South Orange became the 8th New Jersey town to allow cannabis consumption lounges after undergoing a thorough policy process and passing their ordinance 5-1 last night.
The other cities that will allow cannabis consumption lounges are Atlantic City, Jersey City, Hoboken, Newark, Highland Park, Trenton, and Elizabeth.
Like Princeton, South Orange set up its own Task Force to thoroughly study the issue of cannabis and write a report with a recommendation. Village Trustee (or Councilman) Bob Zuckerman (D) spearheaded the process as chair of their Cannabis Task Force. The Task Force consisted of several members, including community activists and the police, among others. The process has been ongoing for several months.
“I’m just really looking forward to seeing this actually happen here,” Zuckerman said. “If we pass this tonight, then we’re off to the races.”
South Orange’s Cannabis Consumption Lounge Law
At the meeting, Zuckerman noted had presented the plan at the last meeting.
The South Orange cannabis ordinance allows two retail locations to sell cannabis, but Zuckerman has said the two locations would not include smaller cannabis micro-businesses.
Consumption areas are being treated as a separate license class with $7,000 to apply and renewal but only $3,500 to apply if a business is seeking a micro license. The same fees seem to apply separately for retailers. To operate a cannabis consumption area, one would have to apply for both since a lounge was classified by the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) as a subset of the retail license.
Zuckerman noted an applicant for a medical cannabis license had sought to be based in South Orange but did not win a license from the State.
“I just don’t think it’s something you need,” said Trustee Karen Hilton, the lone opposition vote.
South Orange also imposed a two percent local tax on adult-use sales and enacted extra penalties for public consumption.
Along with the Task Force thoroughly studying the issue and holding a town hall, opposition delayed the process as well and led to the removal of cultivation and manufacturing licensing from the proposed bill.
“We listened to our residents who had serious concerns about the manufacturing end of this and removed it,” Zuckerman said.
He noted the prospect of locals accidentally smelling cannabis was an issue with cultivation, along with a lack of space.
Pro-Cannabis Lounge Towns in NJ
Like Highland Park, South Orange is a small town with a negligible industrial district conducive to manufacturing. They are, however, allowing wholesale, distribution, and delivery licenses in town, which might be based in such a district.
Zuckerman noted South Orange Deputy Business Administrator Julie Doran is in the process of reviewing the applications process along with others.
South Orange is a college town with Seton Hall University as the most prominent landmark in the Essex County town.
Like Princeton and Dover, South Orange had banned adult-use cannabis licenses prior to the August 22nd deadline.
That deadline was not enforced since Long Branch only passed an ordinance after the deadline when the referendum enabling law CREMMA said it would not be able to if they had not passed a ban, which they did not.