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Premo in Keyport & Cannaboy Tree House in South Orange Open Black-owned Dispensaries

Premo Cannabis Company in Keyport and Cannaboy Tree House in South Orange recently opened local, black-owned adult-use dispensaries.

The lack of minority business owners has been a significant issue in the New Jersey cannabis market for years. So this is good progress.

Premo Cannabis Company Opens 1st Black Central Jersey Dispensary in Keyport

The Black and locally owned Premo Cannabis Company held its grand opening of the first adult-use cannabis dispensary in Keyport in Monmouth County in Central Jersey.

They are an underground legacy to legal company. Creating a path for underground legacy operators to go legit has been a significant issue in the New Jersey cannabis market for years.

“It’s amazing,” President/Chief Operating Officer and co-founder Darrin Chandler Jr. said about the opening. He reached the goal line after trying to get into the legal New Jersey cannabis market since about 2019.

Inside was a festive atmosphere with rap music playing as budtenders checked out customers.

Premo Cannabis Company had a vibrant atmosphere. The large old bank had artistic, historic features complemented by a modern mural.

Inside the Premo Cannabis Company dispensary in Keyport

Outside in the large parking lot was a food truck with Hispanic offerings and a free ice cream stand.

A price menu of their legal New Jersey adult-use cannabis flower was displayed above the budtenders.

“We have a really good team,” Darrin said.

Great Location for a Keyport Cannabis Dispensary

Premo Cannabis Company secured a key location. Keyport is a small beach town with a few fun bars and shops to visit in the downtown commercial district where they operate. Also, most nearby towns in Monmouth County do not allow dispensaries.

However, they can’t use the bank’s original front door even though it’s at a prominent intersection.

Leading New Jersey cannabis professional Colby Piper noted he works with Darrin in the Ripco real estate company. He explained the town wouldn’t let them use the front door. A petition launched by a former budtender and local advocate thought it would bring too much traffic.

Darrin Jr. didn’t mind because their large parking lot would be such an advantage.

The fight for a Green Zone location where cannabis companies are allowed is intense throughout New Jersey. Keyport was generous enough to refund $5,000 to an applicant not in the zone.

Many Brands for Sale

Premo Cannabis Company featured the new cannabis cultivator Clade 9, a small corporate Multi-State Operator (MSO) from California, along with the newer local independent cultivator Garden Greens.

“We always want to differentiate ourselves so we’re staying on top of the independent cultivators coming online,” Darrin explained.

That day, there were many licensed brands with representatives present, including ones for the small MSO manufacturer Fernway, the large MSO Ascend, and the large MSO Curaleaf, along with Vibes rolling papers.

They also featured companies that made deals with large MSOs to get to market, like local Black entrepreneurs Mudd Brothers, the women-owned small MSOs Gron and Miss Grass, and 1906, which is a small MSO based in Colorado owned by a Jersey native.

Darrin said there are gems among the MSO products they are selling.

“Everything on my menu is fire,” he declared.

They had many discounts available.

Premo Cannabis Company was founded by two father-and-son teams, the Chandlers and the Blanks.

Donald Blanks is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer and his son is Co-Founder and Vice President Skye Blanks.

Darrin Chandler Sr. is also a co-founder.

Darrin Jr. said his dad is an underground legacy to legal success story.

“My family is Social Equity. My father is a survivor of the War on Drugs. So is Donny. We have people who didn’t make it in jail or died,” he explained.

“For us, we thought that Black and Brown people were the biggest losers of the criminalization of cannabis. So we should be the biggest winners. This is bigger than business for us. It’s a turning point in our family,” Darrin Jr. added.

Thus, Premo Cannabis Company is near the Goldilocks type of cannabis company many in the New Jersey cannabis industry and community want to succeed.

Worthy Grant winners

Darrin argued that given their underground legacy to legal status, Premo Cannabis Company was worthy of help.

Thus, Premo was among the 48 cannabis businesses that received a combined $12 million last fall that qualified for the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) cannabis grants program.

They were among those confirmed to be locals unlike other winners who might still be minority or women-owned.

 “We are so thankful to the New Jersey (Cannabis Regulatory Commission) for giving us this opportunity, as well as the NJEDA for their program to help cannabis businesses,” Darrin said.

 “We were some of the lucky few to be awarded during the journey.”

“Providing the largest grant of its kind in the nation demonstrates EDA’s commitment that aims to build a lasting “stronger and fairer New Jersey,” explained NJEDA Community Development Managing Director Jenell Johnson.

Family Business

Darrin Jr. said Darrin Sr. and Donald are old friends from the Bronx. Donald and Darrin Sr. worked in the music industry together. Darrin Sr. was General Manager of Rock-a-Fella Records, owned by Jay Z and his former partner Damon Dash, a cousin of Darrin Sr.

“He’d be like my uncle,” Darrin Jr. said. “I met Kanye West before he was famous.”

Darrin Jr. is from Hackensack in Bergen County and now lives nearby in Teaneck.

“I came into the game seasoned,” he noted. “My family are entrepreneurs, serial entrepreneurs.”

Skye is a Senior Project Manager for the International Council for Small Business. So, he is an expert in launching micro, small, and medium-sized businesses.

Progress After Years

Chandler has been at the forefront of advocating for an expanded New Jersey Cannabis industry for years. Darrin and father applied in the 2019-2021 medical cannabis license lottery. He was vocal to the NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission (NJCRC) about his unhappiness with the way it was conducted. They were among those who sued about it unsuccessfully.

They then decided to get an adult-use cannabis cultivation license under the name Premium Genetics. But raising more for it was difficult, so they decided to open a dispensary.

“I never got discouraged,” Darrin declared. “I felt like the stars would align always from the beginning, and today is the day.”

They still want a cultivation site.

Local Town Residents Co-Owners

Darrin said Keyport was receptive since the Blanks have been pillars of the community for years.

Donald owns Real Gymm in Keyport and serves as an athletic trainer, mentor, and coach. They have donated time, memberships, and resources to the youth of New Jersey, impacting the lives of many families.

“I’ve been involved in local programs, football, youth programs. Everyone knows me well,” Donald explained.

“We had a lot of support to help us get to this point. We are thankful and appreciative of the community,” he added.

“To be building a business in the town that I grew up in. The stars really aligned. Cannabis isn’t a scary thing. It helps people. I want to make sure that we advocate for injustices that affected our community during the War on Drugs,” Skye said.

Much Praise

Chandler was recognized by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy (D) at the New Jersey State of the State in January 2023 for his work in the cannabis industry.

“Darrin, great job, keep up the great work,” Murphy said in a press release.

“Donny has been an upstanding member of our community for many years. I have seen many examples of his character and talents and have long been impressed by his diligence and work ethic,” Keyport Bayfront Business Cooperative President Lawrence Vecchio declared.

“I can think of few who are as suited to introduce a Cannabis Retail Business into our Borough. Mr. Blanks’ positive example on the youth and others in Keyport is inarguable,” Keyport Council Member Dennis Fotopoulos said.

Premo Cannabis Company won the annual license needed to open its dispensary from the NJCRC in December 2023.

Black Owned CannaBoy Treehouse Micro Dispensary Opens in South Orange

The Cannaboy Tree House micro dispensary recently opened the first dispensary in South Orange in Essex County by the downtown train station. They were among those that opened on 4/20.

CannaBoy Tree House Dispensary South Orange

CannaBoy Tree House is a micro dispensary and is eager to make its mark on the Jersey cannabis market.

The atmosphere was colorful, with a peace sign and a picture of Africa displayed, while incense created a pleasing aroma.

In addition, CannaBoy Tree House was full of fun art with a few graffiti portraits around the place along with balloons and a TV playing along with rap music. They also had unique art like infamous boxer/cannabis entrepreneur Mike Tyson and Nickie Minaj cut outs.

CannaBoy Tree House Dispensary South Orange

They featured peanut butter brownies from the Black-owned manufacturer with a large MSO deal But A Cake. But they had red tape issues providing more.

“We’re waiting for everybody to get through the door. Slowly but surely,” Manager Tatiana Lofton said about new cultivators and manufacturers.

Interestingly, they had paper menus, along with one displayed on a TV.

Prospering has been a struggle throughout the process.

“We hear it from the CRC, and the campaign for cannabis is we want locals, we minorities, we want small businesses, but it’s tough to hear that and not see that happening in real life. We’re trying to stay positive,” Lofton said.

Quality Independent Dispensary Budtenders

“One thing that differentiates is culture and customer service,” budtender and entrepreneur Anthony Johnson said.

He previously worked for the large MSO Apothecarium and was happy to jump.

“It’s corporate. There’s no growth. That’s why you go with something like this and grow from the ground up,” Johnson said.

“The corporate entities, they just want to get you in and out. I like that this is smaller and intimate,” he added.

Johnson explained they often sacrifice quality for quantity when mass cultivating and producing.

He praised Garden Greens.

Johnson said dispensaries could sell seeds to home grower consumers if home grow was legal.

But it’s still a felony.

Lofton praised the creative ideas of Johnson and his fellow budtenders. She noted the Catholic Seton Hall University is nearby in town. Johnson was interested in fostering cannabis education at Seton Hall among students.

Ownership Background

Brenda Hopper, the former director of the NJ Small Business Development Center attached to Rutgers University before retiring, is the owner of CannaBoy Tree House. She is the mother of Linsey Lofton and grandmother of Tatiana and her sister Sasha who is also involved in the management of the business.

Hooper saved money up for years and invested it in the company.

“We didn’t have any other investors besides Brenda. The success of this business is imperative,” Tatiana said.

Making Progress in South Orange

“We were the first. It was strenuous. It took way longer to get here than we thought,” Tatiana said.

Thoroughness in the license application process made the community feel comfortable. But it took time.

“This very new business … is coming into this quant family town,” she said. “So, it’s making sure everyone’s ducks are in a row.”

CannaBoy Tree House has had to make several compromises to open.

They can’t put the word “dispensary” on their sign or window, much less “weed store.” So Tatiana was unhappy most potential foot traffic consumers are not aware they are a dispensary selling legal weed/cannabis.

But she said the town was worried they are near schools.

“The whole town is like, how is this gonna go?” she noted. “We’re checking IDs not once but twice. We’re trying to set the standard.”

South Orange is not the only town that is nervously pro-cannabis and demands such compromises. However, they are in favor of consumer lounges.

Union Township CBD Store Owners Pivot to South Orange

CannaBoy Tree House first opened as a CBD shop in 2019 in nearby Union Township in Union County. However, it was not the Green Zone where cannabis is allowed since the town only permits dispensaries on the Rt. 22 highway.

 Linsey is a long-time consumer and launched a CBD store to convert it into a dispensary.

“Our relationships are good in Union,” Tatiana added. “It was definitely a surprise.”

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