GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — For the first time since New Jersey allowed recreational cannabis businesses, the township council voted Tuesday to sign a memorandum of agreement with a marijuana grower and manufacturer.
Michigan-based Grasshopper Farms will build its indoor cannabis growing operation on about 40 acres on the property of Duane K. and Pamela Demaree at 219 S. Cologne Ave., Township Manager Chris Johansen said previously.
Grasshopper Farms first came before the council in February to build an outdoor marijuana-growing business, but township laws do not allow outdoor marijuana cultivation or retail sales.
Grasshopper Farms abandoned plans to grow outdoors and switched to indoor growing. After several appearances on township agendas in recent months, including a delay caused by the need to define what the greenhouse is, the seven-member state council unanimously approved the agreement Tuesday.
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When the council voted yes, there were about 30 people in the audience who cheered. The vote was the furthest any cannabis-related business has gone through the township’s approval process to date.
New Jersey legalized marijuana in February 2021 in response to a November 2020 referendum. The town approved the issuance of six different types of cannabis licenses in August 2021 – cultivation, manufacturing, wholesale, distribution, delivery and microbusiness.
Before the council voted, Erin E. Simone, attorney for Maley Givens of Collingwood, Camden County, said the project would have at least two phases. Maley Givens drafted the settlement agreement, Mayor Anthony Coppola Jr.
The existing building and warehouse need to be re-equipped for cannabis cultivation. In the second stage, the construction of two new buildings of 12,000 square meters is planned.
For the past 17 years, the former Blue Heron Pine East Course has not been developed. Nevertheless, Galloway Township still sees economic potential at the site.
Simone also told the council that a local permit would be needed to comply with the township’s indoor grow requirements and that there would be annual opportunities to renew the permit.
Before the vote, Councilman Tom Bassford, a member of the township’s three-person marijuana subcommittee, said he wanted to make sure odor control standards were followed.
“I think that’s the main concern for all of us. The buildings will sit back a little bit and won’t be seen from the street. My constant concern is odor control, so the neighbors, etc., won’t be burdened with this odor three times a year,” Bassford said.
Rich Clute, another member of the hemp subcommittee, said the township has come a long way to get to where it is now.
“I think we’ve done our due diligence to get that right. It’s not to prevent any particular person from doing a particular business if it’s legal at the state level, but what do we have with the neighbors, the smells, the safety and all of you who are in this industry” said Clute.
Councilman RJ Amato III, the third member of the hemp subcommittee, said it wasn’t an easy process because there was a lot of outside pressure on council members to pass it or move faster.
“We’ve developed standards that I feel comfortable voting on now. I feel like we have enough teeth and regulations,” Klute said. “I hope that there will be no problems with this property or other properties in the future.”
During the vote on whether to allow the town to operate a marijuana business, Coppola said he thought the best idea was to wait, but at the time Republicans were in the minority on the council.
The Galloway City Council decided to hold a vote Tuesday evening to authorize the execution of a redevelopment agreement with Grasshopper Farms NJ LLC to establish an indoor cannabis cultivation and manufacturing business.
“I commend the cannabis committee and everyone on the council for all the work they have done as this will be our first cannabis facility in Galloway. Hopefully it will be done without any negative impact on the neighboring community and many steps have been taken to ensure that. I hope it works as planned,” Coppola said.
The next step for Locust Farms will be to go before the township’s Planning Board to see if it can get site plan approval.
Bassford and Coppola said going forward, the council will have to decide how many marijuana microbusinesses to allow.
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