Township hall for Woolwich, NJ. Credit: Rob Edwards / Grown In

Despite detractors, residents of Woolwich Township, New Jersey voted “yes” on cannabis.

A January meeting to discuss the possibility of Nova Farms operating a cultivation site in the small community was deferred to late February due to a want for input from residents.

While some concerns were raised, the measure passed, making the farm town a future case-study of what can be expected from a proposed cultivation site.

“A lot of municipalities are still a hard ‘no’ with [cannabis] businesses in their town,” said Jacqueline Ferraro, Managing Director and Co-Founder of the Cannabis Advisory Group. “I believe there are some municipalities up in arms, and it comes down to education.

“It’s going to take more than one conversation to sway a hard ‘no’ for council members that don’t agree with it.”

Nova Farms hopes to set up shop in Woolwich. Led by CEO Derek Ross, Nova already has cultivation centers in Massachusetts and Maine. Their proposal to the Woolwich Township committee explains away any of the obvious issues, such as security, visibility, crime, water usage, and contamination.

“Before adult use was passed, there were municipalities not even on board with medical,” continued Ferraro. “Imagine those municipalities today, but try having a conversation on adult use. That’s a challenge. Again, it comes down to education, no matter where an operation is located.

“Odor mitigation is brought up many times in town halls. The onus is on the operator to implement a mitigation system, but there is probably going to be an odor a few times a year, it’s hard to combat.

“But a town can zone for a cultivation facility to be away from a residential area. There is a way to go about it.”

Woolwich supports just over 10,000 residents, and until developmental growth over the past two decades, was just an outlier of the Interstate 295 corridor, a throughway from one town to the next.

No matter it’s stature, location is what matters most. Woolwich is a short trip to New York City and Philadelphia, as well as slightly smaller cities such as Wilmington, Delaware and Baltimore, Maryland. Those areas have enough infrastructure for a cannabis dispensary or enough industry for an indoor grow operation to go relatively unnoticed.

Not that cannabis businesses need to hide. But hiding in plain sight may help operators get municipal approvals. And unless you know what you are looking for, dispensaries may be able to blend into your local strip mall, avoiding the stir caused by the pending legalization of adult use.

That is the debate that Woolwich and similar towns will be facing. 

Town Mayor Craig Frederick noted during the Feb. 22 meeting that he wouldn’t allow retail operations. Frederick had reached out, according to the town meeting’s minutes, to the grow operations that Nova has in other states and heard no complaints. He said that Nova Farms would be implementing a 12-foot fence that would be gated and locked with security cameras surrounding the farm.

“Many cannabis operators across the country have helped solved crimes,” added Ferraro. “Because of their high-end security systems, it can help investigators in [non-related] incidents.”

“Outdoor grow is going to be interesting, especially in South Jersey,” said Ferraro. “There are folks who can successfully operate outdoor grows, the Californias and Colorados, where the weather is a little more predictable. But in South Jersey, a lot is going to depend on town ordinances.

“What these towns will allow, I think we are going to find out.”

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Rob Edwards

Rob Edwards is currently the Mid-Atlantic Regional Reporter for Grown In, reporting on the cannabis industry. He was previously a content producer/reporter for NJ Advance Media and a former beat writer...