Reacting to an outcry from residents and prospective dealers over how the rules are being applied, Jersey City is looking to tweak its laws governing the establishment and operation of local cannabis enterprises and its land development code as it relates to those businesses.

The City Council on Wednesday will be asked to adopt the revisions after a public hearing on an ordinance amending regulation of cannabis establishments and distributors. The council meeting begins at 6 p.m. in the City Hall chambers.

At the same time, the council will be asked to consider acting on letters of support for seven prospective cannabis retailers in all wards except Bergen-Lafayette. Three are pitching locations in Ward D.

The applicants are: Kushmart Jersey City LLC, 1521 Kennedy Blvd., in Ward A; Lady L. Cannabis LLC, 547 West Side Ave., in Ward B; Neon Heights LLC, 535 Newark Ave., in Ward C; Kush Klub NJ LLC, 550-570 Tonnelle Ave., Chilltown Dispensary LLC, 324½ Central Ave., and Lifted Vision, 481 Central Ave., all in Ward D; and Bud Space LLC, 270 Newark Ave., in Ward E.

If the council goes along with the proposed changes to Chapter 84 (Alcoholic Beverages and Cannabis) of the city code, a “cannabis retailer” would be permitted to “use a cannabis delivery service or a certified cannabis handler for the off-premises delivery of cannabis items and related supplies to consumers.”

The retailer would also be allowed to “accept consumer purchases to be fulfilled from its retail store that are presented by a cannabis delivery service which will be delivered by the cannabis delivery service to that consumer. This person or entity shall hold a Class 5 cannabis retailer license.”

Under the revised law, the city would limit the number of licenses permitted for Class 1 cannabis cultivator, Class 2 cannabis manufacturer, Class 3 cannabis wholesaler and Class 4 cannabis distributor at no more than three each and it would set a city-wide cap of 48 licenses for Class 5 cannabis retailers, “with no more than eight issued in each ward of the city.” 

No limit would be imposed on the number of Class 6 cannabis delivery licenses.

Applicants who received an annual license from the state Cannabis Regulatory Commission and/or a resolution of local support from the City Council “prior to the licensing cap taking effect” would not be subject to these limits.

There is also this exception allowed: “Should a Class 5 licensee’s location be redistricted into a different ward than when (the license) was issued, the license shall not count against the new ward’s eight license per ward limit.”

A proposed cannabis “consumption area” – indoors or outdoors – can be operated – subject to CCB and City Council approval – by a licensed cannabis retailer or permit holder for dispensing medical cannabis in locations “wherever cannabis retailers are permitted principal uses.” No more than 12 consumption areas city-wide – and no more than two in a single ward – would be allowed.

Class 1, 2, 3 and 5 cannabis shops would be “permitted principal uses” in all industrial or light industrial zones, industrial overlay zones, commercial/automotive zones and commercial zones, along with in redevelopment zones where such uses were deemed pre-existing uses.

Class 5 retailers would be allowed as principal uses in neighborhood/commercial zones, residential commercial districts (RC-2), commercial/automotive (C/A), highway commercial (HC), waterfront planned developments (WPD), port industrial or industrial or as part of a subdistrict of a redevelopment area where retail sales of goods and services are permitted principal uses.

To help prevent a backlog of applications, the CCB “may, at its discretion, create a schedule designating enrollment periods for submission, acceptance and review of applications for Class 1 through 5 licenses ….”

In its review of applications, the CCB must provide a “written opinion” on whether approval of a license “would exceed any licensing limits,” whether “preference” should be given the applicant and whether the applicant has met all licensing requirements.

These requirements call for the city to assess an applicant’s community impact, outreach input, whether the applicant’s proposed location serves an area of need in the city, hiring practices, residency, commitment to diversity and inclusion, safety and security plans.

And “the distance between the main entry door of the applicant’s proposed location and any public or nonpublic elementary or secondary school building and/or parcel … shall be no less than 200 feet.”  

The CCB may recommend prioritizing an applicant for a new or renewed license for applicants “where more than 50% of the ownership interest is held by one or more persons” qualifying as a microbusiness including “social equity,” minority- or women-owned, service disabled veterans or “individuals convicted of a cannabis-related offense” prior to the legalization of cannabis or anyone “who had a parent, guardian, child, spouse or dependent” of someone convicted of a cannabis-related offense before legalization. 

CCB review “shall be in addition to any other applicable local regulations,” including reviews by the city Planning and Zoning Boards, where applicable. 

In any case, “no cannabis establishment or distributor shall commence public operations in the city prior to receiving a determination of local support that is adopted by the City Council and no facility may operate without payment of all necessary application fees or license fees … and issuance of all necessary state and local permits and licenses.”

Ron Leir has been a journalist since 1972. That includes a 37-year stint as a reporter, copy reader and assistant editor with The Jersey Journal, followed by a decade as a reporter with The Observer in...