The Jersey City Cannabis Control Board (CCB) carried two cannabis dispensary applications and approved two.
Kreme of the Pot Pushed
The first application was Kreme of the Pot at 50 Journal Square. However, CCB attorney Ron Mondello said Jersey City Business Administrator Metro and Jersey City Counsel Baker said the property is being redeveloped by the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency (JCRA).
“The board is not to hear this application this evening. We report to the legislative branch and the executive branch. This application cannot be hard this evening,” he explained.
“The property has simply received a letter from the development agency,” noted attorney Elnardo Webster argued.
“Did the landlord…. mention they were subject to a taking?” Commissioner Jeff Kaplowitz asked.
“No,” Webster said.
He dismissed the city’s actions.
“I’m not comfortable hearing the application. We were told the city was going to condemn the building,” CCB Chair Brittani Bunney said.
The CCB carried them 3-1 with Kaplowitz voting no. Commissioner Courtney Sloane was absent.
Garden on Summit Pushed by Jersey City
The Garden on Summit at 510 Summit Ave was next.
Attorney Jennifer Cabrera noted they were adjourned on February 6th and told to reach out to the community.
“We have worked diligently to reach out to the community,” Director of Community Relations and owner Alejandra Fonseca said.
She explained they talked to the local businesses, associations, and the government about the Newkirk House building, built in 1690, where they seek to locate. The Jersey City landmarks Conservancy approved their project involving the building. They also joined the Journal Square Community Association.
“Did you submit any evidence?” CCB Chair Brittani Bunney asked. “You said you met with Katrina Boggiano. Did you talk to (Ward C) Councilman Boggiano?”
Director of Operations Steve Rothstein explained Boggiano is against more dispensaries being approved and would not meet with them.
“We want to restore it to where it is, and so does the community,” Rothstein said.
UFCW union leader Hugh Giordano said they signed a Labor Peace Agreement (LPA), which means they would not interfere if their workers joined a labor union.
“They’re working class. They’re from the area. These are the facilities we want to see open. These MSOs (Multi-State Operators) coming into the state don’t support workers’ rights and break laws,” Giordano said.
Lack of Paperwork and Community Support
City Health and Human Services Director and CCB Commissioner Stacey Flanagan said the application paperwork on the building came late.
“It should have been here two weeks ago,” Bunney said. “There’s never any evidence of these community meetings. I don’t see any evidence of the community support.”
Flanagan said friends of Fonseca who spoke did not equal the community.
Kaplowitz disliked cherry-picking reasons why a business should be denied.
“I think it should be adjudicated in court. It should not be arbitrary,” he declared.
“You did not ask us to come back with evidence,” Cabrera said. “They’re not lying.”
“I would want to prove that you did what you were asked to do,” Bunney said.
“This building, which is an important place in Jersey City, has been vacant for years,” Rothstein said.
“This is the third application on this property,” Bunney said.
Flanagan said it was difficult to take them at their word without paperwork.
“If you want to come back, you can come back,” Bunney said. “We have people come here and lie to us. For all the people booing… this is a very difficult position for us to be in. I have personally advocated for a notice requirement.”
She noted she did not want to deal with community backlash.
“We have approved 46 of these,” Bunney added. “We have asked that all documents be sent two weeks in advance.”
Jersey City Commerce Director Maynard Woodson said they informed the applicants late submissions may or may not count.
They were carried unanimously 4-0 to come back with more documentation.
Local Minority-Owned High Key Approved
High Key 201 at 95 Monticello Ave was next.
“We have a member of the Jersey City community who is the 51 percent owner. They are the exact people the (state legalization) legislation was pointed to as MBE (Minority Business Enterprise) enterprises,” Attorney Nick Lewis said. “We’re all Jersey born and bred.”
He said they would be a micro business.
Craig Davila said he was raised in Jersey City and had a resolution from the city as part of Coach Bob Hurley’s winning team. He said he is a social worker.
Davila said he wanted to hire people affected by the War on Drugs and those living in the housing project near Ferris High School. He explained he is interested in increasing athletic programs for youth in the city.
They also want to fund expungement clinics to clear cannabis conviction records and help the noted local group Women Rising.
They met with Ward F Councilman Frank “Educational” Gilmore, local businesspeople, and community members to secure their approval.
His partner, Carol Johnson of East Orange, explained she has been involved in many community organizations and groups which seek to empower Black businesspeople. Johnson currently works for NBC Universal. She will be their full-time CEO if they were approved.
Giving Back and Checking Goldilocks Boxes
“What do you plan to do here in Jersey City?” Bunney asked.
Johnson said they would do expungement clinics on an appointment basis and hold a career fair. She explained they also want to hold in-person cannabis education events.
Davila said they would hire people to run after-school athletic programs for the community and work with the city. He emphasized how much he wanted to help those affected by the War on Drugs.
“Only 2500 sq ft can touch the cannabis plant,” Mondello said regarding them being a micro business.
He said auxiliary space for offices does not count. Mondello explained their micro business could convert to a larger business in the future.
Lewis said they want to be a cannabis consumption lounge in the future.
“Clarify that when you go to the Planning Board,” Kaplowitz said.
Bunney noted they want to approve them as a local minority and women-owned company negatively impacted by the War on Drugs.
“You check all those boxes,” she noted.
They were approved unanimously 4-0.
As a local, minority-owned company impacted by the War on Drugs with a woman owner, they are indeed the Goldilocks cannabis company many want to see open in New Jersey.
Green Stop Wellness OKed
Green Stop Wellness at 516 Tonnelle Ave was next. Attorney Rosemarie Moyeno Matos, who also handles East Orange cannabis policy noted they’re a minority-owned business.
“This is nothing short of a dream come true,” CEO Bansi Badalia of Mountain Lakes, NJ, said.
She explained she grew up in a small Indian village and now works as a manager in a New Jersey medical cannabis dispensary.
“We’re looking forward to having our first home in Jersey City,” Badalia said.
COO Smeet Biknni said he attended the high-tech high school in Jersey City.
“I have seen the city transform over the last two decades,” he noted.
Biknni explained he was caught for possession but got a Master’s Degree and has worked as a data scientist for a medical cannabis dispensary. He said they would volunteer a lot in the community. He added they are working with Diversity and Inclusion Director Floyd Jeter to increase local science and math education.
Support Comes Out
“They truly care about social justice,” Giordano said in favor of them.
Nirmit Patel said that as the Silver Leaf Wellness dispensary founder in Somerset County, he employed them and vouched for them.
Alberto Infante of Little Falls, NJ, said his family operates A & L Auto Body nearby and supported their opening.
Moyeno Matos explained Infante is their landlord.
“I’m struggling because of the number of businesses in the area, although I do appreciate it being on Tonnelle Ave,” Flanagan said. “We just approved another location within 400 ft.”
“Tonnelle Ave is a different animal,” Kaplowitz said.
He argued it’s a major thoroughfare, and many will pass by and stop.
“It’s different than being on Newark Ave or Central Avenue. It’s really not a neighborhood,” Kaplowitz added.
Mondello said Kush Klub is nearby but has not gotten city council approval.
Bunney noted they do not have Planning Board approval which is necessary for city council approval.
“It doesn’t bother me,” she said about the location.
They were approved 4-0.