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Urb’n Dispensary Leads Budding Newark Cannabis Market

Urb’n Dispensary has pioneered the Newark cannabis market, first in medical cannabis and now in adult-use cannabis sales.

They opened for medical cannabis sales last May and adult use soon after.

CEO Dr. Ramez “Max” Maxemous noted they got special approval so that consumers can smell cannabis flower after some time. A lot of consumers can tell the quality of cannabis by its smell, like wine.

Urb’n Dispensary is featuring local manufacturer Lily Extracts, the local independent cultivator Garden Greens, and the Californian small Multi-State Operators (MSO) from Bango Elyon.

They also have some affordable cannabis from large corporate Multi-State Operators (MSOs) like Ascend that include an eighth of an ounce of cannabis flower for $27.

“It’s gotten a lot better,” Max said.

Urb’n Dispensary is trying to keep prices as low as he can. Notably, they promote themselves in the New Jersey legal cannabis and the underground legacy communities.

He noted many of his employees have strong underground legacy ties.

Setting the Bar

Max sacrificed a lot to open. It was a tooth-and-nail fight to open despite several advantages.

“I went through abuse,” he said.

Despite all that, as the CEO of Urb’n Dispensary, Max is among the locally-owned serial entrepreneurs succeeding.

“We’ve paved the way for others,” he declared.

Going All In

Max is from Jersey City and moved to Newark in 1999. He opened three businesses: a pharmacy with two locations, a liquor store, and a landscaping business. 

Max is a pharmacist by trade and open that business first. He prided himself on being an accessible, friendly guy who never wore a white lab coat, unlike most other pharmacists.

“We were already recommending patients to the program,” he noted.

When Murhpy became Governor in 2018, Max saw an opportunity. They applied for a vertical license to grow, make, and sell medical cannabis products in 2018 and lost.  

Urb’n Dispensary tried in the 29-month 2019 to 2021 medical license round as well and ultimately won under New Jersey Pharma Canna LLC, which they got changed in 2022.

Max went all in, maxing out credit cards, and used his home to secure capital.

“That’s the only way you’re going to open. You gotta be all in,” he said. “If you’re not all in, your chances are definitely stacked.”

Max sold his businesses to raise the money to open Urb’n Dispensary.

Landlord Problems

They paid rent all through COVID. But afterward, the landlord didn’t like them and booted them from the property. Max said he had the grounds to sue but not the means.

Thankfully, they found another friendly landlord and a property. However, the landlord justified a high cost of rent due to the controversy in the city and community opposition. That was despite the fact that it was vacant for a while.

Newark Cannabis Issues

However the first site was already approved by the City of Newark. Thus, they had to get local approval in Newark twice, which was very difficult.

Inspectors came back multiple times for the smallest things.

“The city inspectors didn’t even know what they’re looking for. Now it’s smoother,” Max said.

He said Newark officials barely knew what to do with a dispensary initially in terms of approving the process. They seemed fearful of a wrong step anywhere, which slowed the process.

NJCRC Issues

Max was not the only one who wished the NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission (NJCRC) had guided towns more when they were just starting up.

He noted he was eager to do deliveries. He worked hard to launch medical cannabis deliveries and thought it would continue.

“We ended up fighting it, and now everyone can get delivery licenses,” Max said. 

He argued many in the legal industry are reluctant to be the first to take action, unlike himself.

Medical Cannabis Issues Remain

Max was very critical of the New Jersey medical cannabis program.

The NJCRC put a high fee on converting from medical cannabis to adult-use cannabis sales when large corporate MSOs dominated the medical market.

For small businesses, that fee is far steeper.

He specifically does not like that doctors seem to get a lot of money through required appointments to secure and maintain medical cannabis cards.

“They made a whole new industry of scams,” Max said. “It’s not even Jersey doctors are benefiting.” 

He has been especially supportive of budtenders and workers who have criminal records and have had problems getting the badges needed to work in a legal dispensary. 

The NJCRC has since taken action to address that.

“I’m vouching for them,” Max said. “I don’t want to rough no feathers.”

Newark Cannabis Market Growing

Urb’n has paved the way for other dispensaries to open in Newark.

The Hashstoria dispensary owned by Raekwon of the Wu-Tang Clan is on its way to opening slowly but surely.

Raekwon, who was raised in Brooklyn, is partners with Hashstoria owner Jedd Canty of Maryland, civil rights attorney Bakari Sellers of South Carolina, and podcast host and comedian “Charlamagne tha God” of South Carolina, who got caught with possession.

A dispensary called “The Station” is planning to open in downtown Newark. A small MSO in Hoboken has the same name.

Also, the Black and women-owned AllStar Dispensary is trying to open in the heart of the vibrant Latino neighborhood the Ironbound on Ferry Street. They are seeking to crowdfund to get the money to open.

While Newark Mayor Ras Baraka is pro-cannabis, there remains massive prejudice and stigma in the city where the late cannabis skeptic Ron Rice was a State Senator for decades.

Newark is one of the few towns that won’t even let dispensaries be near parks. Plus, with so many schools, the Green Zone where cannabis companies are allowed is smaller than you’d think for Jersey’s largest city.

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