The Jersey City Council debated cannabis dispensary distance during their caucus meeting. Two dispensaries were up for approval during their regular Council meeting.
Jersey City Commerce Department Director Maynard Woodson noted the Planning Board approved the adult-use cannabis dispensary applicant Green Flamingo on November 29th. They are poised to receive a city resolution, the last step in the local process.
Green Flamingo is set to open up in the Heights in the north of the city on Central Ave, the neighborhood’s business district.
“They have a signed MOU (Memo of Understanding) with Miracle Temple committing $7,500 per year,” he noted.
“What happens when both applications go to the state to be approved but the ordinance prohibits them to be within 600 ft. of each other? Ward F Councilman Frank “Educational” Gilmore asked.
“We should be hearing all applications. The pin doesn’t really go into the map until the council approves their resolution,” Woodson said.
“So, there’s a possibility we could either be sued or have two dispensaries within a 600 ft radius?” Gilmore asked about the cannabis dispensary distance.
“I would say the latter. You’ll have some that will be less than 600 ft,” Woodson said.
“We can be sued right?” Council President Joyce Watterman asked.
“That’s a question for Director Baker,” Woodson said.
“We don’t put the pin in the map until the council approves it. If it receives council approval, there’s things that could happen at the state level that would result in removing the pin,” Corporation Counsel Peter Baker said. “There could always be litigation surrounding that, and we could deal with that on a case-by-case existence.”
Gilmore asked if they could reimburse businesses for the approval process, noting the cost of the application process.
“Reimbursement for what?” Baker asked.
Jersey City Cannabis Dispensary Distances
“We’re seeing this in more than one location in the city. Does it make sense to press pause on approving these? We talked about caps,” Ward B Councilwoman Mira Prinz-Arey said.
She explained she knew three cannabis dispensary distance problems since they were all in the process of getting a resolution.
“People are investing a lot of time and money, and there are multiple levels to this process,” Prinz-Arey said.
“Can we make sure if city permits are on the same wavelength?” Ward A Councilwoman Denise Ridley asked.
She said a dispensary is seeking Planning Board approval, but a pin in the map could preclude them.
“I’ll speak to Planning. I’ll figure where everyone is before the meeting on Wednesday,” Baker said.
“Should we put a pause in it?” Watterman asked. “We should abide by what the law says. This is a real problem.”
“I can get the information, and we’ll be in touch,” Baker said about Jersey City cannabis dispensary distance issues.
“When you’re looking into this industry… there’s inherent risk involved. People getting into this business are aware of the risk involved,” Saleh said.
They previously discussed providing local financial assistance.
He noted that a city resolution is the highest hurdle of the application process to opening.
“It is on us when it passes the city council to put the pin in,” Ward D Councilman Yousef said. “Do we have a map?”
“We do,” Woodson said.
“Just in Ward F alone, you have three dispensaries trying to get on Grand Street and Communipaw. All three applications are in. Either someone is going to try to sue the city. Or we’ll get in a worser situation where … all of them open up,” Gilmore said.
Woodson said one of the three withdrew.
Determining a Distance Judge
“Why does the CCB (Cannabis Control Board) Board approve them if the distance… they’re not supposed to be there? Why does it come to us?” Watterman asked.
“No one really has a license at this point,” Woodson said.
He noted most cannabis dispensary distances issues with applications are at different levels in the process. Very few have final approval in the New Jersey conditional and annual cannabis company licensing process.
“I will review what the state has given us,” Baker said. “There could be a reason that the previous application could not go forward. Then the secondary application could be quote-unquote next in line.”
“We want the construction to be done over there. We’re looking like the bad guys here,” At Large Councilman Daniel Rivera said.
“We are. Each one that comes, I want to know the distances in question since we have to make the final decision,” Watterman said. “Do they have a distance problem?”
“They don’t,” Woodson said. “We do have somewhat of a saturation on Central Ave.”
“Each SID (Special Improvement District) had a limit,” Saleh said.
“There’s some SIDs it can’t go,” Gilmore said.
“We’re building the airplane as we’re flying it,” Prinz-Arey said.
“How many so far is on Central Ave?” Watterman asked.
“I believe there’s four,” Woodson said.
Local Modiv Issues
He then explained Local Modiv dispensary was also up for approval.
“This application was actually denied by the CCB. But there was a ruling by Superior Court Judge Tortulla who sent it back to the CCB with a remand to approve,” Woodson said.
“Is there a distance issue w this one? Prinz-Arey asked.
“I think it created one,” Woodson said.
“And that one is approved?” Prinz-Arey asked.
“Maybe we can hold back for two weeks. They haven’t spoken to anyone in the area. Those businesses are pretty up in arms. We actually got a pretty detailed email on that specific one,” Rivera said.
“We can table this one,” Watterman said.
“Let’s be clear on where it is in terms of the dots on the map on Wednesday,” Ward E Councilman James Solomon said. “I don’t have an issue for us for waiting for two weeks and asking this business to reach out to members of the SID.”
“Maybe there’s a checklist for the CCB Board. What are they voting up or down on? I don’t feel like it should be our job to decipher this. If they know it’s in the wrong location, how is it even passing?” Ridley asked.
“There is a list of factors that should be considered,” Baker said. “It’s not a strict rubric per se.”
He said the CCB has leeway to weigh factors.
“Could distance be included?” Watterman asked.
“It is currently within the ordinance,” Woodson said.
“There’s a whole conversation that needs to take place. We are the ones that will take the hit. We’ll get back on this one,” Watterman said.
She wanted the CCB to be the ultimate judge of distance issues.
“I’ll review that with them,” Baker said.
“We’ll get back on this one. They’ll meet with the community. The other one, you’ll let us know about the distance,” Watterman said.
No one explained why they were concerned about distance.
It’s likely a reflection of the stigma of prohibition. A lot of towns imposed many distance requirements. Many don’t like them near churches, schools, homes, playgrounds, and downtowns.
Those opposing cannabis dispensaries have stronger ties to elected officials than the collection of pro-cannabis entrepreneurs, consultants, lawyers, few activists, and their friends do in most towns.
Towns are regulating an industry before fully understanding its nuances or protecting favored businesses.
Regulating an East Coast Cannabis Hub
Jersey City is poised to be the advanced city on cannabis on the East Coast, with their previous 50 cap ordinance failing. The city is in the process of approving a wide range of Jersey City minority serial entrepreneurs, New Jersey-based companies, and a host of small Multi-State Operators (MSOs) with only one or two other dispensaries. Thus they are actually the most lenient on cannabis dispensary distance issues.
There are also several consumption lounges seeking to open. They remain controversial even in the established state legal markets in the West.
But New York City across the river is very eager to catch up and surpass Jersey City.
(On the map above, the pink dots are dispensaries and their range, and blue areas are prohibited due to schools.)