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Galloway authorizes new Marijuana Standards

GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP - The Township Council authorized a report on Sept. 13 that lays out new, local standards on the growing marijuana industry.

The standards, which concern marijuana cultivation, come after residents raised concerns about potential odor from a proposed cultivation facility.

Township Redevelopment Attorney M. James Maley Jr. said that Galloway was a pioneer in developing the new standards. He noted how new the industry was and said officials were trying to ensure it benefited the entire township.

“We set it up in terms of a redevelopment process as a way to allow the township to have more involvement in the specifics of these businesses, because they’re new, we’re not used to them,” Maley said. “Through a redevelopment agreement, it will give us a basis to make sure that the businesses run in a way that works for all of the community.”

 
The resolution said that the “Galloway Township Cannabis Operation Standards for Indoor Cultivation,” as the report is called, was written after months of research, delving into scholarship on marijuana cultivation, national association publications and comparable marijuana regulatory regimes.

The report principally deals with heating, ventilation and air conditioning, particularly as it concerns air quality and odor.

The Blue Heron Pines Homeowners’ Association spearheaded the effort to have this process implemented, with its representatives raising concerns about the impact marijuana businesses could have on the community.

Township officials said the group has sent them hundreds of pages specifying what they want implemented.

In response, the township formed a cannabis committee, which devised recommendations for months, making their final revisions just days before the Sept. 13 council meeting.

“It wasn’t something that we threw together, it wasn’t something we did half-heartedly, it was something where we listened to the community and we received a lot of information,” Township Councilman Rich Clute, one of the three councilman on the committee, said at the Sept. 13 council meeting.

Bob Mueller, the Blue Heron Pines Homeowners’ Association president, said he believed the new standards would benefit both his neighborhood and Galloway as a whole.

Maley said officials solicited input from both the community and the marijuana industry. While the community would have some of its concerns addressed, business owners would get clear guidelines, so there is less uncertainty when they move forward with their investments, Maley said.

Maley cautioned the Township Council that the marijuana standards are extraordinary. There is no other industry in the township, Maley said, that the township regulates in a similar fashion, meaning marijuana developers could complain they are being unfairly targeted.

“There’s this balance that we have to do,” Maley said.

Mayor Anthony Coppola said he understood those concerns. He said that some residents had contacted him worried that the standards might be too stringent, leaving the township vulnerable to a legal challenge.

Despite those concerns, he said he was confident he could leverage redevelopment agreements with property owners to enforce its new standards.

“We took the position that we want to be cautious moving forward, we want to put standards in place,” Coppola said. “We want to put developers on notice that we’re going to have strict requirements to obtain a redevelopment agreement in this town and to put a shovel in the ground, you’re going to have to meet some very strict standards.”

Maley said people involved in marijuana businesses told him the proposal was feasible and reflected current best practices.

Township officials described the new standards as a living document. As new technology is developed in the marijuana industry and new best practices emerge, the township can update its standards.

Blue Heron Pines residents began to grow concerned over the possibility of a marijuana-cultivation business coming to town last year. Chief among their concerns were that offensive odors from a facility could dampen their quality-of-life and depress property values.

Mueller said he wanted to ensure that township authorities can punish a business that runs afoul of the township, and that the rules had “teeth.” Maley, responding to those concerns, said the new standards were the first part of a regulatory process for marijuana in Galloway.

To be able to punish non-compliant businesses, the township would likely have to agree to terms in individual agreements with business owners, along with additional changes to other processes to make explicit the township’s enforcement powers.

“The standards that we adopt are like a step,” Maley said. “We’ll have those other teeth in place with that agreement when that gets adopted.”

New Jersey citizens voted to legalize recreational marijuana in a 2020 referendum by a 2-to-1 margin. The state Legislature, however, allowed for municipalities to create local standards, including the ability to ban certain kinds of marijuana businesses within their municipal limits.

The township chose to legalize the operations of marijuana cultivation, manufacturing and distribution in the township last year while under the administration of then Mayor Jim Gorman. It prohibited the retail sale of marijuana locally.

Township officials stressed on Sept. 13 that meeting the new standards would be necessary, but not sufficient conditions for operating a marijuana business in the township.

Blue Heron Pines members said they wanted to make sure the community is included in conversations about bringing additional marijuana businesses here.

They also asked that the township make sure to respond to changes to state law that could give municipalities more authority to regulate the marijuana business.

Amidst the efforts to manage the marijuana industry, it continues to grow apace. The Township Council adopted a resolution endorsing GRC NJ LLC to receive a license from the state Cannabis Regulatory Commission for marijuana-cultivation business.

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