The Jersey City Council resolved to decide their Jersey City cannabis law ordinance behind closed doors amidst distance concerns and New Jersey cannabis license applicant issues.
They have sought to reform the law for months now. However, the Council previously did not consult the Cannabis Control Board (CCB) on the Jersey City cannabis law revision according to one commissioner.
“Will people currently in the pipeline now that the Planning Board won’t have a full hearing… have to go through the old way? Or will the new rules take effect?” Ward D Councilman Yousef Saleh asked during the Council caucus on Monday before the Wednesday meeting.
“Anyone in the pipeline will be allowed to skip the planning process,” Jersey City Commerce Department Director Maynard Woodson said. “Applications that have already been submitted to the Planning Board can continue with their application under the old ordinance.”
He noted they won’t have to.
“The process is essentially the same with the exception of you don’t have to go in front of the Planning Board,” Ward F Councilman Frank “Educational” Gilmore noted.
“That’s right,” Woodson said.
Woodson said the two bodies created confusion. The CCB will have more responsibility.
“What would be their incentive to go through the planning?” Ward A Councilwoman Denise Ridley asked.
“I do not know,” Woodson said.
Distance Questions Remain
“Planning was verifying the location. Now that’s up to the CCB?” Ridley asked.
“In the beginning, it was based on planning,” Council President Joyce Watterman said. “The dot on the map signifies that it’s a site. Without the dot, it’s not considered a site. Who’s the deciding authority?” Watterman asked.
“The pin goes in the map when the council signs off on the resolution,” Woodson explained.
Saleh noted the process has changed already.
“People are like, I was ahead of you. By the time it got to us, people were alleging the pin in the map happened at different stages,” he noted. “The buck stops with us.”
He believed the Council had great discretion on cannabis resolutions regarding distance problems.
“I believe there is a pending lawsuit where the Planning Board is named, so I can’t answer,” Woodson replied.
Ridley noted they sought to impose the 600 ft distance rule.
“You could use criteria on anything in your head,” Saleh noted.
“We said it was going to be 600,” Ridley said.
She believed the Council would have a great say on the matter.
“Different people are alleging the pin in the map at different times,” Saleh noted.
Woodson said if an applicant paid a fee under the old Jersey City cannabis law ordinance, can choose to proceed under the new ordinance. Or they could choose to move forward or forgo a hearing if they are allowed in their location.
“The final decision rests with the council?” Watterman asked.
“This is what’s been recommended by Corporation Counsel Peter Baker,” Woodson noted.
Jersey City Cannabis Law Revision Concerns
“This is really just window dressing at this point. We didn’t rectify the real problem,” Gilmore said.
He noted the distance problem was not resolved.
“What is the real problem?” Woodson asked.
“We already have the applications we’re going to cap it at. We’re changing rules in the middle of the game. People are complaining,” Gilmore said.
“Should the cap be higher?” Woodson asked.
“The cap should be way lower. This whole thing was botched,” Gilmore said. “I’m not taking the rap for all of this.”
“I understand the need for the cap. The moratorium gave us time to slow and stop. We don’t too many then you jeopardize the success,” Saleh said. “Maybe we should have limited it a long time ago. The cap needs to be instituted. We can lower it later.”
“This is very challenging. It’s the 600 ft. Now we’re just ignoring that, putting it on the Council to make a decision,” Watterman said. “You have to see our concern.”
“There is a pending lawsuit. I can’t speak to that,” Woodson said.
“The council has to be comfortable with whatever we put together,” Baker said.
He explained they’re looking to smooth the process fairly, incorporate social equity concerns, and simplify it.
Jersey City Cannabis Board Not Consulted
Last night, the Council heard comment many heated opinions on the Jersey City cannabis law revision during a hearing.
“I ask the Council to postpone this,” CCB Commissioner Jeff Kaplowitz said during the Wednesday meeting while the Council
He explained the CCB was not consulted as part of the reform process. Kaplowitz did not like a provision nullifying the zoning process under the current Jersey City cannabis ordinance. In his opinion, the whole city then becomes a Green Zone where cannabis companies are allowed.
“No one has asked for our opinion,” he declared.
He also noted that many applications were submitted before the initial moratorium, which caused a backlog. Kaplowitz did not want the Commerce Department to accept more cannabis license applications.
“You can open this in any place that’s retail. I’m glad he came. We have a problem with the 600-foot rule,” Frank Robinson of Garden Greenz dispensary explained.
They have a prime spot on the downtown Newark pedestrian plaza by a PATH train station. Robinson is concerned about the boundaries between businesses. He believed in maintaining the 600-foot rule.
Heated Comments During Council Meeting
“It’s like the Yankees and the Mets. The Mets can’t play in the Bronx,” Robinson argued.
He was also annoyed that the process was being simplified for others coming through it after they went through it. Robinson complained again about the number of dispensaries, saying the intense competition was too much for businesses to survive in a free market.
Osbert Orduna of the 420 Cannabis Place dispensary also opposed the Jersey cannabis law revision. He secured his cannabis license resolution from the city for a location in the south of the city.
“The buck stops with you. It’s just a disgrace that the cannabis control board… was never consulted by the law department. Shame on the law department,” he declared.
Orduna also complained about the distance issue again. A New Yorker himself who began operating there, he is unhappy that a Washington State-based company is closer than 600 feet to his dispensary.
“This is about equity and equality for all businesses,” Orduna exclaimed to applause.
Jersey Cannabis License Applicant Issues
Sarah Russell of Benedict’s Supply explained they want to open a dispensary in the Heights in the north of the city.
“I have signed and broken multiple leases in Jersey City until I found something safely in the zone,” she said. “We have been paying rent for this place for a year.”
Russell noted they have community association support and have worked to help the community.
“We have been using every resource to get our business off the ground. Our team has jumped through every hoop,” she declared.
Russell noted it took six months to get reviewed by the Planning Board after their CCB approval.
“Our paperwork has not reached the City Council,” she lamented.
“This has not been easy. Please do not yes tonight unless you really understand the process. Businesses are going to be even more confused,” Russell explained. “Every time the process changes, it costs businesses time and money.”
Jersey City Cannabis Debate Behind Closed Council Doors Planned
Watterman said they wanted to carry the ordinance on cannabis licenses and have a closed session to resolve the issue.
“Can we carry it?” Saleh asked.
The Council passed a resolution to discuss the ordinance in a session closed to the public and press on September 25th at 4 pm.