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Jersey City Planning Board OKs Kushmart Despite Distance Issue

The Jersey City Planning Board approved the Kushmart dispensary application after debating its closeness to the Cannabis Place dispensary for about three hours.

Their application was carried at the planning board’s February 7th hearing due to concerns about their proximity to the 420 Cannabis Place Corp.

“We do have [Supervising Planner] Matt Ward’s timeline,” Jersey City Planning Board Chair Christopher Langston noted.

Kushmart and Distance

“We already established jurisdiction. The competitor is trying to enforce the 600 ft jurisdiction. But that’s already been ruled on. It’s an uphill battle,” Jersey City Planning Board attorney Santo Alampi added.

Ward clarified that he wrote a memo that verified their position.

“A 600-foot buffer would be established when a cannabis retailer pulls permits after getting local and state approvals. This is something from the very beginning we established,” he explained.

On July 11th, both applicants were approved by the Jersey City Cannabis Control Board (CCB), he noted. The Cannabis Place didn’t secure permits until last month, according to Ward.

“We laid out a very detailed timeline. We only will put a pin in the map and enforce buffers when a cannabis retailer has pulled permits,” he asserted.

“It seems as if the other application … has all four items check marked while this one has three out of the four,” Commissioner Steve Lipski said.

Cannabis Place Dispensary Defends its Turf

Brian Aloia, corporation counsel in Hoboken who is representing Cannabis Place, had questions on the matter.

“When did you find the Kushmart … substantially complete?”

“I do not have that on the timeline,” Ward said.

“To apply the time of application rule, I’d like to know the date the application was substantially complete,” Aloia repeated, to which Ward said September 9th.

Aloia followed up by asking when they were deemed complete and Ward responded in January.

“We did schedule them far in advance of permits being granted to the Cannabis Place,” Ward also said.

Cannabis Place Founder and CEO Osbert Orduna explained he has received a city council resolution and was pinned on the city map of dispensaries.

“The ordinance has no mention at all of the quote-unquote pulling of permits,” he argued.

“When did you first try to pull a permit?” Aloia asked.

Orduna noted they could not pull permits until they received CCB, city council, and state approval.

“Just tell us the date sir,” Alampi chimed in.

Orduna said he requested the permit on December 8th and received it on January 19th.

“Were you ever told the pulling of permits triggered anything?” Aloia asked.

“No. I have spoken to 10 different applicants, and none of them were aware. To me, that’s very, very curious, to say the least,” Orduna replied.

“I’m a Marine. I love black and white. We followed the letter of the law. Yet somehow there’s a new move of the goalpost.”

Frank Vitolo, counsel for Kushmart, claimed that Orduna was not qualified as an expert witness.

Lipski asked if the CCB knew how close the two dispensaries were to each other, to which Aloia responded that the CCB deferred to the planning board.

Alampi also noted the ordinance does call for a 600-foot buffer, but that it is not binding and exceptions can be made.

“I get what Mr. Orduna is saying. It just seems kind of convoluted,” Lipski said.

“It is a clean way of doing it. My clients have known about this since June,” Vitolo added.

Lipski said the municipal law doesn’t say anything about permits, to which Commissioner Joey Torres asked how someone could follow a law they didn’t know existed.

“This issue is a challenge due to the infancy of the projects. You could have an establishment that doesn’t actually exist in reality, and nobody could be within 600 feet of this phantom place,” Alampi said.

He explained they do not want a failed business claiming territory.

“When was this mentioned to the public?” Torres asked.

“There was no closed meeting. It was March 22nd. Matt, can you speak to the map?” Alampi asked.

“It’s March 28th. It was stated under oath. It was put on YouTube,” Ward responded.

“Where does that authority come from? Compared to the city ordinances?” Lipski asked.

Ward said the city resolution is also not in the ordinance.

The NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission has said a council resolution was the final step of the municipal process, as opposed to a letter from the mayor which was previously sufficient.

“It was unforeseen when a concurrent application situation comes up. I never received a call or an email. They should have known,” Ward added.

Alampi further explained if the city pinned a business on the map and financing fell through, it would be a problem.

“We’re trying to be equitable… for everybody,” he said.

“We’ve seen buildings not get financed that we approved,” Lipski said.

Jersey City Public Comment

During public comment, Bill Young, representing the City Line Church, said they were against having a dispensary open near them.

“In conversation with our members … most oppose having a dispensary across the street. City line church has a vibrant and thriving youth ministry,” he stated.

“One of the pitfalls to legalizing through ballot referendum is the bill gave municipalities a dangerous amount of power. I would advise this body to get in touch with the Cannabis Regulatory Commission,” Cannabis advocate and veteran Leo Bridgewater said.

“I have never heard of Kushmart,” community activist Dennis Febo said, also claiming they are not familiar with the local neighborhood.

Frank Robinson, of Garden Greenz dispensary, said the door of a dispensary is supposed to be 600 feet from another dispensary in state law.

“How does this get resolved? Lipski asked.

“I don’t know,” Langston said.

Alampi ultimately said that neither violates the law and both could open.

“This is really a tough one. I think the timeline of a permit is very confusing,” Torres said before voting yes.

“I can’t believe we spent three hours on a cannabis application,” Langston said before voting yes.

They were approved 4-2(1), with Commissioners Jeff Green and Dr. Vidya Desai also voting yes, Commissioners Vidya Gangadin and Lipski voting no, and Commissioner Dr. Orlando Gonzalez abstaining. Commissioner David Cruz was absent.

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