The Princeton Cannabis Task Force met for a second time to review NJ legal weed town options and discussed homegrow.
The Cannabis Task Force has established two subcommittees. The first one is on economic and community impact to focus on making a recommendation to the Mayor and Council whether they will allow a cannabis company, where a cannabis company could be zoned, and where NJ legal weed town revenue would go.
The second subcommittee will focus on education and outreach to the town’s different communities.
Deciding NJ Legal Weed Town Policy
Former NJ Cannabis Industry Association President and cannabis consultant Hugh O’Beirne, explained they need to decide whether they will opt-in or not be an NJ legal weed town.
They are waiting on guidance from the NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC), which only recently had its second meeting, on what needs to be done if they allow cannabis. In addition, there is uncertainty around specific ordinance and zoning regulation language.
He said they need to decide by June to make the August 21st deadline. If they opt-out, they will do so to wait for regulators to present the best regulations, and not because “the prohibition of cannabis is something we want to do,” O’Beirne said.
Princeton attorney Trishka Waterbury Cecil said she’s working on a League of Municipalities committee on cannabis regulatory guidance for towns. She said they could buy time and not feel rushed by the deadline if they opt out for now.
“August 20th is almost on top of us,” Cecil said.
She explained the ordinance process takes between four and six weeks. While recommending a temporary ban, Cecil noted it would look like Princeton was against cannabis.
“The commission won’t meet their deadline, they just won’t,” O’Beirne said, noting the many delays thus far in New Jersey cannabis have set a pattern.
Licensing, zoning, and endorsing a specific cannabis company to operate in town would go into an ordinance the Council could pass if allow a business.
What to Allow
O’Beirne said among the license classes, micro cultivation should be favored. They could be great source of revenue for the town as well.
He noted they can impose a two percent tax on cannabis businesses which could bring in several hundred thousand dollars. He noted a cannabis company would work be good if located in industrial zoning or on the edge of town.
“There’s huge demand in Massachusetts and in Illinois,” O’Beirne said, adding that has led to long lines, which while annoying for a town, could be addressed. He explained they should prepare for a similar demand.
“The good side is that is a lot of foot traffic for other businesses,” he said.
O’Beirne said the community would benefit the most from allowing a microbusiness. He said the limit of 2,500 square feet for a microbusiness isn’t small by the standards of downtown Princeton businesses.
He noted applicants need to provide a letter of affidavit saying they have zoning approval, and a letter of support from the town. Towns can be choosy of which business they allow and add requirements to exclude others.
Town Cannabis Policy Options
O’Beirne said a million sq ft of cannabis canopy is needed in terms of plants growing. There’s at best a couple hundred thousand sq ft of cannabis canopy in New Jersey currently.
Patients have said there is not enough cannabis of sufficient quality consistently for a long time.
Arizona and Illinois had more infrastructure already built when their adult-use cannabis markets opened O’Beirne noted.
“We really have to build this industry up from biomass on,” he said. Both New York and New Jersey have this problem he noted.
Pennsylvania has a great medical infrastructure but has not passed adult-use cannabis reform yet. While the Democratic Governor Tom Wolf is in support of it, the Republican-controlled Senate while not debate cannabis. While Delaware and Connecticut are also about to legalize cannabis, O’Beirne said many will come to New Jersey to buy adult-use cannabis.
Committee Chair Eve Niedergang noted you can’t grow your own cannabis.
“I’ve come around greatly to being a proponent of homegrow,” O’Beirne said. “Homegrow is the R& D engine for new strains for the industry. It’s just crazy that we’re not doing it.”
It’s tough to do,” he said, adding it’s a labor-intensive process.
In the vein that bathtub gin has not come back into popularity with homebrewing, many people are not likely to grow cannabis, he explained.
Cecil said it also makes sense if the intent is to regulate cannabis-like alcohol if homebrewing is allowed.
“I don’t think logic has anything to do with it,” Niedergang said.
Udi Ofer asked what they could do regarding issuing orders for police on legalization.
Cecil said they have no ability to tell the police how to enforce it and there is “prosecutorial discretion.”
Cecil said the task force could make Legislative amendment suggestions, like homegrow.
“The council might want to approach Trenton about getting that changed,” she said.
Niedergang said in the past they did pass an ordinance expressing support for undocumented immigrants in the past, indicating it reflected community values. Something similar could be done regarding cannabis and policing.
“The community’s moral values need to be a part of what we do,” she added.
Cecil said they needed to be careful on the wording but agreed with Niedergang regarding expressing community values.
Niedergang said they are meeting next month and might bring in land-use experts if they plan to allow businesses.
According to the Asbury Park Press, Princeton passed the referendum in November by 75.29 percent.