
Regarding the issue of the heroin epidemic, “I lost three people I knew to heroin before the age of 23,” he added.
However, he lamented the lack of social equity provisions in their ordinance.
“Why are there no social equity provisions for this?” he asked.
Noting his experience in the industry and advocacy, “I’d really like to offer assistance,” Alb added.
Councilwoman Ship-Freeman asked him to email his social equity recommendations.
“A lot of our problems has come from pills, and that’s hidden in plain sight,” she said.
Ship-Freeman said a lot more has to be done on addiction. She cited former First Lady Nancy Regan’s outdated and ineffective “Just Say No” campaign.
Advocating for Edison Cannabis
Christo Makropoulos advocated for cannabis legalization and homegrow.
An old woman named Lois opposed the ordinance regulating cannabis establishments. She said they should wait for state regulations and other possible delays
“The voters overwhelmingly wanted it. I grew up in the 70s,” Brescher said. “I don’t believe cannabis leads to heroin use because back in the 70s, that didn’t happen.”
He blamed doctors for prescribing opiates and similarly dangerous drugs for the increase in heroin.
“I want to see them buying at a facility where I see they’re not selling it to teenagers,” Brescher said.
“I think I’m outnumbered,” Lois said when many clapped to Brescher’s response.
Edison is the fifth largest town in New Jersey and passed the legalization referendum last November by 57 percent.