SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — The South Orange Board of Trustees plans to introduce an ordinance that will allow for the legal sale of cannabis by the end of the year, according to a community discussion held on the topic on Oct. 21. After the passage last year of the state law that legalized recreational marijuana, the governing body opted out of allowing cannabis retailers in the village to give itself time to decide where in the village dispensaries will be allowed to open and what they will look like; Trustee Bob Zuckerman said the village Cannabis Task Force will meet one more time before an ordinance is introduced.
“Compliance with these standards will be required,” Marc Lincer, a planning consultant for South Orange, said at the meeting about the requirements that dispensaries will have to follow to open in town. “They must meet these conditions and comply with these standards. If they don’t meet the standards they will no longer be considered permitted within that district.”
Dispensaries will be allowed only on the ground floor of buildings they occupy, must have extensive security requirements, comply with the village’s signage and design standards, have an odor mitigation system, comply with bulk standards of the zoning district, and hide equipment behind landscaping and screening. Dispensaries will be allowed to operate between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m.
Consumption areas will also be included in the ordinance; Lincer said the rules are modeled after South Orange’s alcohol consumption rules. Consumption areas will be open from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. and may be on the first or second floor of a building. There must also be odor and noise mitigation.
“Two unique things for industrial uses are that we will require them to provide a circulation plan, so that we don’t have trucks doing five-point turns on Valley Street,” Lincer said. “They must provide turning templates that show one-movement turns on the property. We also propose to include a water and energy consumption plan, so that the village can properly assess how much of a burden there will be on existing village infrastructure for these utilities, so we can plan accordingly.”
According to Lincer, most dispensaries in New Jersey and outside of the state are similar to one another in that they tend to match their surroundings and blend in with the businesses around them. Many of them have signs or blinds blocking the windows, which will not be a requirement in South Orange’s ordinance.
“We as a task force thought that was not ideal,” Lincer said. “We don’t think there’s anything for these places to hide, and having these open street fronts makes these businesses safer and activates the street. So we think there are a lot of benefits to keeping the windows open.”
Each cannabis business that opens in South Orange will negotiate a community benefit agreement with the village, which commits the business to working on social equity. The business can run incubator programs for teaching disadvantaged people how to run their own businesses, mentoring, training others in the industry or helping other owners apply for a license. Annual reports on progress must be submitted to the village.
Village attorney Clyde Otis said that municipal fees for administering a license have not been set yet, but they will be set by the time the ordinance is introduced. Zuckerman said he doesn’t believe the fees will be high.
“I can’t imagine that our fees, certainly for microbusinesses, would be anything exorbitant, because wouldn’t that defeat the purpose of allowing a very small business with fewer than 10 employees to set up in town?” Zuckerman said. “That would be a nonstarter for most microbusinesses.”