By CAROL GORGA WILLIAMS
Under an ordinance established last year and reviewed again at the last Township Council meeting, Ocean Township can only be home to one cannabis facility. State legislation and the Cannabis Regulatory Commission gave locals the right to set limits on cannabis licenses within local boundaries.
On Aug. 12, 2021, township officials gave the go-ahead for one cannabis facility. The township received only one submission from a business called Illicit Extracts LLC for an 11-acres parcel on Brielle Avenue in the industrial park for cultivation and manufacturing.
“They are all basically warehouses,” Mayor Chris Siciliano said. “We’re just approving the successful bidder. Initially, I’m going to say no…I didn’t think the town was ready for it. But now, we have to approve something that is going to make sense. It is our duty and obligation I feel as mayor and council to really take care of what is going in there.”
“This resolution doesn’t say endorse,” said Councilman Robert V. Acerra Sr., the only council member to vote to oppose the resolutions dealing with cannabis.
No cannabis application can proceed without state sanction and Illicit Extracts must wait for the same before beginning work in Ocean. While the state maintains jurisdiction over license approvals, it also requires each local body to submit a resolution authorizing approval of the local site chosen for the business.
“This is just setting the guidelines,” Siciliano said.
The council recognized that Illicit Extracts was seeking a Class 2 manufacturing and a Class I cultivation license for 1700 Brielle Ave. Acerra voted affirmatively with the other council members in amending the establishing cannabis ordinance while opposing the associated resolutions. Officials learned that the penalty schedule they had established for cannabis violations was higher than for other violators. Instead, penalties were brought in line: $1,250 for each violation which can be assessed daily.
However, if the penalty is in excess of $1,250, the township must give the offender a 30-day grace period to cure or abate the violation.
The ordinance “amendment is regarding the number of fines,” explained Township Attorney Martin J. Arbus. “We had to reduce the amount for violations because the violations exceeded what was in our general ordinances…We had fines set forth that exceeded what we could do. The only thing this (ordinance) is doing is maximizing fines.’
Why can’t the town set its own maximum penalties for cannabis businesses?
“The state legislation would circumvent whatever we set forth,” Arbus said.
The township did not take lightly its decisions regarding cannabis businesses.
“We did have a full review from the township attorney,” explained Township Manager David G. Brown II. “They still have to go to the state for the license and come back before (the local) land use board.”
New Jersey voters approved the recreational use of cannabis in November 2020. Cannabis is the name of the flowering plant that produces marijuana.