The Jersey City Council defeated an ordinance to cap adult-use cannabis dispensaries in the city at 55 due to concerns regarding equity and the number.
City ordinances are rarely defeated.
After a lively debate on Monday, it was on second reading and expected to pass. A city ordinance must pass on two readings before becoming law.
“My concerns are that a lot of brothers went to jail for illegally selling cannabis. The brothers… are not having the wherewithal to do business. What is the requirement that… Black people cannot get a license… to sell cannabis?” Phillip Carrington asked during the hearing.
“They can get licensed. If they’re incarcerated, and they come out, they can get a license,” City Council President Joyce Watterman said.
“Sometimes there’s issues with capital and associated issues,” Business Administrator John Metro said.
“Are these people supposed to be selling them at smoke shops already? I witnessed it myself. People are going in smoke shops and coming out with weed,” LaVerne Webb Washington said.
“Why are we limiting it?” Lawrence Sneed asked.
“The administration is asking for the council to limit it due to the A: (sic) number of applications we received and to have a handle on the market as we see the economics of it. We have provided, I believe, 27 so far,” Metro said. “We’re willing to work with the community on finding locations in those neighborhoods.”
“Is it just to control the market?” Sneed asked. “I just want people to get it when they need it.”
“If we limit and it’s necessary to increase it, we can increase it. It’s a new substance. Like when you get something new to see what direction it’s going to go in. Since it’s such a new market,” Watterman said.
“There’s still a lot of questions with this ordinance. We can’t necessarily tell people where to open them. This number 55, I don’t if this is the right number,” Ward A Councilwoman Denise Ridley said. “We shouldn’t certainly allow as many cannabis companies as we can get. We might even need to stop taking them. I don’t not think that we need to just let everything keep moving. I am going to vote no.”
Ward B Mira Prinz-Arey said she was concerned that cannabis license applicants have to hold real estate* for an unknown amount of time for an uncertain chance to secure a license and open.
“They’re essentially stuck. This is all new, and we are learning as we go. There are a few more concerns I have. I’m going to go ahead and vote no. I do want to keep having these conversations. I want this to be equitable and fair,” she said.
Prinz-Arey said people could be holding property and would be doing so in vain if they were the 56th applicant. She then voted no so that a more equitable ordinance would be introduced.
“I believe 55 is too many, and I am going to vote no,” Jersey City Ward C Councilman Rich Boggiano said.
“I think it’s too little. I’m still going to vote no. There haven’t been enough cannabis establishments on the south side of the city,” Ward D Councilman Yousef Saleh said. “We need to do a better effort in terms of reaching out in terms of anyone who wants to establish a cannabis dispensary.”
He said the city needs to make an effort to speak to the community and have information sessions.
Ward E Councilman James Solomon said he was also concerned about ensuring equity.
“The number 55 cap is quite high. I’m not sure the market will support 55 dispensaries,” he added.
“It’s about equity, legalizing marijuana to get it right. With this cap and so much uncertainty, I don’t think it’s right at this juncture,” Ward F Councilman Frank “Educational” Gilmore said.
He liked the idea of incubators managed by the Jersey City Development Corporation (JCDC) which controls Urban Enterprise Zone (UEZ) funding.
“That is something I would like to see,” Gilmore said. “I think it’s the right thing to do to cap. I think it sets a standard we can increase.”
“I think work with incubators and education circles could provide better access,” At Large Councilwoman Amy DeGise said before being the sole vote yes.
A city-funded incubator is an interesting idea that likely would help struggling applicants. The NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission recently announced the Business Action Center* would launch a training program for applicants. But it is still in the works.
Watterman abstained but explained her stance.
“You can’t tell people where to open up a business. This is something that affects the Black and Brown community. We need to do all we can for them to start this business. In caucus, I brought up the concern the UEZ can create incubators for small Black and Brown businesses,” she added. “It’s very expensive. There has to be a better mechanism in place to help the Black and Brown be a part of this business.”
The Jersey City cannabis dispensary license cap ordinance was defeated 1-6-1. At Large Councilman Daniel Rivera was absent.
In other cannabis news, Cream Dispensary was approved 7-1, with Boggiano voting no.
“I did speak with the dispensary owners. They did meet with the neighborhood, but it was roughly a year ago. They promised to have another one in a couple weeks,” Solomon said.