Cranbury Planning Board Grapples with Cannabis Cultivation Ordinance and Farmland Preservation

The December 7, 2023 meeting of the Cranbury Planning Board delved into debates around the preservation of farmland, cannabis cultivation regulations, and the consistency of these matters with the township’s master plan. The board dissected the specifics of a revised ordinance that would allow pre-existing cannabis manufacturers to convert their medical permits into recreational ones, sparking a discussion on its implications for preserved farmland and right-to-farm laws.

The meeting opened with a detailed review of Cranbury Township ordinance 11-23-19 and 50-10, focusing on recreational cannabis. Mayor Michael J. Ferrante summarized the revised ordinance, which prohibits the retail sale of recreational cannabis, but allows pre-existing manufacturers to cultivate for the cannabis market. The revised ordinance would also generate revenue for the township through licensing fees and revenue sharing from cannabis activities.

The board, including members such as Dominique Jones, Eman El-Badawi, and Evelyn Spann, immediately delved into the details of the ordinance. The main point of contention was the allowance for pre-existing cannabis manufacturers to convert their medical permits into recreational ones. Board Planner, Elizabeth Leheny, emphasized the zoning and agricultural implications of the ordinance, noting that the master plan did not initially account for cannabis, and the cultivation facility was located in the industrial light impact zone.

The debate extended to the potential impact of cannabis cultivation on preserved farmland, specifically in terms of impervious coverage caused by greenhouses and buildings. The board also addressed the state’s limitations on building structures on preserved farmland and raised concerns about large-scale facilities and warehouses on these lands.

Discussion also revolved around the 2011 stance of the State Agriculture Development Committee (SADC) that classified cannabis as a crop, allowing its cultivation on preserved farmland. The board members debated the need to support the state’s efforts to limit impervious coverage on preserved farmland and the impact of such structures on agricultural use.

In addition to farm preservation, the board also discussed the impact of the Vista ordinance, which preserves certain areas, on the use of preserved farmland. They debated whether the right-to-farm protections would override this ordinance and the process for obtaining variances for building structures on preserved farmland.

Furthermore, the board examined cannabis cultivation licenses and associated fees. They scrutinized different classes of licenses and the renewal process, questioning the clarity of distinctions between classes and the level of guidance provided.

Did we get something wrong? Let us know.
Michael J. Ferrante
Planning Board Officials:
Dominique Jones, Eman El-Badawi, Evelyn Spann, William Gittings, Jason Stewart, Wayne Wittman, Jason Mildenberg, Deanna Anderson, Robin Tillou (Land Use Administrator), Sharon Dragan, Esq (Board Attorney), Elizabeth Leheny, PP (Board Planner), David Hoder, Pe, Pp, Cme, CPWM (Board Engineer), Andrew Feranda, P.E., Ptos, CME (Board Traffic Consultant), Thomas Decker, P.E. (Conflict Board Engineer), David H. Horner (Conflict Board Traffic Engineer)

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