Princeton has joined the growing number of New Jersey towns that are opting out of permitting the sale, cultivation, manufacturing and distribution of cannabis – at least for now.
The Princeton Council introduced an ordinance banning the six classes of cannabis businesses at its July 12 meeting. The goal is to buy more time to study the issue and to determine where those uses – particularly the retail sale of cannabis – should be allowed.
A public hearing on the ordinance has been set for the council’s July 26 meeting.
The Princeton Council formed a cannabis task force to examine the impact of legalization of cannabis for adults, but the volunteer task force has not finalized its report.
Princeton, like many New Jersey towns, must decide how to respond to state law that legalized cannabis for adult use by the state-imposed deadline of Aug. 21. Towns that fail to act must allow any of the six categories of cannabis businesses to open their doors in the community.
Those towns will have to wait for five years before taking another crack at deciding which businesses to allow. Businesses that had already opened their doors during the preceding five-year period would be exempt.
The six classes include the cultivation of cannabis; manufacturing, preparing and packaging cannabis items; and the wholesaling of those items for resale.
Also, transporting cannabis plants in bulk from cultivator to cultivator, or cannabis items in bulk from one cannabis business to another; the retail sale of cannabis; and delivering cannabis items to customers.
The ordinance introduced by the Princeton Council states that the town is “committed to social and restorative justice in terms of cannabis policing and enforcement.”
“Because the burden of the criminalization of cannabis has fallen heavily on communities of color and the poor, social and racial justice considerations must be highly valued in all decision-making,” the ordinance states.
Those “critical considerations” must be evaluated before a decision is made, it states.
Princeton Councilwoman Eve Niedergang said the ordinance is a “temporary” opt-out while the cannabis task force continues its work. It is possible that an opt-in ordinance that focuses on the retail sale of cannabis may be introduced in the near future, she said.
Princeton Councilwoman Michelle Pirone Lambros said the task force’s recommendation will focus on the retail sale of cannabis, but it needs more time to undertake “due diligence” before making a recommendation.
The cannabis task force will do some research to find out what other towns have done, and what their experience has been in launching and supporting the retail sale of cannabis, Lambros said.
“Since the retail (sale) question is the most complex and arguably the most visible in the community, the task force felt it was necessary to proceed first with the question of retail sales,” she said.
This would entail identifying the commercial zones in which the retail sale of cannabis would be permitted, as well as the maximum number of retail stores or dispensaries, the hours of operation, and infrastructure issues such as parking and access to mass transit, she said.
Princeton Council President Leticia Fraga said the cannabis task force is not ready to make recommendations.
“The cannabis task force wants to ensure that we are looking at social and restorative justice in terms of cannabis, policing and enforcement as we deliberate and develop recommendations as to what extent cannabis or medical cannabis should be permitted,” Fraga said.