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Council Approves Hoboken Cannabis Dispensary Agreements Narrowly

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The Hoboken City Council approved Community Host Agreements (CHAs) for Blue Violets and Village Hoboken cannabis dispensaries narrowly despite opposition.

During the Public Comment period, Blue Violets co-owner Max Thompson thanked the Council in advance for supporting his CHA. He noted that they received a resolution from them in September after they had passed the Planning Board. The CHA had to be amended which is why they had to come back.

“It reflects a fair proposal in light of us being Hoboken’s only micro dispensary,” Thompson said. “It’s been nearly a year and a half since the cannabis political saga began.”

He noted the issue with smoke shops and others selling street cannabis and Delta-8 legally which gets you high.

NJ Cannabis Dispensary Issues Highlighted

“For years there has been a head shop and liquor store across from All Saints school. We trust parents to talk to their children. It’s a small city. Children are everywhere,” Thompson declared. “There is nothing commons sense about an arbitrary distance requirement.”

Hoboken political activist Liz Urtecho launched the lawsuit and is running against 5th Ward Councilman Phil Cohen who running as part of Mayor Ravi Bhalla’s ticket.

“We are literally putting every penny of ours on the line,” Thompson said to applause.

“Village Dispensary is approximately 650 feet from the Hoboken High School which violates the city’s buffer,” Urtecho claimed.

She said they wanted it grandfathered in before the requirement went into effect. But the distance issue Urtecho said should apply to Blue Violets.

“I am asking the city council postpone both… contingent upon the outcome of that case which is going to court July 18th,” Urtecho said. “The public schools are not being served equally.”

Bob Conrad said there was a lack of social justice in the Community Host Agreements. He argued there’s supposed to be money for security, expungement clinics, affordable housing, and food banks.

“None of those specifics are in the types of agreements I read,” Conrad said.

Political Debate of Blue Violets

“I thought it was going to be carried to August until after the case,” 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher said. “I don’t know why this is back on here.”

She called the amended ordinance “common sense” and a compromise at 600 when Mayor Ravi Bhalla wanted a 700-foot distance. Her political faction wanted 500 feet.

“It might feel arbitrary,” Fisher said.

“Having this restriction seemed to reflect the interest of the majority,” she claimed.

Fisher noted the great power towns have to regulate cannabis and impose Community Host Agreements.

“Blue Violets did not submit their application until after our laws went into effect. They chose not to,” Fisher alleged.

“The only thing that is being questioned is whether or not the Cannabis Review board… is considered a land use board,” she argued. “It’s not up for us to decide.”

Fisher said they’re less than 300 feet from two schools. She was eager to nitpick during the Community Host Agreements ordinance debate.

Political Posturing on Hoboken Cannabis Distance Issues

Hoboken for Responsible Cannabis led by Fisher’s ally Urtecho launched the suit she noted.

“Many of the things you just said are your interpretations. These are things the court will decide. If this host agreement is approved tonight, there will be no grand opening of the store tomorrow. There are further steps necessary to open,” At Large Councilman Jim Doyle asked.

He said the question is whether a dispensary is part of the land use process.

“I disagree with many if not most of your comments. Calling it common sense over and over doesn’t make it common sense,” At Large Councilman Jim Doyle

declared.

“At first I thought it might be prudent to wait,” At Large Councilman Joe Quintero said.

He said legal counsel said to proceed.

“This might be the last step in one of the applications before opening and I hope they do,” Quintero said.

“Maybe if we had bigger problems, you would have noticed,” he said. “We have been conditioned in this country since the 30s to believe this product is bad. These businesses followed the rules we set up to a T.”

“This community is saying… it’s ok to change the rules out from somebody because we don’t like it,” Quintero declared.

“If you do open, I’ll show up,” he added to applause.

Cannabis Legalization Details Partisan Debate

“We actually finalized what we as a municipality is going to get for coming into Hoboken,” Council Vice President Mike Russo said. “It might be related to police officers or social justice reforms or what the Administration decides. The mayor then negotiates that.”

“We’re not voting on do we want this dispensary. That’s been decided on. That’s being litigated,” he added. “I understand there’s a lot of fear involved. Everyone should vote for this.”

“I don’t have any fear,” 6th Ward Councilwoman Jenn Giattino declared. “This isn’t good for our town. As a mother of 3 teenage boys, I don’t want it and I’m voting no.”

“As a father of four children, I vote yes,” Russo declared.

The Hoboken Council approved them 5-4 with 1st Ward Councilman Mike De Fusco, Fisher, Giattino, and 4th Ward Councilman Ruben Ramos voting no.

Village Hoboken Cannabis Dispensary Debate

The Village Hoboken cannabis dispensary was then debated. It’s owned by Viola, which is owned by former NBA star Al Harrington and a local.

“Village is on the 500 block of Washington and within 5600 ft of Demarest (Middle School),” Fisher said. We’ve heard from a few parents who are not happy. We don’t know if the parents of the middle school are aware.”

“You’re welcome to your opinion. There was a significant debate over what the 600 ft means,” Doyle said.

He said on the Planning Board, it is “as the crow flies.” However, the Cannabis Review Board was the beginning of the process.

“We’ve already had the discussion… of all these issues. They’ve all been decided in a way some council people don’t like,” Cohen said.

“Two years ago, we made a mistake,” De Fusco claimed. 

He said he had been working on having only three dispensaries in town.

“It’s a mistake I often lose sleep over,” De Fusco claimed.

He said he went to the Ascend dispensary in Montclair to buy adult use cannabis and noted the length of the line.

 “I made a mistake when I voted yes on the new rules. Folks followed the rules. We got to treat them fairly,” Quintero said.

The Hoboken Council also passed the Village Hoboken cannabis dispensary Community Host Agreements 5-4 on the same lines.

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