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  • Writer's pictureThe Hammonton Gazette

Public hearing set on cannabis

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HAMMONTON—There will be a public hearing on June 10 at 7 p.m. at town hall for a second reading on a proposed ordinance, which would allow Class 1 Cultivator and Class 2 Manufacturer cannabis licenses in the town of Hammonton.

During the May 20 town council meeting, solicitor Michael Malinsky said 10 days prior to the public hearing, every resident or lot owner within the AP, AP CLI and HP zoning district and within 200 feet will be notified by certified mail and regular mail.

Each of the neighboring municipal clerks will also be notified as well as the Atlantic County Planning Board.

After the public hearing, council could approve the ordinance during the regular July 22 meeting.

During the May 20 town council meeting, Pocono Organics founder and CEO of Garden Organics Ashley Walsh gave a presentation on Class 1 Cultivator and Class 2 Manufacturer cannabis licenses.

There are six cannabis licenses in New Jersey: Class 1 Cultivator, Class 2 Manufacturer, Class 3 Wholesaler, Class 4 Distributor, Class 5 Retailer and Class 6 Delivery Service.

If the proposed ordinance gets passed, only Class 1 Cultivator and Class 2 Manufacturer would be allowed and the other cannabis establishments would be prohibited.

“We are seeking your support for Garden Organics for cannabis cultivation and manufacturing here in the town of Hammonton,” Walsh said.

Her company holds two annual permits from the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) for cannabis cultivation and for manufacturing.

Walsh currently is an Atlantic County resident and former Pocono resident.

Pocono Organics is a 380 acre regenerative organics certified farm in the Pocono mountains.

“We have a 70,000 square foot facility, 30,000 square feet of processing and packaging with 40,000 square feet of state-of-the-art greenhouses. We’re a very diverse farm growing lots of different vegetables, herbs and three specialty crops of micro greens, mushrooms and hemp that we grow for CBD products,” Walsh said.

She said her company grows everything organically and produces organic products.

For seven years, Walsh has been running the farm and intends to support the Hammonton community in the same ways.

A portion of the revenue generated from the business will go directly to the municipality, she said.

“There is a two percent transfer tax that all municipalities can add to any cannabis companies in their town,” Walsh said.

For the renovations of the potential property for cannabis cultivation and manufacturing there are three phases.

The potential location is 28,000 square ft., so phase one would be renovating half of that or 14,000 square ft.

Once the facility is operational, the tax revenue at two percent back to Hammonton would be approximately $200,000 per year, Walsh said.

When phase two is finished, which is another 14,000 square ft. or the whole 28,000 square ft. structure is built out, that would bring approximately $400,000 a year coming back to Hammonton.

“And then there’s a third phase as well. Introducing two tier growing racks to some of the rooms where the height allows and it could go upwards of $500,000 a year in taxes back to Hammonton,” Walsh said.

During her presentation, Walsh discussed community concerns such as security and ensured there would be cameras and double secured doors for limited access.

Another concern Walsh addressed was odor control.

“Technology has improved so much over the last few years that we will have state-of-the-art odor controls and measures for the entire facility,” Walsh said.

According to Walsh, the plants only smell when they have flowers on them, which is during the last six to eight weeks of the lifecycle, and the plants have a four-month lifecycle.

“Air scrubbers are very important as well to remove contaminants and particulates from the air, ensuring a clean and healthy growing environment. So we don’t just do this for odor, but we don’t want to introduce any pest or disease that usually comes in on people to our facility as well,” Walsh said.

After her presentation, Walsh answered questions from town council.

Mayor Stephen DiDonato asked if the facility is completely indoors, and Walsh said yes.

The mayor then asked when she hopes to get the facility up and running, and Walsh said about six to nine months depending on building permits.

“Alright. And what do you figure the phases to get to go from phase one to two to three?” DiDonato said.

“Within a year. So we’ll pay for phase two with revenue from phase one, so within a year we hope to start phase two,” Walsh said.

“And then I guess phase three is—” DiDonato said.

“It just kind of comes room by room as we take down and harvest a room, we can introduce the two tier racks at that point,” Walsh said.

Councilman Anthony Marino then asked how many employees would there be at the beginning and how many would there be when the facility is running at 100 percent.

Walsh said phase one there would be about 25 to 30 employees and the number would double in phase two to about 50 to 60 employees.

Councilman Sam Rodio asked if the odors will be controlled, and Walsh said yes.

Malinsky added that the odor control is in the proposed ordinance.

Councilman Thomas Gribbin asked if the state of New Jersey requires to install a certain type of air filtration system.

Walsh said the state doesn’t mandate exactly which ones to use.

Councilman Steven Furgione asked the difference in price between regular and organic products.

Walsh said it would be the same price.

“We’re not going to price gouge for that. We believe everybody should have access to it. I’m a little different ethically than most people I guess,” Walsh said.

Councilman Jonathan Oliva asked if she plans for the property to be operated in a similar nature to her current property.

Walsh said yes.

Oliva’s last questions were for the solicitor, if council were to consider the ordinance what does the process look like and does the town have to have open applications or do people have to apply?

Malinsky said what’s in the proposed ordinance is an RFP process for the two licenses.

“We only issue one license for Class 1 and one license for Class 2. So anyone interested would submit an application with the non-refundable fee. There is a committee and I set forth the committee that would evaluate these applications, make a recommendation to mayor and council, then mayor and council would then proceed forward and they’re the ultimate issuing authority on whether or not to issue it, and that’s actually in page six of the proposed ordinance,” Malinsky said.

According to the proposed ordinance, there would be a $10,000 annual license fee for Class 1 Cultivator and a $10,000 annual license fee for Class 2 Manufacturer.

Malinsky said the cannabis advisory committee would consist of the mayor, two members of town council, town zoning officer, town business administrator and the chief of police, but it is still up for discussion.

The special town council meeting will be on June 10 at 7 p.m. at town hall where there will be a public hearing for the proposed ordinance on allowing cannabis cultivation and manufacturing licenses.


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