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Jersey City Cannabis Dispensary Progress Continues Despite Legal Questions

While progress on the Jersey City cannabis dispensary front continues despite uncertainty, Mayor Steve Fulop is suing the State to stop cops from smoking weed.

Fulop & JCPD Take NJ Cannabis Law to Federal Court

Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop (D) and Public Safety Director James Shea announced a lawsuit filed in federal court challenging the Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act (CREAMMA). CREAMMA is the enabling law passed after the referendum legalized adult use cannabis in New Jersey passed by 67 percent.

“Legalization in New Jersey is a good thing. I have been a vocal supporter from the start.  However, that stands separate from this issue we are seeking to address. New Jersey’s CREAMMA law directly conflicts with federal law,” Fulop said.

He argued it exposes them to “to tens of millions of dollars in potential liability, compromising public safety, and jeopardizing police officers’ careers statewide.”

Fulop’s Press Secretary argued that despite the City’s repeated attempts, the state court continues to avoid addressing the root cause of this very serious issue of how municipalities throughout New Jersey can comply with the law.

Five JCPD officers took the Attorney General’s mandated drug test and tested positive for a Schedule 1 drug, which includes marijuana, cannabis, and THC. 

Federal Law Contradiction Problems

To comply with federal law, Jersey City was allegedly forced to terminate the officers because they could no longer carry a firearm which they saw is required of police officers. One got his job back.

The Federal Gun Control Act of 1968 prohibits anyone from smoking weed and shipping, transporting, receiving, and possessing firearms or ammunition.   

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) continues to claim the federal firearms law still prohibits cannabis use as it remains a Schedule I narcotic.

Therefore, in theory anyone who uses cannabis is ineligible to possess a firearm or ammunition. Safety-sensitive carve-outs are being passed with wording and details that vary from state to state. New Jersey has none

It’s unclear who is enforcing this or who is scaring the city into launching a lawsuit. More than 50 New Jersey adult use cannabis dispensaries are likely to open in Jersey City which would still make it the most pro-cannabis city in New Jersey.

Few other cities except for Atlantic City and Plainfield are in the running.

Fulop is running to succeed Governor Phil Murphy (D), who is term-limited, in 2025.

The Governor of New Jersey has the power to shape the New Jersey cannabis market. If Murphy had lost in 2021, it would likely look very different since his opponent would have placed new officials at the NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission (NJ-CRC).

Jersey Cannabis Board Continues Reviewing Dispensaries

The Cannabis Control Board (CCB) gave two Jersey City dispensaries final approval to open while others were carried.

“We finally have a cannabis business opening in Jersey City, which is exciting,” CCB Chair Brittani Bunney said.

She noted that RIPT Dispensary and Downtown Flowr have opened for adult use cannabis sales after opening for medical cannabis sales first.

Garden Greenz Approved

Garden Greenz, LLC at 190 Newark Ave was reviewed first for final approval to open. They are scheduled for a soft opening soon on the popular downtown Newark Pedestrian Plaza.

“We understand you have obtained a final license from the CRC (NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission)?” CCB attorney Ron Mondello asked.

Co-owner Brian Markey of East Hannover said they had received an annual license, and everything is in place for them to open.

“You’re the first to come back before us, Bunney noted.

She said they might want a status update in six months.

Markey agreed.

The CCB approved it unanimously, 5-0.

“This whole process has been extremely humbling. I know that for you guys, it may seem like a thankless job. I want to take the time to say to all of you… a heartfelt thank you,” Markey said.

(Full disclosure Garden Greenz is a Heady NJ Patreon supporter.)

“Congratulations,” Bunney said.

Cannabis Place 420 Corp. Approved to Open

The Cannabis Place 420 Corp. at 1542 JFK Blvd was next to receive final approval to open.

“Has there been any changes to what you submitted to us?” Jeff Kaplowitz asked.

“There was one minor change. We had to make a minor modification to the plans which the Building Department approved,” Cannabis Place 420 Corp. CEO Osbert Orduna said.

He explained they would be the first cannabis business to launch with a unionized workforce.

“95 percent of our employees are from Jersey City,” Orduna added.

They were approved unanimously 4-0.

Bunney recused herself.

Her day job is working for Hudson County Clerk Junior Maldonado. He is Orduna’s legally required local partner.

Orduna is suing the Washington State-based Kushmart since they are within 600 ft of their location. He’s arguing since he got a resolution from the city first they should be denied according to the City Council

Kushmart’s attorney Frank Vitolo complained about Orduna’s lawsuit stopping the Council from giving them a resolution. He took the Planning Board’s side which says the pin goes in the map when construction permits are pulled. The CCB approved both last July despite public opposition.

Grass House Company Reviewed

Grass House Company at 523 Tonnelle Ave was next. They were before the Board in September.

Michael Price is the majority owner.

“We requested you go to the local community and meet with the local groups,” Kaplowitz noted.

Noted cannabis attorney Fruqan Mouzon said they got a letter from Ward D Councilman Yousef Saleh and At Large Councilman Rivera.

(Full disclosure Mouzon is a Heady NJ Patreon subscriber.)

“We requested neighborhood groups,” Kaplowitz said.

Bunney noted she works for Saleh and thus must abstain.

“We requested specifically that you meet with the neighborhood groups. We wanted you to go up the hill and talk to the neighborhood groups there,” Kaplowitz explained.

“I am a part of that community. I put on two meetings. We had a great showing,” Price said.

He added one meeting was for business, and one was for residents.

“They were all happy with us coming into the community. That area on Tonnelle Ave. hasn’t been nice on the eyes,” Price explained.

Mouzon noted they submitted the sign-in sheet.

“Michael Price is a neighbor of mine. He’s well regarded,” Elijah Payton said. “The family is very good people.”

“He’s a very fine young boy. Please give him an opportunity,” Joanna Hernandez said.

“Mike is a hard worker. We support small businesses. We’ll make sure when the time comes that these workers get a living wage. We’re very proud to support this applicant,” UFCW union leader Hugh Giordano said.

“There was always a question about distance, but that is beyond us,” Kaplowitz noted.

Local Support Questioned

“Are there any leaders from any block associations here?” Vice Chair Jose Cantarero asked.

Price said Patrick Ambrosi of the Western Slope Association spoke for him previously.

“I had my meeting, and the people on the Western slope actually came down,” he added. “I spoke to the residents directly.”

“So, you just had a meet and greet at your location?” Commissioner Sonia Marte-Dublin asked.

Price noted he has Memorandums Of Understanding (MOUs) with the non-profit Styles House for helping foster kids and with Pershing Field to support youth sports.

“I wanted to see more input from the actual block associations. Marte-Dublin said. “There are so many locations approved for the Heights.”

“Do we vote on it? Kaplowitz asked. “Do we carry it and give them another opportunity?”

“We’ve sat up here and told people our expectations,” Bunney noted. “It’s just getting completely out of control.”

Price said the neighborhood association is small while he brought many people to the meeting.

“You had 88 people at your meeting. But you have at this meeting family and friends,” Bunney noted.

“It’s a little difficult getting people here. You see how nervous people are,” Price argued.

“It’s on a highway. It’s divorced from the concentration of cannabis stores,” Kaplowitz said. I’m torn. It’s a local individual. He did reach out to people to come.”

A motion was made to carry it.

“Bring here people who can say what their address is… and what they think of you,” Kaplowitz said. “You’re getting a third chance. Don’t waste it.”

They were carried 3-0, with Bunney and Commissioner Courtney Sloane abstaining.

The Cannabis Connoisseurs Dispensary Reviewed

The Cannabis Connoisseurs, LLC, at 912 Bergen Ave., was next.

“Where is the money coming from?” Mondello asked.

He said they did not receive their financial papers, which is a standard facet of the application.

Attorney Micci Weiss said they also had a business plan and MOUs which the Board said were missing.

Partner Ravi Sinha of Colts Neck in Monmouth County was the owner. He explained they’re Social Equity and minority-owned.

Sinha said he lived in Hudson County in his 20s while he is now 36. He noted he was in the underground legacy cannabis market and incarcerated.

“This charge came with lasting effects. Nobody wanted to hire a convicted felon,” Sinha said.

Ultimately, he got into real estate.

Partner Nasir Chaudry of Jersey City explains he is a sales manager at a car dealership. His family has been helping the Triangle Park Community Center in Greenville. They would like to continue to help them.

Jersey City Cannabis Dispensary Giving Back to the Community

“For seniors, we want to do discounts. We want to do food drives,” Chaudry explained.

Sinha said their Jersey City cannabis dispensary location is on the ground floor in the Journal Square area with nearly 5,000 sq ft and a parking lot nearby.

Sinha said they’ll support the Ferris High School baseball team with an annual donation of $20,000.

We’re waiting to make that donation.” he added.

Sinha said they’re also working with Prime Time Sports Academy.

He explained they also have an MOU with Hudson County Community College (HCCC).

“I’m here to offer the college’s support,” HCCC Associate Vice President for Continuing Education Laurie Margolin said.

She explained their cannabis studies program. Margolin noted they signed an MOU with them. The dispensary would train their students and give them internships. Margolin noted their location is close to their Journal Square campus.

Ferris High Head baseball coach Joshua Beteta also praised them.

Giordano praised them as the ideal candidates to open a dispensary.

They were carried to November unanimously, 5-0, so they could submit the proper papers.

At the end of the meeting, Bunney noted they want a private meeting with members of the City Council and the Law Department to resolve issues with the city’s cannabis ordinance.

Dispensary applications keep coming in while Jersey City will allow 2-5 times more dispensaries than the average New Jersey town.

Many dispensaries would like to be the last one approved.

City Council Approves Dispensaries

Last week the Jersey City Council did not take up the cannabis reform ordinance which has failed to pass for months.

Instead, they continued approving dispensaries to open. Last week Benedict’s Supply run by Sarah Russell, City Farm Dispensary, and White Lotus Dispensary were all approved by the council with little discussion and dissent.

The Council did not announce the result of their intention to resolve cannabis issues behind closed doors.

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