At its Monday, September 19, meeting, the Verona Town Council heard a presentation on steps that municipal governments need to take–and can take–when approving cannabis retail facilities in a town. The presentation, by Ronald Mondello, an attorney who has been very involved in Cannabis regulation at the state level and in various municipalities, provided an update and overview of the current status of how recreational cannabis sales are being regulated.
In June 2021, the Town Council passed an ordinance essentially prohibiting the sale of cannabis products in Verona. (Full disclosure: This writer was on the Council at that time and supported the ordinance.) What has changed and why do we need to revisit?
Since Verona approved its ordinance, state law has changed. Now, when someone applies for a conditional license from the state to operate a retail cannabis business, the governing body does need to vote to approve or deny it.
During the public participation segment of the August 8 Council meeting, Verona residents Staci and Rob Puleo stated they were the owners of HZY Goods, which had just obtained a conditional license from the state to operate a retail cannabis business. They were looking at the former Chase Bank location on Pompton Avenue near Claremont Avenue as the location for their business.
The key word here is “conditional”; The Puleos need municipal approval for the state to consider making their license permanent. At the August 8 meeting, the Council directed the town manager to provide it with additional information on the retail sale of recreational cannabis retail, which led to the September 19 presentation.
Mondello reviewed the six classes of cannabis licenses now permitted in New Jersey, from cultivator to retailer and delivery service. He also detailed the steps that a license application follows after it has been submitted to the state Cannabis Control Board. Now, a municipal government must approve a resolution of support for each license application for it to get a permanent state license. The government then needs to issue a local license to the business, following its current licensing process.
Following Mondello’s presentation, Verona Police Chief Kiernan gave comments on his contact with police departments in Montclair and Bloomfield,where recreational sales are already taking place. In short, they both seemed to be satisfied that no additional burdens on the police have taken place.
What’s next? The Council was not ready to make any decisions without having the opportunity to review the material that was presented and to give the general public more time to consider the issue and provide feedback. Four individuals did speak in favor of allowing retail sales during public participation on September 19 but said that the location of the HZY goods store could be a problem. There is likely to be an additional discussion of the matter at the Council’s October 19 meeting.
The Puleos obtained their conditional license from the Cannabis Control Board on July 29, and it is good for 120 days. It is extremely unlikely that any decision on repealing the old ordinance and holding additional hearings on any replacement ordinance would be made prior to the expiration of the conditional license, but they can ask for an extension from the CBC.
You can watch Mondello’s presentation and the Council discussion in the video below: