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Waretown To Update Cannabis Ordinance

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The Township of Ocean’s governing body is further weeding through the details in making changes to its cannabis business ordinance.

The first reading of the proposed amendments and supplements to the ordinance passed unanimously at this month’s committee meeting. Residents will have the opportunity to discuss the changes at the second reading of the ordinance at the August 2 Township Committee meeting.

“The Township of Ocean is now putting in place the criteria for cannabis in the Township of Ocean,” said Mayor Ben LoParo, adding that the governing body will review it before the vote in a public meeting. “The applicant will need to provide the ownership of the business, business plan, and community benefits.” The proposed ordinance requires applicants to pay a $2,500 non-refundable application fee. Additionally, the Township of Ocean plans to collect a $10,000 annual fee for businesses that operate cultivation, manufacturing or medical cannabis facilities in the municipality.

Four types of licenses will be available withing the municipality if the ordinance is approved. A Class 1 License is for Cannabis Cultivation; Class 2, Cannabis Manufacturing, Class 3, Cannabis Wholesale; and Class 4, Cannabis Distribution. A separate license covers medical dispensaries. LoParo pointed out that the ordinance excludes the retail sale of recreational marijuana even though 57 percent of the municipality’s voters were in favor of the legalization of adult recreational cannabis use.

“I don’t think that’s right,” said LoParo. “I think we should include it because our voters said yes. We’re doing our people a disservice by not giving them what they voted for…We’re also giving up two percent of the recreational income, which could wind up to be hundreds of thousands of dollars in our tax account.”

LoParo pressed for feedback from the two other members of the township committee. Deputy Mayor Ken Baulderstone said he first wanted to see how the medical dispensary “worked out” before considering recreational retail sales. “The steps that we have taken are already more than eighty percent of the municipalities in the state,” Baulderstone stated.

When LoParo pointed out that the Township of Ocean is smaller than many other municipalities and could use the tax revenue, Committeewoman Lydia Dodd shook her head. “I’m not ready to do that (offer recreational retail sales,)” said Dodd.

Some of the medical marijuana dispensaries within New Jersey have been granted recreational cannabis licenses. However, the cannabis businesses must make a commitment to ensure patients have first access to the products. A medical marijuana dispensary is currently under construction in front of the shopping center where ShopRite is located on Route 9. BLOC (Justice Cannabis Company) has stated they should be open in October, as long as their building supplies continue to come on time.

“The company has shared with us the reasons for the delays in opening,” said Diane Ambrosio, Township Administrator. “COVID and shipping delays have both contributed to their issues.” Justice Cannabis Company currently operates a cultivation and manufacturing business in Ewing, NJ.

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