The Jersey City Council approved a resolution halting the Jersey City Cannabis Control Board (CCB) and the Council from approving more companies starting next month.
It says that the CCB, the Planning Board, and City Council cannot review cannabis companies for six months. The resolution is likely to leave several cannabis companies in limbo with CCB approval and NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission (NJCRC) approval. They would not have had the City Council resolution necessary to open.
Local and Minority Cannabis Companies in Trouble
Chris Broderick of Legacy to Lifted, a local Social Equity dispensary applicant, explained that while he has CCB approval, he does not have Planning Board nor City Council approval. The process for those approved has taken months. Thus, he is not optimistic regarding the process.
“I’ve been working extremely hard on locating a site. I’m at the finish line,” said cannabis entrepreneur John Schram during the council meeting. “The ordinance disenfranchises those of us who wish to open dispensaries in other areas. This ordinance could bankrupt us.”
He explained he is a local. If the resolution passed, it could cost him tens of thousands of dollars, the loss of his investor, and his state conditional license if they delay the whole process for six months.
“Give us a deadline to make,” Schram added.
He wanted to open elsewhere in the area but had problems with the small green zones where cannabis companies are allowed.
Cannabis Companies Advocate
Jersey City cannabis company owner Naimah Terry denounced the moratorium. She argued it would hurt local entrepreneurs.
“A true local minority women-owned business… could be negatively impacted,” she explained.
Sarofiem pled with them to make an exception. She noted the ordinance would ruin her as well. Sarofiem pointed out that while many have been CCB-approved, few local and minority-owned businesses have made it further in the process.
“Your people, your constituents, have taken it a little longer to get ahead,” she argued.
“Our city is saying sorry you couldn’t get here fast enough,” Sarofiem declared.“These companies and people not from Jersey City will open first. Please don’t pass this resolution.”
“My family has been in Jersey City for over three generations now,” CCB-approved Cannabotique by Greenhouse dispensary owner Julissa Bonilla explained. “I do not agree with how this will affect me or others. Some of us are just one step away from being approved.”
“I’m here pleading with you guys,” she added.
Bonilla said the City Council should approve those approved by the Planning Board and CCB.
“I don’t think it’s fair,” she stated. “The CRC is only allowing a certain amount of extensions.”
Bonilla argued they have not prioritized locals or minorities. She noted the costly and long process to apply.
Jersey City Cannabis Progress Halt Pushed
Ward D Councilman Yousef Saleh made the initial motion to amend the resolution to push the halt of all Jersey City cannabis progress to May 15th.
“We’re not trying to move the goalposts for anyone. It was something that was not thought of when we were writing this. People in the pipeline can move forward until then,” At Large Councilwoman Amy DeGise said.
“We’ll have something more substantive when it comes to the ordinance and putting a cap in place. There’s a few things we have to clean up,” Saleh explained.
“How many micro businesses did we pass so far?” City Council President Joyce Watterman asked.
Her daughter’s dispensary Butler and Baldwin got their resolution months ago.
“I can get that number for you,” Corporation Counsel Peter Baker said.
Ward B Councilwoman Mira Prinz-Arey said a committee would make changes to the Jersey City cannabis law. She claimed that along with the Council, the Planning Board, and the CCB, “members of the public will be part of the process.”
Social Equity, Locals, Minority, and Women Businesses Prioritization Problems
“In the next iteration of the cannabis ordinance, we should make sure that Social Equity applicants and minorities and women are given priority,” Saleh said. “We have a lot of women here Jersey City born and raised. They deserve a shot.”
“Thank you for the amendments,” Ward E Councilman James Solomon said.
“As a council, we have to have some control over what’s going on. I know that minorities and individuals who didn’t necessarily have the big financial capacity were going to run into some roadblocks. So I didn’t want to get into the business of penalizing them,” Ward F Councilman Frank Gilmore said.
“I hope 10.40 (the Jersey City cannabis resolution) is a brief break. Hopefully, see you on the agenda here soon. We’re actually pausing to check our current state versus what our desired state is supposed to be,” DeGise explained. “That really is in all of our minds to prioritize Jersey City residents, Social Equity applicants, people who want to create businesses here, raise their families here.”
She raised the concern that none of the approved dispensaries is open yet.
Legal Cannabis Market and Competition Predictions
There remains no solely adult-use cannabis dispensary open yet in New Jersey. Even for those with money, land, and local approval, the State has imposed a lengthy process with a great deal of red tape necessary to open.
“We want to ensure we’re doing all we can to keep you in business and keep you here,” DeGise claimed.
“Part of the goal was to help women and minority businesses from the very beginning. If a sufficient number wasn’t approved, we failed as a city. A lot of the big guys have come in and been approved,” Watterman admitted. “I was surprised that some people from the community allowed them to be put on the application and have five percent ownership. I know some of them didn’t live here. It probably squeezed out a little of the little guys. Now we’re faced with decisions on how to go forward with this.”
“It’s out of control,” she argued. “That’s just the truth.”
“We do want to create generation wealth,” Watterman claimed. “I’m just concerned what happened in the process.”
The amended Jersey City cannabis resolution to halt progress in a month was approved 8-0 with At Large Councilman Daniel Rivera absent.
Legalization Implementation Issues
The CCB has approved forty-six dispensaries. According to the Jersey City Department of Commerce,17 dispensaries have received City Council resolutions.
A license cap at 55 dispensaries was defeated in November.
The CCB approved a range of cannabis companies. That includes local minorities, serial businesspeople from Jersey City and the rest of New Jersey, and those with few ties to New Jersey nor interest in social justice who see an opportunity.
There are distance issues since the law says cannabis dispensaries must be a certain distance from each other. However, the CCB and Planning Board have different interpretations of when an applicant can claim turf. There is also a concern that a company that cannot open will claim to turf at the expense of others.
Also, many are worried about the nature of an excess of competition in the nascent New Jersey cannabis industry. Many people are trying to predict things they do not understand.