The Leaf Joint, Fire and Oak dispensary, and the Station opened New Jersey cannabis dispensaries for adult use recently across the state.
About four to five cannabis dispensaries are opening in New Jersey every two weeks now.
Fire and Oak Dispensary Opens in Mount Holly
Fire and Oak dispensary recently held its Grand Opening party in Mount Holly in Burlington County during a town carnival.
“It was pretty crazy busy Saturday. We’re just getting our feet under ourselves,” Fire and Oak dispensary co-owner Tom Armstrong said.
They are in an old Victorian home in downtown Mount Holly in Burlington County. It’s an older town that saw fighting during the American Revolution. Fire and Oak is on the corner of High Street near its center. There is ample parking in the area. Across the streets is the arts campus of Rowan University, which has a pro-cannabis program.
“We had a little bit of journey here,” Armstrong explained. “We’re moving along here.”
Fire and Oak dispensary has a nice atmosphere with a lot of oak wood and an old medical cannabis bottle from the early 1900s decorating the shelves.
They applied for a straight annual New Jersey cannabis license, which they won last August.
“The town was easy to work with,” he said. “We did a lot to try to get involved in the community.”
They have gotten involved in the community and the local chamber of commerce.
New Cannabis Flower Products on Display
Fire and Oak dispensary has unique legal New Jersey adult use cannabis flower for sale. On their shelves, they have Prolific Grow House. They are the first locally owned adult use cannabis cultivator that has put product on shelves.
“We’re technically their first drop actually,” Armstrong explained.
Fire and Oak dispensary also has Bango flower for sale.
“We’re really going for a boutique shop experience and giving the customer more attention one-on-one,” he noted.
Armstrong hopes to get concentrates, tinctures or oils, and salves or creams on the shelves soon. He explained they are also working on getting a “bud bar” where customers can see samples of the cannabis flower for sale.
Fire and Oak Dispensary Ownership Background
Armstrong was raised in New Jersey and moved out to California to work in cannabis for about six years and came back when the New Jersey cannabis market improved. He learned a lot about working in the industry and the associated politics of wary locals while out there.
Armstrong manages Fire and Oak’s operations on the ground. He noted he’s from Franklin Township in Somerset County. But they found a good property in Mount Holly. Previously, Armstrong ran the cannabis corporation that is a Multi-State Operator (MSO) Ayr’s cultivation operation in Woodbridge in Middlesex County. It was formerly known as Garden State Dispensary.
Edward Linetskiy is his partner. Armstrong worked with him at the MSO MedMen, and became friends. Linetskiy was their Vice President of Compliance and is now a consultant. He is from Brooklyn and was in finance before going out to California. His efforts have certainly helped Armstrong open a dispensary. They also have a partner named Chuck Matthews, a New Jersey businessman.
Armstrong said they are trying to keep costs or overhead down. For example, his partner owns a separate company that owns the building. Thus, they do not have to pay the ridiculously high rent many New Jersey cannabis license holders must in order to advance in the process.
Ambitions of Vertical Operation of Growing and Selling
He noted they wanted to be a vertical operation growing and dispensing cannabis like many others. But Armstrong noted the price and issues associated with opening.
“We’re still interested in cultivation. We’ll see how it goes,” he added.
Armstrong won a separate cultivation license that he initially extended and let it expire. Finding an affordable location became an insurmountable hurdle.
There might be a great deal of the more than 1,000 conditional license winners that let them expire. Most New Jersey cannabis industry experts don’t expect the vast majority to be able to convert.
Armstrong was on a Heady NJ forum panel featuring conditional license holders in September 2022. When he initially discussed as a conditional cultivation license holder, things looked good in terms of securing real estate, capital, and local approval. However, he was already looking to pivot to something new by the time of the forum.
“Obviously, we got some competition,” Armstrong noted about dispensaries in town.
He said the town thought the NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission (NJCRC) would determine in town who would get to open and whittle it down more than they did.
The Station Opens 1st Medical and Rec Dispensary in Hoboken
It’s very close to the Hoboken train station.
Terrapin Care Station is an MSO with locations in Colorado and Mississippi. But that still makes them one of the baby MSOs, which can differ from the larger ones that make questionable decisions.
Castelo is a local serial entrepreneur who spearheaded the Station’s opening. He designed the Station dispensary as a tribute to Hoboken’s train station, the Lackawanna terminal.
The Station dispensary has a retro feel with fine wood, stained glass patterns, and unique light fixtures. There was also the sort of wooden benches you’d find in a train station. The Station dispensary floor is made of marble with brass between the tiles, like a train station.
The colored glass panels reference the work of the noted abstract artist Piet Mondrian. They have also painted wallpaper from the 1950s as part of the retro theme. Thus, its atmosphere was among the more creative versus the cold Apple store vibe of a lot of legal New Jersey cannabis dispensaries.
“Hoboken is a city of many firsts. The Station will be a new first for Hoboken as we usher in destigmatization and cannabis legalization in the Garden State. I’m honored to be but a small part of bringing safe and exciting products to everyone in my hometown,” Castelo explained.
He noted their spacious lobby was also designed consciously to seem like a train station. It includes an avant-garde short art film that’s playing called “Nomads of the Dream Tribe.” Those passing by can see into the dispensary and watch the movie.
According to Castelo, since the windows don’t open onto the dispensary show floor, they don’t need tinted glass.
He said it was surreal to be open.
“It was such a long time coming. I can’t believe the moment has arrived. I’m just so excited,” Castelo explained.
“What’s your destination? Where do you want to go with cannabis? The customer is like the passenger, and we’re helping them go where they want to go,” he added.
“I feel like there was even more incentive from the state to prop up the medical business. Anything you could do to help it,” Castelo noted.
NJ Cannabis Products For Sale
He compared it to the coffee business, where many people care where their coffee beans come from.
“Here in this particular market, it’s all about curation. Cannabis shops are becoming like high-end coffee shops. Who’s got the best beans? Who put the most thought into where they source them and where stuff comes from?” Castelo noted.
“New beans, smaller growers, who really take the time to grow their beans and curate them, that’s what I’m after,” he added.
The medical side of The Station dispensary opened last fall. The NJCRC approved their expansion into the adult use cannabis market at their December 2023 meeting as the “Terrapin Investment Fund II.” They have been trying to open a Hoboken cannabis dispensary since 2020.
Hoboken Cannabis Dispensary Planned for Some Time
Castelo noted he is a long-time cannabis consumer. He was eager to get into the cannabis industry when legalization became a possibility. He also cited a community-wide desire for clean, high-quality, curated cannabis as the driving force behind bringing the first legal cannabis dispensary to Hoboken. Castelo is an indie filmmaker who leveraged his business acumen to build thriving Hoboken businesses. He is the writer, director, and producer behind several films, including The Preppie Connection, the Indie Spirit Award-nominated The War Within, and Death Metal Angola.
Above the dispensary, Castelo operates a rooftop atrium and lounge overlooking the Hudson River. They have already thrown a few fun parties there.
He also owns Antique Bar & Bakery, the Antique Loft, and Sweven, a members-only co-working space. He resides in the city with his wife and writing partner Ashley, and their two daughters.
He met the other Terrapin Care Station owners at a cannabis networking event several years ago.
Castelo said his businesses are interconnected in terms of lifestyle.
“The city that had the biggest impact on me is … Amsterdam. You can go into a building in Amsterdam and like it has everything you suddenly didn’t realize you needed. From art to music to film to food. Sort of the whole experience. Community interconnected, bringing people together, that’s what we do here,” he noted.
In addition, Castelo added Hoboken was initially settled by the Dutch colonists.
He explained his family has done business in Hoboken since the 60s.
Terrapin Care Station’s Fight to Open in Hoboken
The Station fought Harmony dispensary in court about opening and following laws. Harmony dispensary tried to open nearby in Hoboken before falling apart and getting their local approval revoked.
Terrapin failed to secure a license in the 2018 medical cannabis round. They ultimately won a license in the 29-month 2019-2021 medical cannabis license round. At the time, they called themselves Hispanic owned.
The Hoboken cannabis dispensary process became very contentious, with the MSO Story dispensary enraging locals in their rush to open. That has made it hard for local small businesspeople like the owners of Blue Violets to open due to imposed restrictions on distance from schools.
Leaf Joint Opens 1st Jersey City Dispensary in Northern Heights, 6th in City
Leaf Joint dispensary opened its first in Jersey City’s northern neighborhood, known as the Heights, due to its location on the Palisades. It is the 1st all Black owned Jersey City dispensary to open. It’s a minority-owned family business.
Jersey City Mayor and 2025 Governor candidate Steve Fulop was there to celebrate the opening along with Hudson County Commissioner Bill O’Dea who is running to succeed Fulop. The ceremony was managed by the Central Avenue Special Improvement District.
Ward D Councilman Yousef Saleh, who represents the area, was there and enjoyed the festivities afterward.
“This is what restorative justice looks like. The legalization of cannabis via voter referendum has allowed new opportunities for entrepreneurs and the community,” he declared. “We congratulate one of Jersey City’s own, David Jefferson, on clearing the many hurdles to successfully open the first dispensary in the Heights.”
The Grand Opening also featured food and refreshments like shrimp, sandwiches, and cookies.
“It’s exciting. It’s been a long time coming. Looking forward to every day after today,” Jefferson explained. “It was just a lot of waiting from the city and the state.”
“I see the benefit from the community standpoint,” Jeter noted.
“They are hiring. It is a slow process,” he added.
Many New Jersey cannabis dispensary operators agree that the hiring process is too long and is among the reasons delaying their opening. The NJ CannaBusiness Association (NJCBA) highlighted the issue recently in a recent newsletter.
“The city didn’t understand everything it was going to be in detail. It’s trial and error. Jersey City has never had this. There are going to be obstacles. I’m biased. I believe the city has the right intentions in helping them… open up,” Jeter explained.
Former employees of Rise and Harmony dispensaries are working there as well.
Opening a Cannabis Dispensary in Jersey City
Leaf Joint won a conditional license initially in October 2022 from the NJCRC.
“The city was the smoothest part. It was just waiting. We didn’t know what was going on,” Chief Executive Officer (CEO) David Jefferson said.
They opened Leaf Joint two and a half years ago as a smoke shop.
“I opened the smoke shop to make a couple dollars while I wait,” he explained.
“We over-regulate this cannabis thing. Three- and four-year-olds are not smoking weed. We’re IDing to a level I’ve never seen before,” Jefferson noted.
He noted their windows are dark without the brand logos found on liquor stores.
“We can barely say what we are,” Jefferson added.
A lot of compromises had to be made to make the illegal “whore Marijuana” into the legal “Lady Cannabis.”
Leaf Joint Dispensary Background
The former smoke shop is a long store that has plush leather couches. Many colorful decorations and paraphernalia spiced up the place in contrast to the cold Apple store vibe many cannabis dispensaries seek to emulate. Jefferson said they made only minor renovations before opening as a legal New Jersey cannabis dispensary.
He noted they are moving the tobacco part of the business to a nearby location that will be open soon. The Leaf Joint has been tabling at many local Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO) events, mainly with cigars.
Leaf Joint Chief Operating Officer (COO) Charmaine DeJesus is his sister. Their Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Pamela Jefferson is his wife. They previously ran day cares.
Jefferson didn’t oppose dispensaries near day cares since the children wouldn’t understand what they were looking at.
Jefferson said Leaf Joint’s final approval was secured at a special CCB meeting after he had planned to open soon after a brief and friendly final meeting. Their initial January meeting was canceled. He was worried about his flower products getting old and getting stale while on the shelves.
Distance Between Dispensaries and Competition Concerns
Jefferson is very concerned that the Jersey City cannabis market will be too competitive with several dispensaries nearby.
Jersey City likely does not seem to have known when to allow a dispensary to claim a ring of 600 feet prior to opening. Or the Planning Board has a different timeline than the City Council and CCB.
It’s a significant issue that many dispensary owners are passionate about that has led to lawsuits.
He said they also have an issue with the city not following the ordinance on 600 feet distance. They plan to remain vocal on the issue as it continues developing.
Some of the Jersey City Cannabis Control Board (CCB) approved dispensaries might give up. About six dispensaries have been approved to open nearby.
“I don’t think the area can handle that,” Jefferson declared. “Look how much money you’re out before you give up. They’re making it competitive for no reason.”
He has been supportive of other Jersey City cannabis dispensaries opening overall.