As Cannabis Ordinance ‘Study’ Continues, Galloway Township Braces for Financial Challenges

— Mayor Coppola Warns of Possible Tax Increase as Unanticipated Expenses Pile Up –

GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP, NJ (March 7, 2023) — Galloway Township faces financial challenges that may require an increase in taxes, according to Mayor Anthony Coppola Jr. who addressed the issue during the Feb. 28 township council meeting. The mayor made his comments just prior to continuing the council’s ongoing discussion about an ordinance that would permit a local family, Pam and Duane Demaree, to grow cannabis on their property.

“This is going to a very difficult year for us because we’ve had several unanticipated expenses this year that we didn’t foresee,” Coppola said as the council was preparing to vote on the month’s expenses, Resolution 076-23, addressing payment of bills in the amount of $9,890,581.43.

“This kind of dropped on our laps; a lot of these expenditures we see in our budget coming up dropped in our lap last-minute,” he said.

The expenses include health care contributions from the state increasing 24%, equating to approximately $700,000 for the township. Also, the state increased pension contributions, representing several hundred thousand dollars. The other big expense is fuel, he said.

“Altogether, we are over $1 million in unanticipated expenses this year,” Coppola said. “You’re going to see maybe our first tax increase in Galloway Township in eight years.”

Farm represents a financial solution
While not acknowledged as a financial solution during the meeting, the proposal to allow the Demarees to begin a two-year pilot program operating a cannabis farm in the middle of a Galloway Township agricultural zone could yield enough funds to cover the forecasted deficit. Revenue from cannabis operators are typically higher in a new market due to high demand and low supply.

Council members have been researching cannabis cultivation prior to the outdoor farm application for over 10 months, assembling more than 1,800 pages of documentation. Financial records show that the review of the outdoor application started on September 8, 2022, the same day the application was submitted, and continued over the next five months.

Working closely with Stockton University and their cutting-edge cannabis studies program, the farm will also serve as home to one of the first outdoor cannabis internship programs in New Jersey. This presents a unique opportunity for students to gain practical experience in the rapidly growing cannabis industry and become part of the next generation of leaders in the field. Stockton University has already proposed research opportunities as well.

Survey of Republicans: government should not interfere with legal businesses
Just over three-quarters of self-identified Republicans said the government shouldn’t fight state medical or adult-use legalization backed by voters and instead should remove any obstacles facing those markets, according to a national poll commissioned by the industry group National Cannabis Roundtable and reported by POLITICO.

The poll found that 73 percent of respondents believe businesses operating in state-legal markets should have the same rights as other legal businesses.

Operating in a largely Republican community and governed by a Republican mayor and all-Republican township council, many citizens are surprised about the council’s call for more studies as they delay allowing a legal business to begin hiring and preparing for the 2023 growing season.

The farm is backed by local investors, including New Jersey residents Mina and Suresh Rajani, an immigrant family from India. The part-owners and investors of Grasshopper Farms New Jersey say the farm will boost the Galloway Township economy.

“We are watching the process closely and all we see are unexplainable delays and obstacles at the final stage. This is rather disconcerting for hardworking small business owners who are trying to farm a permissible crop that at the same time will benefit the local municipality,” said Suresh Rajani, who arrived in America with his wife 45 years ago.

A beacon of hope or a missed opportunity?
Galloway Township risks missing out on the chance to take the lead in the cannabis industry and establish itself as a pioneer in the field while reaping the financial benefits during a time need for the community’s taxpayers.

“We don’t see this as just any farm, it’s a beacon of hope for the agricultural community in Galloway Township, and a chance to take the lead in the cannabis industry,” Demaree said. “Secluded and surrounded by farms in the middle of the agricultural zone, ours will be the first 100% outdoor cannabis farm in the state. With an experienced team at the helm, we can be the gold standard for responsible, sustainable cannabis farming in New Jersey.”

The farm will bring jobs, increased revenue, and innovative farming techniques to Galloway Township, he said. It is time for the council to stop the delay and allow the farm to thrive, providing a beacon of hope for the agricultural community in Galloway Township.