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Jersey City Moves Cannabis Law Revisions and Dispensary OKs

The Jersey City Council reviewed the second reading of their long-awaited revised cannabis law, which seeks to cap the number of dispensaries at 48 during their caucus and the Cannabis Control Board (CCB) reviewed cannabis company applications.

The proposed Jersey City cannabis law imposes a cap of 48 New Jersey cannabis dispensaries, with 8 per ward. There are six wards in the city.

Those with an annual license from the NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission (NJ-CRC) and those with city resolutions will not be hindered by the revisions.

Seventeen cannabis dispensaries have gotten resolutions, according to the Jersey City Department of Commerce cannabis map. Some of them also have annuals. Fifty-five cannabis companies addresses approved by the CCB, according to the Department of Commerce.

Many that passed the CCB have neither.

Jersey City Cannabis Law Revisions

The Jersey City cannabis law revisions allow 3 cultivators, 3 manufacturers, 3 wholesalers, and 3 distributor licenses.

Industrial space is so expensive in Jersey City that the CCB has not reviewed any applications for these types of licenses thus far.

The CCB will be empowered to regulate its schedule. They can handle renewal and further applications at their discretion.

Borrowing from the NJ-CRC, prioritization of who should get licenses is formalized as follows.  

“a. A microbusiness as defined herein;

b. A “social equity business” as defined in N.J.A.C. § 17:30-6.6;

c. Minority-Owned Businesses;

d. Women-Owned Businesses;

e. Minority- and Women-Owned Businesses;

f. Service-Disabled Veterans;

g. Individuals convicted of a cannabis-related offense prior to the effective date of the legalization of cannabis, or had a parent, guardian, child, spouse, or dependent, or was a dependent of an individual who, prior to the effective date of legalization of cannabis in New Jersey, was convicted of a cannabis-related offense.”

Cannabis Dispensary Cap Issues

“There’s a moratorium on accepting new applicants. The purpose of that delay was to allow passage of changes to chapter 84,” attorney Tom Slattery explained.

The CCB has been reviewing applications that applied before the moratorium.

“Those applicants already in the pipeline would still have the old rules apply to them. We wouldn’t overturn those,” Slattery noted.

“Everyone else is someone in the process,” Slattery noted.

“There’s going to be 150 applicants. How many applicants are already in the queue?” Ward F Councilman Frank “Educational” Gilmore asked.

“I believe there are 19 or 20 in the process still,” Slattery replied.

He added the cap creates a more competitive process.

“It was less about choosing the best applicants,” Slattery admitted regarding the process. “It’s less of a first one through the door… and something more akin to competitive licensing.”

“There’s 19 waiting. There’s a plethora approved. It’s a long waiting period,” Gilmore noted.

“The number of applicants in the pipeline exceeds the cap. Those applicants won’t be punished,” Slattery noted.

Distance Issues Raised

Ward A Councilwoman Denise Ridley had concerns about cannabis companies in the pipeline.

“They are all in the pipeline, and no one is going to be cut off,” Slattery replied.

Ridley noted the distance issue.

“We know Central Avenue is a problem. What have we done to fix that problem?” she asked.

“We would remove hard and fast rules about distancing,” Slattery explained.

He said they would have a more holistic review of the location.

“In places where it’s more appropriate to be near each other, the board can review,” Slattery added.

“How do you determine which are is better served?” Ridley asked about the revised cannabis law.

“We thought it better to, rather than draw a simple line, include an explanation of the location and how it serves the city,” Slattery replied.

“In my opinion, that’s too subjective,” Ridley said.

Frank Robinson, whose Garden Greenz dispensary is set to open this fall, was satisfied with the Jersey City cannabis law revision.

“There are two in my ward sharing a wall. There’s still the issue of the pin in the map,” Ward B Councilwoman Mira Prinz-Arey said.

She was also concerned about the CCB’s dispensary renewal process timeline.

Slattery replied that dispensaries securing approval need state approval to open, which will factor into their consideration.

“Are you going to propose an ordinance to change the from Jersey City to Pot City?” Ward C Councilman Rich Boggiano asked.

Going After Unlicensed Cannabis Dispensaries

Slattery said they are setting up an enforcement mechanism to go after unlicensed cannabis dispensaries. Many of them operate as smoke shops.

“If they are operating without a license, without a CO, they would have local support rescinded. The health department would be able to issue a notice of violation,” he added.

Slattery noted the city can go after those without a license regardless of the licensing process and the city cannabis law on dispensaries.

“The unlicensed sales and unpermitted sale is still potentially a criminal offense,” Baker noted.

“Who’s enforcing these laws? Nobody!” Boggiano exclaimed.

“You wouldn’t have to go through a full planning board review, correct?” Ward D Councilman Yousef Saleh asked.

“We want to save them that step in the process by presenting a zoning determination letter and some other evidence. It really makes the Planning Board’s agenda swell,” Slattery noted.

The city also has resolutions for six cannabis dispensaries. Only Boggiano objected to Neon Heights being too close to Dickinson High School at 535 Newark Avenue.

Jersey City Cannabis Control Board

The Jersey City Cannabis Control Board (CCB) approved one dispensary applicant, tabled two applicants, and denied one.

They first reviewed Voox Farms., Inc at 80 Harrison Street. It was their first cannabis cultivator versus dispensary application.

Cannabis attorney Rosemarie Moyeno Matos said they’re a minority and veteran-owned micro business.

“I grew up on Grant, Bergen, Virginia Avenue. I’ve owned a house on Armstrong Avenue,” owner Rodney Aycox explained.

He was in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Gulf War.

Disabled but not regular veterans are prioritized in the New Jersey state cannabis licensing process.

Aycox went into IT after the Marines. He currently works for an ad agency as a project manager specializing in Pharma.

They are working with the non-profits Backpack for Life and Community Treasures to help them and attorney Michael Hoffman to hold expungement clinics.

Voox Farms Cannabis Cultivator Review

“What are you doing at the cultivation facility?” CCB attorney Ron Mondello asked.

“I’ll be a Swiss army knife type,” Aycox replied.

Franco Perretti of Newton, NJ, would be the Director of Cultivation. He explained they would have a 1750 sq ft space with five rooms. There will be two grow rooms and rooms for drying, curing, processing, and propagation.

Perretti said there was no chance of odor escaping.

Commissioner Jeff Kaplowitz noted the building must be bigger, and their application described expansion.

“They have discussed with the landlord if they were to convert their license to expand it,” Moyeno Matos explained.

New Jersey cannabis law allows conversions of micro businesses fairly easily.

“You would reapply to the state?” Kaplowitz asked.

“We would have to apply to convert the license,” Aycox said.

“How many plants are in that space?” Kaplowitz asked.

“138 plants,” Perretti said.

CCB Chair Brittani Bunney said the Jersey City Police Department denied their security plan after reviewing it. They only received the information today.

Real Estate Issues

“Your qualifications are superb. You received a zoning letter from (city Planning Director) Tanya (Marione) … saying this is an R-1 one- and two-family neighborhood. Her opinion was since this was an industrial building pre-existing… that cannabis is allowed in it. I don’t believe her opinion is right. It opens up a can of worms,” Kaplowitz said.

Finding a good location is a very difficult problem in the New Jersey cannabis industry.

“This issue is not to be decided by us. We have no jurisdiction,” Mondello said. “She (Marione) has decided the issue.”

“We can’t deny you based on zoning or planning. Our issue is whether you’re a good fit for the community,” Bunney said.

“Voox Farms is an improvement to this building. My mother-in-law is the landlord of this building. It is a commercial building. It has been since 1917. Voox Farms is a major improvement to this property,” Sean Hurley of Maplewood said during public comment.

“Voox Farms is stabilizing the property… making it better for all the neighbors around there,” he added.

“It is a blessing that they came. We definitely need the funds,” Tina Nalls of the Community Treasures non-profit said.

Due to the security issue, the CCB tabled them unanimously 4-0. Commissioner Courtney Sloane was absent on vacation.

Art Dispensary Shot Down

Art 44 Co., LLC / Art Dispensary at 669 Bergen Ave was next. They were previously tabled several times.

“The issue we keep going back and forth here is your community impact plan,” Bunney said.

“There will be expungement clinics that will help anyone with marijuana charges,” Owner Anna Tolentino said.

Monique Smith Andrews with the Mohair Foundation said they give wigs to people with cancer and alopecia and would work with them.

“I do appreciate Mohair Foundation being here. I don’t know if you have satisfied everything,” Vice Chair Jose Cantarero said.

Bunney noted there were approved dispensaries near their location.

The CCB voted 4-0 to deny them.

Kine Buds Jersey City Faces Distance & Saturation Issues

Kine Buds Jersey City, LLC at 545 Newark Ave was next. Noted cannabis attorney Fruqan Mouzon represented them.

Owner Michael Daniel is a local. He’s owned a café for three years on Mallory Avenue.

Mouzon noted he doesn’t have an issue with access to capital or simply money.

“I do get a lot of pushback. We’re turning Newark Ave. into a strip of cannabis, and people are not happy with that. I have an issue with the location,” Bunney said.

“I agree,” Marte-Dublin said. “Have you met with the Hilltop Block Association?”

“I have not. I have met with other businesses on the same block,” Daniel said.

“An oversaturation in any business district will cause a 50 percent bankruptcy failure. It doesn’t make sense to saturate any one business district,” Kaplowitz declared.

“We kind of built the plane as we’re flying it. Now we’re starting to see the repercussions,” Bunney noted.

The Board felt Central Ave, Newark Ave, and West Side Ave have too many dispensaries approved already.

“Totally understand all the concerns. There would be over 100 if not for me,” Mouzon said. “This applicant made what have been the mistake of getting his stuff together first.”

He noted other clients got approved but ran out of money.

“Go meet with Hill Top,” Kaplowitz said.

Bunney noted people lied about the community outreach they had done and their impact plans.

The CCB adjourned them unanimously, 4-0.

Kreme of the Pot Approved

Kreme of The Pot at 497 Communipaw Ave was next. They had previously been adjourned. Bunney also said they had been denied security plan approval by the JCPD.

Kaplowitz noted they had to move their location.

Attorney Tom Leane noted the location was approved for a different applicant who has moved on.

“It was Treehouse Ventures,” Bunney said.

Leane noted they are a woman and minority-owned micro-business.

Owner Pleshette Rose said she was raised in Jersey City while she lives in Bloomfield. She previously worked in a corporation managing large supply chains. Rose said her nephew was diagnosed with a rare disease that only medical cannabis helped.

She explained they’d have a community engagement manager and a community advisory board. They plan to work with a non-profit that gives kids haircuts for school. Another one will give out tote bags with hygiene products to school children.

Bunney noted they had many people to speak on their behalf.

“It was an excellent application,” Kaplowitz said.

“They really, really deserve it,” Shirley Fields spoke on their behalf. “It is for our community, for our Black and Brown community… and our youth. We need help.”

Bunney motioned to approve them on the condition of JCPD security plan approval to great applause.

The CCB approved it 4-0.

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