Will Rivera is having trouble opening up the Scarlet Reserve adult-use cannabis dispensary in Red Bank in Monmouth County due to cannabis green zone problems.
Scarlet Reserve cannot convert to an annual license and open its doors until they have town approval.
The Scarlet Reserve CBD/cigar store on Front Street was initially in the cannabis green zone where cannabis companies are permitted. It has been in business for over a year there. It probably would be a short drive from Governor Phil Murphy’s home in neighboring Middletown.
But two months later, the town redid the cannabis green zone map, which excluded it. It is too close to Marine Park on the waterfront.
Red Bank Cannabis Green Zone Problems
After they found out the Front St. storefront wasn’t in the cannabis green zone, they found two other locations in town that were also not in the cannabis green zone because of a charter school.
“Our Plan B and C got nixed,” Rivera said.
To make matters amusing, “the charter school could care less,” Rivera declared.
Scarlet Reserve actually has a city council resolution from Red Bank. That is supposed to be the last step of the local process.
“We were thinking it was going to be a home run,” he said.
But Rivera does not have Planning Board approval due to his cannabis green zone problem.
“They gave out the resolution without looking at anything. Now they’re saying you’re not in the zone,” he noted.
Rivera explained that the town of Red Bank is 1.9 sq miles. Many schools and churches with large buffers create a tiny cannabis green zone.
Towns Make Up Cannabis Policy With No Guidance
“They have no guidance from the CRC. They don’t know what they’re doing. This is the common denominator from all the town council meetings I’ve been in,” he lamented. “They don’t know what they’re doing. They’re probably just scared. They’re going to make it up as they go. Small guys like us can’t even get past the municipalities.
“We’ve been fighting w the town for almost two years now to get this law changed,” Rivera said.
They went to the council meeting two weeks ago asking for guidance or a change in ordinance to allow them.
“They were absolutely ready to listen to it,” Rivera said of the Red Bank Council.
He explained the Council is planning to hold a special meeting next week considering lowering the buffer zones for schools or parks.
“That was a huge win for us last night,” Rivera said regarding the scheduling of the tentative meeting.
Positioning Themselves for Business
Red Bank is known as a party town good for bar hopping.
“There’s bars every 15 ft. in Red Bank,” Rivera noted.
Unlike in Hoboken, which is also tiny and full of bars, WR said there had not been opposition against cannabis companies from concerned residents.
“We’re hoping they can actually take parks off the ordinance,” he explained.
They seem to be fighting the ghost of the lingering stigma from cannabis prohibition versus actual opposition.
During cannabis prohibition, certain laws increased the penalties for getting caught selling weed near certain places, mostly schools. The problem is that now dispensaries that will only sell legal cannabis to those 21 and over are being treated like dirty hoods.
Many pro-cannabis towns have shrunk their buffer zones.
Local Serial Entrepreneur Hustling
Rivera is a serial entrepreneur who already runs a marketing agency and a few Scarlet Reserve CBD stores.
He is from Cliffwood in Matawan in Monmouth County.
Scarlet Reserve has been very industrious, which has helped keep the cost of applying to go legit down.
“We have not a lawyer paid a dollar. It’s just been us,” Rivera said.
Like other small business cannabis dispensaries, he has been his own advocate.
Rivera said companies will have trouble “if you’re not a big MSO that’s paying these lawyers to go to these town councils. They get pushed through.”
They have been giving back to the community by doing holiday toy drives for needy children and fine food as presents to the Fire Department.
“Not many people are going to be able to do this. I have three businesses, and I’m having an extreme amount of trouble,” Rivera lamented. “I’m a true legacy company. We’re bootstrapped from me being in the black market.”
Most legacy operators are not vicious figures corrupting police departments like Ted Jones in Pineapple Express. Rather they are more like good-natured Sauls.
Aspiring Scarlet Reserve Dispensary Chain
On the Red Bank paperwork, he is a part owner while his partner is the majority owner.
Rivera has a separate Scarlet Reserve store and licenses where his Latina mother is the majority owner in Matawan in Monmouth County.
They received zoning approval for his second location in Matawan but do not have a resolution yet. Scarlet Reserve hasn’t heard much after submitting the application in July and paying their $12,000 fee.
“They weren’t looking out for Social Equity. They just want the tax revenue. I get it. Let us get going,” Rivera said.
He got very political and secured 100 signature petitions in Matawan to open.
In Matawan, Scarlet Reserve is in the cannabis green zone.
“The town council was completely with it. It was a great meeting. The entire town council was behind it,” Rivera said about a December meeting.
“We have everything ready. We just need the resolution.”
He noted about Red Bank that while there are many high-end stores, there are also a good number of vacancies.