Since New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation legalizing recreational cannabis into law earlier this year, municipalities across the state have been voting on whether they will participate in the production and sales of the substance. By August 21st, every town in New Jersey will have to decide whether to ban the sale of marijuana or allow it. If allowed, ordinances must be set forth regulating licenses as well as when and where it can be sold by the deadline.
In the July 13th Montclair town council meeting, council members voted in favor of introducing three ordinances: the first of which establishes guidelines for licensing; the second amends zoning regulations to allow for sales and the third establishes the sales and use taxes. This step forward represents the voice of Montclair residents, who voted five-to-one in favor of the legalization back in the 2020 election. While some of our Essex county neighbors, like Nutley and Livingston, have chosen to opt-out, Montclair and Bloomfield are seeking to take advantage of the economic opportunities created by the new market.
On August 10th, the council voted four-to-two with one abstention to approve the aforementioned ordinances just over ten days ahead of the state’s deadline. The municipalities that chose to allow marijuana sales now await the regulations from the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission, which is the governing body responsible for setting regulations at the state level. The municipalities that chose not to participate, will have the opportunity to reconsider in five years.
Montclair has decided to allow two licenses for retailers, and one license each for a cultivator, a wholesaler, a distributor, and a delivery service. The license applications for retailers and the delivery service would cost $5,000 each and $10,000 each for the wholesalers, cultivators, and distributors. If granted, the license would be valid for three years.
All license applications will be reviewed by the town council where considerations will include diversity among the organizations’ ownership and leadership, as well as existing physical ties or businesses relationships to the town of Montclair. In addition, each organization seeking a license in Montclair will have to be licensed with the state first.
The current zoning regulations prohibit controlled substances within 1,000 feet of schools and other designated drug-free zones. In the proposed ordinance, businesses related to cannabis would not be allowed within 250 feet of schools or childcare centers. As proposed, the majority of the cannabis businesses will be located in the C1 central business zone (a small section between Bloomfield Avenue and Lackawanna Plaza), the C2 industrial zone (in the fourth ward), and part of the neighborhood commercial zone that runs along Valley Road between Walnut and James Streets. This passed despite the Planning Board’s initial objections but continues to be a hot topic for nearby residents, especially among communities of color.
The increase in tax revenue could benefit the community in a variety of ways, even though Montclair has yet to define how the money will be spent. On top of the state’s 6.625% sales tax, the ordinance proposes a 2% tax on cultivators, manufacturers, and retailers, and a 1% tax on wholesalers. Based on the current price range of $50-$60 per eighth of an ounce, the earnings could be significant. Many residents asked questions about where the benefits will be realized but these, have largely gone unanswered as of yet.
To watch the recording of the recent town council meetings or if you are interested in tuning into future meetings live, visit the Montclair Government YouTube channel. The agendas for upcoming meetings and previous meeting minutes can be found on the Montclair Township website.