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Jersey City Cannabis Board Contradicts Planning Board on Distance Issue

The Jersey City Cannabis Control Board (CCB) insisted a city council resolution leads to a pin in the map requiring a 600 ft distance be enforced versus the Planning Board’s interpretation of pulling permits merits a pin.

They approved two cannabis dispensary applications, denied two, and carried one.

Altalune Denied

Altalune at 288 Central Ave. Attorney Allison Reynolds said they got their state license in October.

Majority owner Amanda Rallo of Norwood, NJ, noted the lack of a Jersey City cannabis company cap incentivized their decision. Rallo said they helped someone leave their location.

Jersey City CCB Chair Brittani Bunney said they were discussing the Galleria Café.

“I have a concern about the number of cannabis establishments on Central Avenue. There was only ever supposed to be 6. We’re already two over,” she said.

“There’s too much concentration,” Commissioner Jeff Kaplowitz said. “There’s plenty of places you could operate.”

Reynolds said that at last week’s planning board meeting, they didn’t recognize the city council resolution pins given after Jersey City CCB approval.

“The building permit thing was manufactured. I don’t know why someone said that. There was never anything specific about pulling permits,” Bunney said.

“The Planning Board is a separate regulatory agency. Once there was a city council resolution issued… that was the pin on the map,” Jersey City CCB attorney Ron Mondello said. “This board has different discretions.”

They were denied 4-0-1, with Bunney abstaining.

High Life from Brooklyn Denied

High Life Sales. Inc. at 860 Bergen Ave, tabled at an earlier February meeting, was also on the agenda. Vice President Felix Dorfman of Brooklyn explained he is a naval veteran who operated gas stations. He said he wants to move to Jersey City if they open.

“Why did you pick Jersey City?” Bunney asked.

Dorfman said it was one of the first cities open for cannabis business licensing.

“To say you’re going to reach out is not enough,” Bunney said. “What we’re supposed to be specifically evaluating is community outreach.”

“This looks like it’s people who want to come to Jersey City because we don’t have a cap. A lot of it is starting to not seem genuine to me,” Bunney explained to applause from the audience.

“I thought this was a fluid situation,” Dorfman said.

“I have concerns about the number of dispensaries approved. It’s getting to be too many,” Bunney said.

City Health and Human Services Director and CCB Commissioner Stacey Flanagan said the Jersey City Council is blaming anti-cannabis dissent expressed on the Jersey CityCCB for not handling it.

“We have to vet people more because there are so many,” Bunney said.

“If we had known that, that would not have been an issue,” co-owner Monique James said. She sought to emphasize her background in non-profits.

“My job is not to tell you how to get approved for a cannabis license,” Bunney said.

They were denied 5-0.

Benedict’s Supply Blessed

Benedicts Supply, LLC, at 3523 Kennedy Blvd was next.

“This is exactly what I wanted to work on when I worked in Senator O’Scanlon’s office trying to get the Jake Honig Act off the ground,” attorney Beau Huch said about the applicant.

Benedict’s Supply owner Sarah Russell of Englewood, NJ, said she worked at Google and then for a jewelry company. She noted how welcoming Jersey City is.

“It’s full of wonderful people,” she added.

Kaplowitz asked about her thoughts on their neighborhood.

“Leonard Gordon Park is super close. The plan has always been to give back to that park. The Western Slope Neighborhood Association has been very welcoming,” Russell said.

She wanted Benedict’s Supply to help them host community events nearby.

Frank Robinson of Garden Greenz dispensary said he met Russell at the ABC Kids Halloween party.

“She cares about the kids in Jersey City,” he said. “If anybody in the city should get one, she should.”

Western Slope Block Association President Ricardo Bobe also spoke in their favor.

UFCW union leader Hugh Giordano favored their opening since they signed a Labor Peace Agreement (LPA) where the company would not interfere if their workers wanted to join a union.

Benedict’s Supply was approved unanimously 5-0.

White Lotus Set to Open Jersey City Cannabis Dispensary

White Lotus Dispensary, LLC, at 749 West Side Ave, was next. Attorney Zachary Rosenberg explained they’re a Social Equity micro-license applicant. Owner Lillia Diaz was raised in the area.

Bunney noted Diaz had appeared before the board on behalf of other applicants.

Diaz said she did so while working for the anti-violence coalition of Hudson County

“How is that not (a conflict of interest?)” Bunney asked. “It seems this cannabis industry in Jersey City is interconnected in a lot of ways that’s not disclosed.”

“Did you disclose that to other applicants?” Mondello asked.

“Yes,” Diaz said.

“You were never paid by any cannabis companies?” Mondello asked.

“No,” Diaz replied.

She explained Executive Director Pamela Johnson collaborated with applicants, and she spoke on their behalf.

Diaz said she is a mother of two living in Ward A. She explained she was a Gap store manager and is currently a consultant working part-time with the Anti-Violence coalition.

In addition, Diaz noted they held a community meeting with Ward B Councilwoman Mira Prinz-Arey and Hudson County Commissioner Bill O’Dea.

“There were a lot of concerns,” she explained.

Diaz said they would send one percent of their profits to the non-profit Women Rising. She also wants to help lawyers working on expungements of criminal cannabis records.

More Distance Problems

“We already approved 747. You guys share a wall. I expect the board is going to weigh that very heavily,” Mondello said.

Rosenberg said his client called the Jersey City CCB in November, and no one in the area was approved then. He noted while they’re a micro business, their neighbor is not.

“A standard can be within 200 ft. These guys share a wall,” Mondello said.

“That’s a zoning determination,” Rosenberg said.

“Not necessarily,” Mondello said.

“It’s getting through us… and the council asking why the CCB is allowing two,” Bunney noted.

“We have concurrent applications. The concern really is after an applicant comes in after a pin goes in the map. At the time she inquired, we didn’t have another application,” Jersey City Commerce Director Maynard Woodson said.

“We actually put a sign in the place saying we were applying,” Diaz said.

“We’ll have to clear it with the council,” Woodson said about the distance issue.

“I’m willing to take a hit from the council,” Kaplowitz said.

“It’s a glowing application,” Commissioner Courtney Sloane said.

They were approved unanimously 4-0, with Flanagan abstaining due to a potential conflict of interest.

“It’s like a rat race,” Bunney said about the distance issues. “I don’t like it when we look like the bad guy.”

At their request, Garden State Green LLC at 120 Tidewater Street was carried to another meeting.

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