After further examination of the Trenton ordinance noted yesterday, it was found they will be the sixth New Jersey city to allow cannabis lounges.
The five other cities to allow cannabis lounges are Atlantic City, Jersey City, Highland Park, Hoboken, and Newark.
Like a bar, only items bought on the premises of cannabis lounges can be consumed there. Trenton’s cannabis lounges cannot operate within 200 ft of a residential zone. The city’s ordinance explains that the lounge area must be separate from the retail side. Unlike other cities, the Trenton ordinance notes it could be an attached building on the same property.
“That’s kind of what I already got,” Ed “NJWeedman” Forchion’s said regarding his cafe and underground dispensary across from City Hall. He has greatly expanded the place since the advent of COVID last year when many turned to cannabis to cope with the impact of the virus.
Forchion is happy the ordinance will allow him to apply for a license.
According to the ordinance, there will be no limit on manufacturing, cultivation, or wholesaling licenses. However, only five cannabis dispensaries and two cannabis delivery company headquarters will be allowed. No cannabis distributors will be allowed.
Most applicants will be required to pay a $10,000 application fee, while micro-businesses will be required to only pay a $1,000 fee.
A Cannabis Advisory Committee is going to be created to review license applications. Jersey City and Newark have similar provisions. It will be a large committee with representatives of the mayor, the city council, the Economic Development Director, the Police Director, the City Planning Board Chair, and a community member from each of the city’s wards. Applicants must go through a rigorous evaluation to receive a license.
President of Minorities 4 Medical Marijuana (M4MM) of New Jersey Jasi Edwards approved of the creation of the Cannabis Advisory Committee, arguing it’s necessary to vet the businesses coming into the city and ensure they have a social equity plan and wish to give back to the community.
Edwards was a central figure in the fight to expand Trenton’s ordinance that initially did not include downtown and limited the number of cannabis businesses allowed in the city.
“To limit the number of businesses and prohibit entry to downtown, that caps our economic development,” she said.
She met with four council people to educate them on the nature of cannabis and hemp. In addition, she had been working closely with Mayor Reid Gusciora to get a good ordinance passed. Edwards also testified at virtual council meetings.
“We got a chance to address the public … and educate them as much as we could,” she said.
Edwards noted that Councilman Jerrell Blakely, who was initially hesitant about cannabis, spoke with noted cannabis advocate and businessman Leo Bridgewater at the M4MM event at Trenton City Hall Edwards organized that featured Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ-12) and NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission Chair (CRC) Dianna Houenou. Attending the event persuaded him to support a comprehensive cannabis ordinance. Blakely ultimately introduced the amendments to the ordinance that expanded it to include downtown Edwards said.
“We’re excited that Trenton is open for business,” she added. “We need industry in order to revitalize this city. And what industry could it be other than cannabis and hemp?”
She noted that Trenton thrived in past years when it was a hub for the steel industry that employed thousands and since left. Edwards argued that the cannabis industry could provide hundreds or thousands of jobs.
She noted the Trenton City Council plans to hold four public forums in September in Trenton on cannabis to get public feedback on the ordinance.
“At M4MM, we want to educate the public on how to properly get into the cannabis industry,” she said.
In addition to advocating in Trenton, Edwards has met with the CRC and the Mayor of East Orange to argue the need for a just industry.
She noted M4MM NJ plans to hold town halls, expungement clinics, and licensing boot camps. Edwards noted they plan to hold town halls in Trenton, Camden, and Atlantic City in the coming months.