WEST ORANGE, NJ — In the two years since New Jersey voted to legalize recreational marijuana, the state has seen a rush of companies that want to open cannabis-related businesses. And West Orange is no exception.
As of last week, more than a dozen companies have expressed interest in opening a cannabis business in West Orange since 2020 – including several retail dispensaries. But which ones ultimately nail down the last of the town’s coveted four licenses remains to be seen.
After New Jersey finally rolled out the legal framework for legal weed, towns and cities were given until August 2021 to pass a law prohibiting cannabis businesses within their borders. Acting a month before the deadline – like several other municipalities in Essex County – the West Orange Town Council approved a local ordinance that permits and regulates marijuana businesses.
West Orange’s local law allows for a combined total of four active local licenses, regardless of their type. A local license for a targeted “microbusiness” – as defined by the state – doesn’t count towards this maximum number, as written in the ordinance.
Some other key details of West Orange’s local ordinance include:
- The town council must adopt a resolution either granting or denying a company’s application within 60 days. A failure to do this before the deadline is considered a denial.
- All licenses expire after one year, and can’t be transferred
- A licensed cannabis business can only operate between the hours of 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
- A licensed cannabis business can’t sell alcohol or allow it to be consumed on the premises
- “Cannabis consumption areas” as defined by state law are prohibited
- Applicants must provide either a lease agreement or agreement of sale for the property where the business will be located
- Applicants can’t be located within 100 feet from any school building owned and operated by the West Orange Board of Education
- West Orange health department, zoning officials and police/fire department officials are allowed to conduct inspections of any licensed cannabis business “from time to time” to see if they are complying with local laws
Here are some other things to know about cannabusinesses in West Orange, as seen in the ordinance:
TAXES – As permitted under state law, West Orange will tax recreational cannabis sales at 2 percent, except for sales from a cannabis wholesaler, which are taxed at 1 percent.
ZONING – West Orange zoning law permits Licensed Cannabis Entities, Licensed Cannabis Retailers and Licensed Medical Cannabis Dispensaries as a conditional use in the B-1, B-2 and I districts. All other Licensed Cannabis Entities shall be permitted as a conditional use in the I districts.
TASK FORCE – West Orange has a Cannabis Advisory Group/Task Force that is involved in the review process. Its most recent meeting took place on Aug. 18. No date has been set for the next public meeting because the task force is still evaluating applications, a township spokesperson told Patch last week.
LOCAL SUPPORT IN WEST ORANGE
When a cannabusiness wants to open up shop in New Jersey, it needs to get permission on both the state and local levels.
In order to get a license from the state – among other requirements – businesses need a letter from a local zoning official confirming that their proposed location meets the necessary zoning requirements. They also need evidence of “local support” at the proposed location, which generally takes the form of a resolution from town officials.
In West Orange, cannabis business owners also need to get a local license from the township. Here’s how to get that crucial documentation, a municipal spokesperson said:
“West Orange has created an application process for both: (a) the resolution of local support; and (b) a final local license allowed under the state statute. In essence, the township has created a process where applicants must apply both before/during the state application process in order to receive the resolution of local support as a required part of the state application process, and then a second process coming out of the state application process after a state license has been awarded for the local license from the township.”
Here’s how that plays out, he added:
“The [cannabis task force] reviews the applications and makes the decisions to pass on their recommendations to the West Orange Township Council. The resolution of local support is then voted upon by the West Orange Township Council. The application needs to be approved by planning and zoning before coming back to the township council for final approval of a West Orange license. This process includes applications for both cannabis cultivation and/or manufacturing and cannabis for retail sales.”
According to a municipal spokesperson, there have been 12 applications for resolutions of local support for cannabis retail businesses as of Sept. 26. Of those, three have been approved and two are still pending.
In addition, there have been two applications for resolutions of local support for cannabis cultivation and/or manufacturing. One has been approved and the second is still pending.
Councilwoman Cindy Matute-Brown, a member of the town’s cannabis task force, discussed the application process at the town council meeting on Sept. 20. Watch the video below.