Cannabusiness in Princeton? Not So Fast
After unanimously approving the introduction of an ordinance temporarily banning all marijuana-related business in the municipality, Princeton Council is set to vote the ordinance into law at its August 9 meeting.
A public hearing on the ordinance will take place at that meeting; the Planning Board was also scheduled to discuss the ordinance at its July 29 meeting.
The ordinance buys Princeton additional time to consider the logistics and implications of allowing marijuana-related business in town.
After New Jersey voters approved the legalization of marijuana in the state last November, municipalities were given a deadline of August 21 to either ban or otherwise place limits on the types of marijuana businesses allowed to operate within their borders.
The licenses that businesses can seek in connection with the recreational cannabis market are:
Class 1 — Cannabis cultivator (growing cannabis);
Class 2 — Cannabis manufacturer (preparing and packaging);
Class 3 — Cannabis wholesaler (selling to other wholesalers and retailers);
Class 4 — Cannabis distributor (selling between cultivators/establishments);
Class 5 — Cannabis retailer (selling to retail customers); and
Class 6 — Cannabis delivery from retailers to retail customers)
If a municipality does not specifically prohibit each class of license by the August 21 deadline, they will automatically be allowed in the municipality for five years. The state law does allow towns that are currently banning the drug to allow cannabis sales at a later date.
Also under the law, towns can’t stop the use of cannabis or cannabis products within the municipalities or the delivery of recreational marijuana from outside of town.
Princeton, which started a cannabis task force led by Councilwoman Eve Niedergang earlier this year, plans to enact the temporary ban in order to allow the task force more time to determine how the town can move forward with allowing the sale of marijuana in a safe and fair way.
The task force’s mission statement explains that it “serves in an advisory capacity to provide input to Mayor and Council on the major areas of concern regarding legal cannabis. Issues to be considered include cannabis operations in the municipality, education and enforcement; the CTF’s discussions and recommendations will keep social and racial justice in the forefront.”
The proposed ordinance states as its purpose “to ensure that Princeton retains full control over what types of cannabis uses to allow, where, and under what conditions, to give the Cannabis Task Force the time it needs to fully consider and finalize its ‘opt-in’ recommendations, and to preserve Princeton’s ability to engage in a full community process prior to making any final decisions.”
Niederganag said the group was unable to fully research the issue and recommended the town ban cannabis for now to allow for further exploration. She said that the task force hopes to craft a limited opt-in ordinance in the near future that would allow some retail sales in town.
Princeton joins most other Mercer County towns in banning marijuana-related businesses. Only Ewing, Lawrence, Pennington, and Trenton plan to allow retail marijuana sales within their borders.
Last November voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana, with 2,737,682 (67.08 percent) voting in favor and 1,343,610 (32.92 percent) voting against. In Mercer County, the vote was 119,390 (71 percent) to 48,171 (29 percent) in favor of legalization.
After the referendum, Gov. Phil Murphy signed a package of laws that established rules and regulations for the state’s legal cannabis business. The package includes three separate bills. One established a new legalization system and the other two overhauled the state’s massive drug control regulations.
The governor also appointed the Cannabis Regulatory Commission, which has been meeting since April to establish specific guidelines regulating new dispensaries and grow facilities.
The CRC must establish rules and regulations governing the personal-use cannabis industry by August 21.
Once the initial rules are established, they will be effective for up to one year. At that point, the CRC must readopt, amend, or adopt more permanent regulations for the industry.
Princeton to Host COVID Vaccine Clinics
The Princeton Health Department is offering two COVID-19 vaccine clinics in August, hoping to ensure that all eligible residents are able to receive the free vaccination.
The first vaccine clinic takes place Thursday, August 5, at Princeton United Methodist Church at the corner of Nassau Street and Vandeventer Avenue from 5 to 8 p.m. A second clinic takes place Friday, August 27, from 5 to 9 p.m. on Hinds Plaza outside the Princeton Public Library.
The municipality has also launched a mobile vaccination program in which Health Department staff visit a business, community organization, or place of worship at a scheduled time. For more information on the program contact health officer Jeff Grosser at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All residents age 12 and over are eligible to be vaccinated, for free and without regard to citizenship or health insurance status. As of July 19 the municipality reported that 76 percent of all eligible residents had been fully vaccinated. Among residents 18 and older, 75 percent had been vaccinated. Among residents age 65 and over — considered to be among the most vulnerable to severe cases of COVID-19 — 93 percent have been vaccinated.
What’s Next for the Kiosk?
While the town of Princeton and the state Department of Transportation are in agreement that safety improvements are needed at the intersection of Witherspoon and Nassau Streets — including a new traffic light with a designated pedestrian phase — related changes to the intersection are meeting with more resistance.
The sticking point? The kiosk, the less-than-attractive community bulletin board that has long stood at the corner. In a presentation at the July 26 Princeton Council meeting, DOT representatives explained why the removal of the kiosk may be required to accommodate a sizable black box that would contain the electronic infrastructure for the new traffic signal.
The proposed box would be a slightly larger version of the one that has been installed at the intersection of Vandeventer Avenue and Nassau Street, but, as Councilman David Cohen pointed out, the Witherspoon Street intersection experiences much heavier pedestrian traffic.
And while council members expressed no great affection for the existing kiosk, the consensus was that it is a better look for the street than a black metal box. While concealing the equipment within the kiosk was ruled out by DOT representatives, Council has ask they return at a later date with additional proposals for the intersection.