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John De Los Santos has a plan to open a new recreational cannabis dispensary in Paterson, his hometown; he was given conditional approval last year by state regulators for it. The only thing stopping him is city politics.
Paterson has a limit of three recreational cannabis dispensaries in the city and that quota has been filled. That leaves De Los Santos on the outside looking in, as he struggles to keep investors and a lease in place.
Applications to get into the promising new industry have been piling up since the state legalized marijuana for adults in 2021 and started taking applications later that year. Stores for recreational use have been slow to open, and the number of cannabis sellers in this region can be counted on two hands. Statewide, only 37 recreational cannabis dispensaries are operating, with another 13 selling medical marijuana only.
The Paterson City Council had a heated session before rejecting several proposed changes to local cannabis business rules on Tuesday.
Among the changes proposed was an increase from the currently allowable maximum of three retail cannabis outlets within the City of Paterson to six, reducing the distance between cannabis businesses from schools and places of worship from 300 feet to 200 feet, and the surcharge the city would collect on future cannabis sales.
City officials are looking to expand Paterson’s cannabis industry, partly by eliminating a local law that bans retail marijuana stores from operating within 300 feet of homes.
Under the proposed change, the city also would reduce the distance requirement for marijuana stores regarding churches and schools from 300 feet to 200 feet. Moreover, the city would increase the number of retail cannabis licenses in Paterson from three to six.
What comes next?
In an interview with NJ Spotlight News, Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small explains the decision and the future of cannabis in the city.
“Our plan is still to be the East Coast hub when it comes to cannabis,” Small said. “We don’t want to oversaturate the market here in the city … so we’re just taking a little pause to make sure that we roll this thing out right.”
A flood of planned new cannabis businesses may slow to a trickle, at least for now, while multiple proposals work their way through the state approval process.
The city has plans to become a cannabis capital along the East Coast, hoping the new industry can join the beaches and gaming as a draw for visitors and a source of jobs, revenue and economic development.
But at a recent meeting of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, at which multiple cannabis-related applications were up for approval, some members began to ask when enough would be enough.
The Mount Laurel Township Council unanimously approved two revisions to its cannabis ordinance during its meeting on Tuesday night.
The first revision “requires armed security” in the Township’s cannabis businesses, according to Mount Laurel Township Manager Meredith Riculfy. This change is anticipated to provide additional protection to the business’ employees, contractors and customers.
The second revision caps the maximum number of retail cannabis businesses that can operate in the Township at six, Riculfy told TAPinto Mount Laurel.
The city is still working to streamline its approval process to keep too many cannabis shops from ending up on the same popular drags like Central and Newark Avenues.
“We are trying to make sure we spread the love across the city so that the cannabis establishments are not clustered together,” said City Councilman Yousef Saleh, among other council members, to cap the number of new cannabis licenses at 48.
That is eight for each of the six wards of the city.
Shops already approved, like Leaf Joint, will not need to apply again and will not be counted against the cap.
During Tuesday’s town council meeting, council members and residents discussed a cannabis ordinance amendment which states that cannabis operations need to be 200 feet (increased from 100 feet) from schools, daycare facilities, preschools and places of worship. It will also cap the number of micro businesses that West Orange allows.
Jersey City’s the sky’s the limit policy on marijuana dispensaries is suddenly meeting with resistance in the Heights, where residents are concerned about issues ranging from teen smoking to aesthetics.
As of March 13, the city’s Cannabis Control Board has approved 44 marijuana dispensaries including a disproportionate number — 14 — in Ward D.