Chris Velasquez of the Sativa Cross activist group wants to persuade the Dover Council in Morris County to allow a cannabis microbusiness.
Working with fellow Sativa Cross activist and Dover resident Chris Almada, they have successfully organized for cannabis in Dover.
“The council basically, they talked about it a little and placed a temp ban,” he explained.
Velasquez noted the council put in a temporary ban but plan to establish cannabis microbusiness dispensary regulations by the deadline of August 21st. The council voted in favor 5-2-2 for a temporary ban with two abstaining.
“They are in favor. They want to do it right,” he said.
“I think all the cannabis businesses in Dover should be minority or disability, women-owned, also by residents,” Velasquez added. “Everybody should have the chance to participate in the cannabis industry.”
Velasquez and Almada have been organizing their friends and family to grow the effort.
“I’m trying to get the cannabis community to come out and engage the community,” he said. Thus, they organized a letter-writing campaign for cannabis to be locally owned microbusinesses.
He then emailed Mayor Carolyn Blackman and the council to persuade them to support cannabis in Dover. Velasquez created a template people could use, a common organizing tactic. He received a response from his Alderman Adrian Ballesteros, who represents the Third Ward in Dover. Velasquez asked him to vote no on the temporary ban Dover enacted, and he did.
“He’s representing the people,” he said happily.
Fourth Ward Alderman Marcus Tapia suggested they arrange a meeting with the mayor and council.
“We wouldn’t have much of a problem with it if we had homegrow,” he said regarding the delay.
“While you figure it, we need homegrow,” he added. “I don’t want any more delays. If they want to take their sweet time. I’m asking them to help with homegrow.”
Velasquez wants to connect the Alderman Board’s Economic Development Committee with patients and industry leaders to familiarize them with the subject. In addition, he wants to arrange a tour of union-run dispensaries.
According to the Asbury Park Press, 66 percent of Dover voted for legalization.
Velasquez said he wants to start a Dover Cannabis Festival and bring doctors and industry experts to discuss its nuances.
Economic Development Committee Chair and Third Ward Alderman Edward Correa is in favor of a cannabis microbusiness in town along with a Dover Cannabis Festival.
“The streets are for the people,” Velasquez recounted Correa saying.
Velasquez has also been writing letters to his state representatives Senator Tony Bucco and Assembly members Brain Bergen and Anita Dunn (R-Morris). Velasquez said Dunn replied with a generic letter explaining that “Trenton is looking into homegrow.” Bergen seemed in support but complained that “Trenton dropped the ball on the whole marijuana thing.” Velasquez asked him to co-sponsor the homegrow bill in the assembly and has not heard back.
Sativa Cross Activism for a Cannabis Microbusiness
To gather public support for a cannabis microbusiness dispensary in town, Velasquez organized cannabis activists to participate in a recent town clean-up effort and told the mayor he was doing so. The first occurred on April 17th.
“We were giving free weed to people that wanted to help or supported cannabis. It was awesome. People came out from the community, older people they are hurting with arthritis and other ailments. They all want access now,” he explained.
“The second one, we stepped it up a little,” he said. “We need to make more noise,” he said.
They had a sign that said, “Honk for Free Weed.”
Sativa Cross is known for its use of unconventional tactics.
“Anybody that honked and stopped, I gave them a free joint,” he explained.
They had a table outside Salem Village in Dover.
“A lot of people wanted weed,” he said.
A range of people and ages took them up on the offer. Velasquez noted elderly people came up and inquired what they were doing.
“They voted for this, so they want access, especially the elderly people,” Velasquez said. “They have arthritis. They have migraines. They have metal plates in.”
“Everyone was so happy to receive a free joint, especially the people who don’t have access,” he said. Regular law-abiding citizens are not likely to find a connection to purchase street cannabis in the underground market.
One person who wanted to help clean was given a joint, a bag, and a picker stick. While they initially thought he left with the joint, he returned soon after with a bag full of trash from the other side of the street.
The father of a friend who overdosed on heroin stopped by and said he wished “his son had more access to cannabis than the opioids he was doing,” Velasquez said.
The effort was colored with one unique incident. Velasquez said the cops were called on them.
“They didn’t really know what to do,” Velasquez recounted.
“I’m not selling it; I’m giving it away for free!” he told them. He noted people can possess up to six ounces and gift up to an ounce.
“He really didn’t know what to do,” Velasquez said.
After the officer’s bafflement, he called his supervisor and sat in his car.
“Then he left. No supervisor came. We continued giving out free weed on streets,” Velasquez said. “It was one of the greatest days of my life.”
While promoting their effort, they cleaned up beer cans, cigarette butts, and one broken side mirror.
Dover and Cannabis Crimes
Dover is a Hispanic majority, Democratic town in the largely White Republican Morris County. Velasquez said it was scary to leave Dover as a teenager since the police were more hostile elsewhere.
He was arrested several times for cannabis crimes in his teens.
“I’ve been fucked over by the weed laws so many times,” he said.