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Jersey City Planning Board Carries Kushmart Dispensary Due to Distance

The Jersey City Planning Board carried the Kushmart cannabis dispensary application due to distance concerns expressed by their rival, the Cannabis Place.

They were not approved last night. Instead, they must come back at the next meeting in two weeks.

Attorney Frank Vitolo explained applicant Kushmart at 1521 JFK Blvd, plans to gut the interior and improve the façade. He noted the Cannabis Control Board (CCB) approved them.

Vitolo said they met the criteria to be reviewed, including being separated by the necessary distance from other applicants.

“Is there any other cannabis business on the same block?” Dr. Vidya Desai said.

“According to that (planning) report, there were no facilities permitted. We complied with the ordinance,” Architect Chris Teeter said.

“I believe there is another cannabis retailer, the Cannabis Place, located at 1521 Kennedy Blvd,” Commissioner Steve Lipski said. “Is that something you recollect Matt?”

“Yes, there is a concurrent application. We are bound by the time of application. They submitted it prior to us observing that buffer,” Supervising Planner Matt Ward said. “Because of the time of application, they meet the condition of their zoning.”

“I appreciate that clarity,” Lipski said.

“They’re behind the other applicant,” Ward said. “We will respect buffers at the time permits are pulled. We have been asked to study and observe when a council resolution of local support is passed. That is the standard procedure.”

He said the Cannabis Place didn’t pull permits in time.

Kushmart Distance Problems

Lipski said the Cannabis Place already has approval from the Planning Board, the Cannabis Control Board, and the city council.

“If three governing bodies… approved the other application, that’s irrelevant?” he asked.

“This applicant would not be bound by that time because of time of application,” Ward said.

“Would there still be an ability to have two cannabis retailers on the same block?” Lipski asked.

Ward said because they had not pulled permits, the pin was not put in the map in time.

“So, you’re going to give permission to the second also?” Desai asked.

“This is the second one,” Planning Board Chair Christopher Langston said.

“If someone came in quicker, they’d be knocked out, and it would be a loss?” Commissioner Joey Torres asked.

“Because they’re concurrent at the time of application, they can both move forward and have jurisdiction,” Ward said.

“If the other one is constructing … will we be shooting ourselves in the foot?” Lipski asked.

“The time of the application is one the side of this application,” Ward said.

“Both could co-exist on the block?” Lipski asked.

“Yes, it’s the time of application that governs,” Attorney Jennifer Alampi for the city said.

“The applicant is in front of this legally. The permits were not pulled at the time of application,” Langston said.

“I don’t understand the practicality of it,” Lipski said.

“They did not have permits at the time of the current application was filed, and that is the governing standard,” Alampi said.

“How will this facility operate?” Torres asked.

Consumption Lounge Plans

Cannabis consultant Ryan Fingerhut noted they want a lounge. He explained the NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission (NJCRC) has not yet issued final consumption lounge regulations.

The CCB has said it will act once the NJCRC’s procedure is enacted.

“It’s currently going to be in use as an event space. The only entrance is a steel door,” Fingerhut said. “We separated out the application. We’re just moving forward with the retail location,” Fingerhut said.

“You’re going to have the consumption lounge, not the entertainment space? Or they’ll both exist at the same time?” Torres asked.

“We’re offering it to the community to use as an event space. We are not planning to run that for profit,” Fingerhut said.

Torres asked if that would continue.

Fingerhut said it would continue off-site.

Rival Cannabis Place Opposition

“We have pulled permits. Our location was pinned,” Cannabis Place CEO Osbert Orduna argued during public comment.

Hoboken attorney Brian Aloia on behalf of the Cannabis Place was poised to be next.

“Are you here an objector? Ward asked. “You should have raised your hand. I think we should conclude Mr. Orduna’s comment.”

“We would object to hearing testimony from Mr. Orduna if Mr. Aloia is going to testify,” Vitolo said.

“Mr. Orduna would be speaking on his own half,” Aloia said.

“Typically, the counsel would be here on behalf of the objector,” Alampi said.

“Mr. Orduna would like to be heard as a concerned individual,” Aloia said.

“That doesn’t make any sense,” Vitolo said.

“It’s up to the board,” Aloia said.

“It does a huge disserve to the community,” Orduna said. “It would be fair for me to receive my three minutes of public comment.”

Alampi asked Aloia if Orduna would be a witness.

“We can provide more information. Maybe the board should motion to carry this,” Ward said about Kushmart.

Confusion

“I would feel a lot more comfortable knowing where we stood,” Lipski said.

“You’re looking to carry what we established was a legally appropriate application.
It’s time of application, and our application is timely. These questions have arisen,” Vitolo said.

“By making this a race, it is not at all equitable.” He added. “It’s completely arbitrary to say it’s this race to the finish line. We’re legally and appropriately here. When we filed our application, no permits were pulled. It is clear he does not want a competitor. It happens all the time. You don’t have anything.”

“I can be heard,” Orduna interjected.

“There is no grounds to adjourn this,” Vitolo argued. “When something is carried, that’s when we’ll end up in court.”

“I believe this is legally in front of us. If my board wants more clarity… I’ll obviously let my board have more time,” Langston said. “It puts you back two weeks.”

“I’d like clarity,” Torres said.

“We’d like the public to be informed as we are,” Langston said.

Regulating a New Market

“It’s a little disingenuous to say we’re not in a race. We didn’t allow Mr. Orduna or his attorney to speak. I believe in the free market. A Burger King and a McDonald’s can exist on the same block,” Lipski said.

“I sat quietly waiting my turn,” Aloia said regarding speaking.

“A contesting attorney does put his appearance on the record on the get-go,” Langston noted.

Ward said there is an established procedure for that.

Langston added an opposing attorney had the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses.

He made a motion to carry Kushmart. It passed 6-0, with Dr. Orlando Gonzalez abstaining.

Orduna has made himself known in the community in Jersey City in contrast to Kushmart. He also has Hudson County Clerk Junior Maldonado as his minimum necessary local partner with five percent ownership.

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