Hoboken Cannabis Review Board votes down two dispensary applications, approves one


The Hoboken Cannabis Review Board denied two dispensary applications and approved Blue Violets, making them the second establishment to clear the board.

By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View

Board attorney Ron Mondello noted the initial applicant was seeking a waiver due to their location, 94 River St.

“Landlords are being a little resistant. Because it is a city that is so much smaller … we’re going to have challenges with getting us approved, and they just don’t want to allow us a space. They want to deal with applicants that are already approved,” Alyza Brevard-Rodriguez said.

She said they would have to pay $30,000 in rent without earning money to apply.

“My stance on it is … applicants have had a firm location and changing the rules … is unfair to some of the applicants in the hopper,” Business Administrator Jason Freeman said.

“I’m a no on this. Get a location, come back to us, and we’ll have a conversation. This is still a very new endeavor.”

Council President Michael Russo joined him in opposition, as did Health and Human Services Director Leo Pellegrini.

“You’re certainly welcome to reapply once you have an LOI,” Mondello said.

Attorney Sam Redlich introduced his client Nugs and their senior partner, Nico Enea, who lives in Oakland, CA since the local partner could not make it.

“Is the backyard going to be used for anything when this becomes a marijuana dispensary?” Kyle Ceechini asked, noting he is a neighbor.

“The backyard will not be used for the business. A significant remodel would be initiated,” Enea said.

Ceechini noted another applicant was very interested in vertical integration.

“There would never be any manufacturing or consumption,” Enea replied.

Manny Rivera, a resident and former council-at-large candidate, said applicants from outside of the Mile Square City should make an effort to introduce themselves and educate the community prior to being heard by the board.

“We look forward to educating as much as possible. The local partner there has been there for 20 years and owns the building,” said Redlich.

“Let us know so we can ease the people’s fears. We need these things. It’s important to get the revenue,” Rivera said.

Frances Nicotra said while she supported marijuana legalization, she did not think the council was thorough enough in the zoning laws they okayed.

She was worried about people loitering, insinuating it would create crime.

“We have a local operator who has been here for 20 years and was looking for an opportunity. We’re in the downtown area. We’re 500 feet from any other dispensary. We respectfully request your approval,” Redlich said.

The board was not convinced the location, 128 Washington St., was a good fit for the 1st Ward.

“There’s been a shift. This would be a dispensary, if approved, very close to other dispensaries. We’re trying not to cluster them. How do you overcome that?,” Russo asked.

“My position is a no. I live in the First Ward. We already have a couple dispensaries. I don’t disapprove of the applicant. I disapprove of the location,” Pellegrini said.

Freeman noted that there are already two dispensaries planned for the 1st Ward and the city can only have six total.

“I’m sorry, you did a fine job,” Mondello said.

“We wouldn’t have to come with a new location. Are you suggesting or offering we could take a new location?” Redlich asked.

“Any changes, they have to be heard. If it’s the same exact application, it’s ok,” Pellegrini answered.

Finally, Max Thompson served as his own counsel for the Blue Violets application at 628 Washington St.. He is the co-owner of the business with his wife Lauren.

“We are Hoboken’s only micro license applicant. We’re both the owners and the operators,” Thompson explained.

He noted his wife is a nurse who worked in hospitals and an elementary school, while he explained he is an attorney in the financial services.

Thompson continued they are Weehawken natives who have used their own savings and done the groundwork to launch their business.

“Being that you’re relatively close to a school, what’s your response to the public?,” Freeman asked.

“We did reach out to the schools. Both All Saints and Hoboken Charter have mission statements … that take social justice head-on. It underpins the legalization of cannabis in a prominent way,” Thompson replied.

He added the schools had not heard complaints from parents about them.

“If we’re concerned about exposing kids to vices, we should look at the liquor store across the street,” Thompson said.

“You don’t have a backer like some of the larger dispensaries. Are there any concerns about the business not succeeding?,” Mondello questioned.

“We are confident once we open, we’ll earn revenue,” Thompson replied confidently.

Several residents voiced their opinions on the project, with most being in favor.

“I am beyond impressed by the thoroughness. I intend to walk the 15 minutes or so to you. I love the commitment you’ve put to out the community,” Leah Shoot said.

“I’ve actually known the majority owner for more than 20 years. I wanted to speak on their character,” James Mcilvaine said.

Russo appeared to be convinced this time around, though he had one caveat.

“The social side of the legalization of marijuana is imperative. Instead of my typical ask of funding a police officer, I will ask for help with our affordable housing trust fund,” he said.

He also wanted them to run an expungement clinic and Thompson said he was open to doing so.

“It’s important we support micro-businesses. Despite my concerns, I wish you the best of luck,” Freeman said.

“I’m really excited actually to have you in the neighborhood,” Russo said when voting yes.

Pellegrini again said he thought there would be too many dispensaries in the neighborhood before voting no, with the measure passing 2-1.

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  1. It will be very convenient for the parents of All Saints and Hoboken Charter to stop in and pick up their weed when they pick up or drop off their kids.

  2. One can be for the legalization of cannabis but have real problems with locating a retail cannabis store so close to two primary schools. While Hudson Charter and All Saints may have be characterized by the owners of Blue Violets a pro social justice that does not translate to approval of his store. Same logic to the his statement that he has not heard of parents objecting when he has not surveyed anyone but those who agree with him.

    Hoboken’s three member Cannabis Board is made up of two appointees of Mayor Bhalla’s Administration and the extremely pro-cannabis Councilman Russo. They have done a very poor so far in seeking out other points of view and flew under the public radar and that caused the the rest of the City Council had to demand extensive changes in how outlets are approved. Moving forward we can hope for a better outcome from a more inclusive board decisions..

    • Board member Mr. Pellegrini, whom denied blue violet on the basis of too many dispensaries located close together, actually did his due diligence and spoke with both principles of the schools personally. Where no overriding concerns were reported. Parents of the school have significant weight, more so than people finding any way to oppose. Being that over 120 onsite drinking establishments and over 20 liquor stores are already “baked” into hoboken’s fabric. This does not negate the fact these establishments are very very close to the schools, with advertisements in store windows. But yet some people turn a blind eye to that.
      Having past records for cannabis being expunged due to botched government’s war on drugs is a major part of legislation at the state and local level. Certain White people should acknowledge blue violets direct ability to help local brown and black people who wrongly targeted suffering this fate.
      Im white, never been in trouble with law…..
      The board has not been rushing this process, they are still making adjustments moving forward as we can see. The first medical cannabis dispensary opened in New Jersey over one decade ago, Green Leaf in Montclair. New Jersey just opened recreational this week, Hoboken still has neither opened or fully approved…
      Mr. Russo just denied two applicants and approved one, give some credit…. We need to all step outside ourselves and look at this through multiple lenses instead of myopically. I appreciate all viewpoints as long as they are genuinely open minded, which I acknowledge is challenging for some.

      • The State of NJ is already has money set aside from the taxing the product and is working on expunging most of the criminal cannabis records. So OK a little extra help by a store owner not really a big deal.
        The usual total BS comparing adding pot shops to existing store selling liquor cause if one is bad adding another bad doesn’t make it better. Way too near schools.
        There was very little resistance to medical dispensaries in Hoboken, although the fudged the truth when they told the public they would not become recreational.

        • why has there been no push back with liquor stores being allowed near schools? it comes across as hypocritical is the point towards anti cannabis perspective. Its part of the reality that cant just be dismissed as BS. I can totally understand if parents and staff of said school raised concerns as well, though they have not.

          If it was in signed into legislation that there would be no recreational and they reneged secretly, than we have a problem. I here you if that happened. Did this occur? please share info this would be important

          • In Hoboken a liquor store by law must not be located within 500 feet of any school and it has been enforced.
            If you don’t know what you are talking about stop posting.

        • its about helping them navigate the process of getting expunged were blue violet comes into play. this is a state and local issue. your dismissive approach is a very very big deal to those in town affected and need assistance.

        • if you feel liquor store is equally as bad as dispensary location? than fore your anti stance to truly carry weight and gain traction, you should be advocating equally for both to be removed. if you already have been a can truly appreciate your balanced approach.

        • Dear Sancus,
          Please read my posts very carefully before posting with such unnecessary vitriol. For example I stated why hasnt there been push back against liquor stores being located close to schools, correct?
          I also showed openness by stating if council members promised no recreational cannabis and signed into legislation than reneged, there is a problem. Furthermore by stating if parents and staff of schools complained of cannabis business to close, I understand. Though they are ok. I show willingness to learn as new info is presented to me, if true. You seem to only read parts of my post taking in what you dont agree with. Lets not cherry pick.
          I believe you when you say liquor stores have been denied for being close to schools. I do honestly ask when over 20 liquor stores in town, are all of them in this criteria? Have you measured the distance of all? For example I just did a goggle search and Village Market is a liquor store on 702 Washington St. and Hoboken Charter School is on 711 and 713 Washington St. This seems to be lees than 500ft. Now I do admit just from a google search, not sure if both locations are still in operation at same location. Though this seems to be the case. Are you the moderator of this article? Im comfortable with opposing opinions and so should all of us. Read carefully, mindfully, respond articulately and thoughtfully as possible.

          Lets not retrograde into acting like siemens inhibiting the process of our communities evolution. Which is communication..

  3. Nice of Mike Russo to approve Blue Violet for the landlord of that building on Washington St who lives in CHURCH TOWERS near Mike and the Russo clan.

    Owning large Washington St Buildings with Cannabis stores and living in affordable housing?

  4. I would love to see the white male co owner of Blue Violet acknowledge his privilege and to see both owners stop promoting the business as AAPI & woman owned.

    The fact that Max Thomson was able to pursue his education, practice law, save up for his business, and act as the business’s legal counsel speaks to a certain amount of privilege that both owners are benefiting from and that isn’t as available to the Black, Latinx, & Indigenous people who continue to carry most of the burden of prohibition.

    I read about him speaking about ‘social justice’, while taking a seat at the table that really should go to someone else – I’m not sure if he doesn’t understand what that means – or if he does and he’s just that entitled.

    I think it’s good & fine that he’s talking about expungement clinics, he should do that. But true equity in this case will provide a clearer path for the population that has payed the heaviest price to legally & successfully benefit from legalization.

    I probably wouldn’t even be aware of this situation if I hadn’t seen Thompson promoting his business as ‘AAPI, Woman owned’ on Instagram. And that’s on me. (But shame on him)
    I should have been paying more attention.

    • I really appreciate your passion 100. My intent isnt to stick up for blue violet, more to share with you his wife whom is asian left her career in health care to be functioning owner as well. Though , I agree fully with more of a prevalent need for local brown & black ownership. I did watch the last board approval meeting were a latin women is in the process of securing a location that wont be collecting rent through the approval process. This unfortunately has been a financial challenge for her. Im rooting for her. Not that it should matter though im white. I feel and understand this unfortunate plite and hope moving forward people of color dont unfortunately lump all white people as entitled.

      • I read up on the woman who’s application was rejected & (unless I looked up the wrong person) she seems to be exactly the kind of person who should be getting support through this process. And this is a perfect example of how many of us benefit from our whiteness at the expense of others.

        I’m sure that many landlords are hesitant to rent to cannabis entrepreneurs, but it’s also very likely that her gender, sexual identification, & especially her skin color has played a huge role in her difficulty securing a lease. (She’s also a business owner, a parent, and as far as I can tell, an active duty or recently retired Naval officer) How on Earth does she have a chance in this current setup?

        I do understand why the board can’t fully approve a license without a location, but there needs to be some way to support people like her through this process.
        Meanwhile, members of the more privileged class (& their partners) will be the ones securing the small number of licenses available.

        Which brings me back to Blue Violets…
        People are leaving healthcare in droves, I don’t think this is a sacrifice. She’s seeking a better opportunity & good for her. But she’s also one of two owners of the business & so far, he’s the most visibly active partner. Their Instagram bio claims that the business is “AAPI & Woman Owned” and I’ve seen them (him) make that claim elsewhere.
        If I didn’t know better, I would take that to mean that the owners are AAPI women.

        Technically a business in NJ only has to be 51% owned by a minority or a woman to qualify as M/WBE, but ethically, this seems very wrong. It would be bad enough if if this was just another business, but her status gives them a leg up in the licensing process, while his status has clearly served them both.

        I’m not terribly mad at her for benefiting from his privilege, but I do take offense to him claiming the burden of an AAPI woman. With extra points off for bringing “social justice” into the conversation. That, to me, is entitlement.

        I’m a white woman, my partner is a Black man. There is no way that we would or should claim to be owners of a Black Woman owned business. A. We know it’s wrong & B. We would be justly & swiftly called out by our community.

        He talks about how they’ve done this with no outside help, but the fact is, he was born ‘helped’ in a way his wife & the applicants who have had to seek outside investments were not.

        They also claim to be ‘true’ locals. They live in Weehawken. Close, but not quite. I don’t care that much about that, but I think it speaks to a certain comfort with ‘truthiness”

  5. for a child’s emotional and social development.

    Funny how pearl clutching parents probably have no idea what their kids are doing or what/ who they are exposed to online. Social media is more addictive than weed, but the moms and dads fretting over legalized weed dispenseries for ADULTS buy ‘drugs’ (ipads, cell phones) for their impressionable kids. Somehow that has become acceptable. MOST parents have no clue what their kids are up to online, even if they have the technical skill to monitor. Is the “friend” your child is bantering with online an adult pedophile? Is he/she being cyberbullied, or bullying someone else? Is your child’s developing self-esteem being battered by “perfect” influencers?

    So, pearl clutchers, make sure your own home is “family friendly” before you worry about your kid passing a legal weed dispensary on the street.

  6. you are all crazy to pay these prices, ill stay with my guy.
    they will mis-use the tax rev just like they mis-use the sports betting revs (where’d that go?)
    gluttonous pigs, all of them.