West Orange Still Juggling Marijuana Business Applications

WEST ORANGE, NJ — In the two years since New Jersey voted to legalize recreational marijuana, the state has seen a rush from companies looking 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 store in West Orange since 2020 — including several retail pharmacies. But who ultimately nails down the last of the city’s coveted four licenses remains to be seen.

After New Jersey finally rolled out the legal framework for legal weed, cities and counties were given until August 2021 to pass legislation banning cannabis businesses within their borders. A month before the deadline, West Orange City Council — like several other Essex County communities — passed a local ordinance permitting and regulating marijuana businesses.

The original regulation can be found here and the revised version here.

West Orange local law allows a total of four active local licenses regardless of their type. A local license for a targeted “micro-enterprise” – as defined by the state – does not count towards this maximum, as stated in the regulation.

Some other important details of West Orange’s local ordinance are:

  • The City Council must pass a resolution granting or denying a company’s application within 60 days. Failure to do so within the time limit will be considered a refusal.
  • All licenses expire after one year and cannot be transferred
  • A licensed cannabis business may only operate between 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m
  • A licensed cannabis business may not sell alcohol or allow it to be consumed on premises
  • “Cannabis consumption areas” within the meaning of state law are prohibited
  • Applicants must provide either a lease or purchase agreement for the property where the business will be located
  • Applicants must not be within 100 feet of a school building owned and operated by the West Orange Board of Education
  • The West Orange Department of Health, zoning officials and police/fire officials are permitted to conduct inspections of licensed cannabis businesses “from time to time” to determine whether they are complying with local laws
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Here are some other things you should know about West Orange cannabis businesses as seen in the regulation:

TAXES – As permitted by state law, West Orange will tax sales of recreational cannabis at 2 percent, except for sales from a cannabis wholesaler, which will be taxed at 1 percent.

ZONING – West Orange’s zoning law allows licensed cannabis businesses, licensed cannabis retailers, and licensed medical cannabis dispensaries conditional use in Districts B-1, B-2, and I. All other licensed cannabis businesses are permitted conditional use in I Districts.

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TASK GROUP – West Orange has a Cannabis Advisory Group/Task Force involved in the review process. The last meeting took place on August 18th. No date has been set for the next public meeting because the task force is still evaluating applications, a spokesman for the Patch community said last week.

LOCAL SUPPORT IN WEST ORANGE

If a canna company wants to open a store in New Jersey, it must obtain approval at both the state and local levels.

In order to obtain a license from the state, businesses need, among other requirements, a letter from a local zoning officer confirming that the proposed site meets the necessary zoning requirements. They also need proof of ‘local support’ at the proposed site, which usually takes the form of a City Council decision.

In West Orange, cannabis business owners must also obtain a local license from the municipality. Here’s how to get this important documentation, a community spokesman said:

“West Orange has established an application process for both: (a) dissolution of local support; and (b) a final local license permitted under state law. Essentially, the municipality created a process whereby applicants must submit an application both before and during the state application process to receive the local support decision as a required part of the state application process, and then a second process that is administered by the state goes out application process after a state license for the local license is awarded by the municipality.”

Here’s how it plays out, he added:

“That [cannabis task force] reviews applications and makes decisions to forward their recommendations to West Orange Township Council. The West Orange Township Council then votes on the local support decision. The application must be approved by planning and zoning before it is sent back to City Council for final approval of a West Orange license. This process includes applications for both cultivation and/or manufacture of cannabis and retail sale.”

According to a community spokesman, as of September 26, there have been 12 motions for community support resolutions for retail cannabis businesses. Of these, three have been approved and two are pending.

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In addition, there were two motions for resolutions to support local cannabis cultivation and/or cannabis production. One has been approved, the second is pending.

Councilwoman Cindy Matute-Brown, a member of the city’s cannabis task force, discussed the application process at the September 20 city council meeting. Watch the video below.

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