GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — Officials are dismissing the possibility of allowing outdoor marijuana farms in the township, but people interested in the business still have hope about the viability of the project.
The Township Council recently issued a resolution denying Grasshopper Farms NJ a letter of support needed to secure full licensing from state marijuana regulators.
Grasshopper Farms had been planning to operate a facility for outdoor marijuana cultivation, an idea that has polarized residents.
Township officials stressed that an indoor-grow site for marijuana cultivation would be a permitted use, and Grasshopper officials said they would work toward opening such a business at the site.
Mayor Anthony Coppola said the township did not include outdoor grow as a permitted use. He said authorizing outdoor grow would be a time-intensive process to which the township was not ready to commit, one that would involve the passage of a new ordinance and the clearing of several municipal regulatory hurdles.
People are also reading…
“One of the conversations that I had early on with the developer is that indoor is permitted in the zone that they’re in, so that’s really the path they should be taking,” Coppola said. “I think that everybody thought (outdoor-grow approval) was going to be a quick and easy thing, but number one, outdoor grow was never something that Galloway has ever allowed or intended to allow to begin with.”
Grasshopper Farms NJ would be run by Duane and Pam Demaree, farmers in the township, and Will Bowden, a Delaware resident who is also the CEO of Grasshopper Farms in Paw Paw, Michigan. The Demarees run Homestead Nursery at Galloway LLC, a division of Absecon Irrigation that focuses on growing trees and is located on South Cologne Avenue.
GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — Marijuana still dominates regular Township Council meetings even when co…
Indoor grow ‘just not sustainable’
Duane Demaree said he still believed outdoor grow was more viable than an indoor alternative. He said potential marijuana businesses would benefit if not saddled with the costly capital requirements of indoor grow, as would surrounding residents. He estimated that indoor grow would be about 10 times more expensive to run than an outdoor operation.
“We feel that the sustainable aspect of outdoor grow is much more desirable to the community, to the industry,” Duane Demaree said. “Look at the impact of indoor grow, both the electricity that’s used for indoor grow, the buildings that have to go up for indoor grow. It’s just not sustainable.”
Bowden, who said he is a former police SWAT officer and a retired Coast Guard lieutenant commander, said Grasshopper Farms in Michigan created 45 jobs for residents. He said he decided to explore operating a marijuana farm in New Jersey as it is his wife’s home state.
He added he has received offers to open a marijuana facility from other municipalities.
“I wanted to keep with this, because of Duane and Pam, because for me it’s all about the people,” Bowden said.
Resident Anna Jezycki indicated everyone in the township was supportive of local farmers but that more research was needed into outdoor grow to demonstrate it would not have a deleterious effect on residents.
“That’s all we’re asking, is some education here,” Jezycki said.
Deputy Mayor Tony DiPietro raised concerns after the meeting about the impact of an outdoor-grow facility on quality of life and public safety for neighbors. While expressing trust in Demaree, DiPietro said the township had an obligation to do its due diligence before amending its cannabis code and should continue to research the outdoor cultivation of marijuana as it had researched indoor cultivation facilities.
MAYS LANDING — The Hamilton Township Committee issued a resolution of support for a proposed…
“It was too premature to update an ordinance when we didn’t have full understanding of potential negative impacts,” DiPietro said.
The decision of the council, which consists entirely of Republicans, to ban outdoor grow was challenged by local Democrats.
Galloway Democrats President Josh Smith said he was appreciative of the creation of a cannabis code to help bring the marijuana industry to the township but said the continued prohibition of outdoor grow amounted to cumbersome regulation on local business. He said the idea of marijuana legalization was broadly popular in the township when the 2020 legalization referendum was held and said the township has an abundance of arable land suited for outdoor marijuana cultivation.
Smith added any promotion of marijuana could help raise revenue to combat rising health insurance costs. State law authorizes municipalities to impose a local cannabis transfer tax on recreational marijuana sales as high as 2%.
“I believe our next move should be removing the roadblocks for the outdoor grow for our farmers,” Smith said. “Our farmers are trying to be at the forefront of this movement in New Jersey. ... We should listen to our farmers. We are a growing community.”
Two-thirds of New Jersey voters voted in favor of legalizing marijuana in 2020. A similar two-thirds majority voted to legalize marijuana in Galloway.
The council voted to allow for all types of marijuana business except retail in 2021. After legalization, the township sought to respond to the concerns of residents with respect to the potential nuisance effects of marijuana, particularly the smell.
The council adopted its cannabis code Feb. 14, promulgating standards for marijuana businesses in the township. The code was designed by the township cannabis committee, which spent more than 10 months researching the marijuana cultivation business to mitigate its impact on residents’ quality of life. Among residents’ principal concerns was the odor that could emerge from an indoor marijuana cultivation facility, leading the council to establish what members have described as strict filtration regulations.
GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — The seven-member Township Council on Tuesday unanimously approved townsh…
A clause permitting outdoor marijuana cultivation was added to the proposed township cannabis code just before it was introduced by the council Jan. 24. Township officials said then the outdoor-grow clause had been hurriedly added to the cannabis code after conversations with developers. Several council members said they were uncomfortable with its inclusion in the document given the lack of research into the topic and ultimately voted to excise it from the code.
The Demarees said they visited a career fair this month at Stockton University, where Duane said Grasshopper Farms attracted considerable interest from students, something he said excited him about the future of the industry.
Demaree said marijuana could serve as a vital cash crop for small farmers like the ones found in Galloway.
“Farming, it’s a, I hate to say it, a dying industry,” Demaree said. “This is an opportunity for farmers to farm a crop that they can actually be profitable with.”
Indoor plan moving forward
While stressing his preference for outdoor grow, Demaree welcomed the idea of pursuing an indoor-grow project at the site. He said he would reapply to the township and explore indoor-grow options.
Louis Magazzu, an attorney representing Grasshopper Farms NJ, said at the Tuesday meeting they were looking forward to having a “collaborative” relationship with the township. He said Grasshopper Farms would prepare an application for an indoor-grow site “in short order.”
Bowden said he was similarly positive in his response to the indoor-grow proposal, saying he was “very happy to work with the township on moving forward with licensure.” He said he understood the confusion in the township and other municipalities over how to cooperate with the newly legalized industry.
“Believe me, I was on the enforcement side of this for a very long time, OK, so I understand the confusion,” Bowden said. “I never understood I would be working in this industry, but I can promise you this: If given the opportunity to work with Duane and Pam, you will be proud of what you see and you will be OK with it, I think.”
Contact Chris Doyle
Welcome to the discussion.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.