Jersey City cannabis board approves 4 and carries 2 ahead of 6-month moratorium


The Jersey City Cannabis Control Board (CCB) approved four cannabis dispensaries and carried two to the next meeting ahead a six-month moratorium set to commence at midnight on May 15th.

By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View

Barthelemy Farms LLC, seeking to open at 453 Palisades Ave., was up first but quickly agreed to be carried until the next meeting.

“So, it’s not a moratorium anymore?” Commissioner Jeff Kaplowitz asked, referring to a resolution approved by the city council last month upon the recommendation from the CCB.

“All the applications we will receive by May 15th will be heard,” Jersey City Commerce Director Maynard Woodson clarified.

Woodson also said a revised Jersey City cannabis law would likely be introduced in the near future.

The Garden on Summit, with a storefront at 510 Summit Ave, was then heard after being carried in March. Attorney Jennifer Cabrera explained that they’re a New Jersey woman-owned business experienced in running other establishments.

“They’re not Multi-State Operators squeezing out the little guy,” she argued.

Cabrera said Ally Fonseca, who was raised by Journal Square, owns 4 percent while the CCB has approved a dozen dispensaries with no owners from Hudson County.

She also noted they received Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) from Hudson County Community College (HCCC) and the Jersey City Anti-Violence Coalition Movement.

CCB Chair Brittani Bunney said it was helpful that they provided several letter of support, though noted that none came from their neighbors.

“We basically spoke to the Journal Square neighborhood. We went where there were businesses that were active,” Garden on Summit Director of Operations Steven Rothstein argued.

Two local residents, Evelyn Rodriguez and Anne Marley, said they had concerns, the former because she has two kids and wanted an in-person meeting. The latter was not pleased with their proximity to the historic Summit House, located at 510 Summit Ave.

Conversely, Downtown Special Improvement District Executive Director Rachel Sieg endorsed Fonseca’s efforts, as did David Gaeno, who said the location is “excellent.”

He also said he’s in favor of cannabis dispensaries since his brother is a veteran with PTSD who uses medical cannabis.

When Bunney asked why they did not hold an in-person meeting, Rothstein said that they had trouble getting the Hilltop Association to including them in a meeting before the CCB hearing.

“The neighborhood is here complaining. This is the oldest building in Jersey City. I feel there should be a notice requirement. They’re going to the council next,” she added.

“We offered it,” Rothstein said about an in-person meeting.

Ultimately, it was approved 2-1(2). Vice Chair Jose Cantarero and Kaplowitz voted yes, while Bunney voted no. Commissioners Stacey Flanagan and Courtney Sloane abstained.

Altalune, at 433 Palisade Ave., was next. They had previously been voted down when they attempted to use an address on Central Avenue and their new application was carried last month.

Kaplowitz had asked for the matter to be carried last time due to the oversaturation of dispensaries in the Heights, though the applicant said they were told only Central Avenue was off the table.

Riverview Neighborhood Association (RNA) President Irene Borngraeber, who gave remarks prior to Altalune’s application being heard, explained they were not in a position to accomodate dispensaries who wanted their endorsement.

“We understand that community feedback is essential to the consideration of cannabis business licensing, however: it is RNA’s position that it is the responsibility of each individual applicant to solicit this community feedback,” she said.

“To that end, RNA will not be providing individual cannabis applicants the opportunity to present to its membership as part of an RNA or special meeting, as it is the organization’s position that it is not a respectful use of community time or organizational resources. RNA will also not be taking an organizational position or providing feedback on individual cannabis applications.”

Kaplowitz said the situation was fluid and he still wasn’t sure if everyone was on the same page.

Bunney asked for clarification if RNA was opposed, noting that this applicant is very close to Riverview Park.

Borngraeber said they were neutral for all cannabis applications including this one, though Altalune was the only one that reached out and completed their criteria for soliciting public feedback.

That was good enough to make the applicant’s third time the charm, as they were approved unanimously (5-0).

Retreat NJ, with an address at 656 Grand St., was next. They were also tabled previously and Heather Kumer, their attorney, recalled that the CCB had told them they had not done enough outreach and/or gotten local involved.

As a a result, their outreach director, Jersey City Young Democrats President Cory Garriga, was made a partner with five percent to fulfill state-mandated local ownership.

Partial owner Alex Santiago, who lives in Bergen County, said they would volunteer with local charities like the Jackie Robinson Little League. Kumer also suggested contributing to the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

“You can’t have social justice without affordable housing. Hopefully this is a trend that a lot of cannabis companies will adopt,” she said.

Business Founder Natalie Benson added that they would donate money for Meals on Wheels for seniors. She added they would also fund a mural to help the Morris Canal Development Corporation host an affordable farmer’s market.

“Andrew Koudijs? He’s on your certificate of formation and the tenant of Retreat. Let’s talk about this,” Kaplowitz asked.

Mondello noted they updated the paperwork to exclude the employer of Benson and Santiago.

“He signed it over to you?” Kaplowitz asked.

“It was assigned,” Kumer replied.

“So he has no involvement?” Kaplowitz questioned.

“Only as a cannabis consultant,” Benson said.

“How often will you be down here?” Kaplowitz asked the Andover, Massachusetts resident.

“I plan as coming down as often as necessary,” Benson said.

Friends of Berry Lane Park President Jerome Choice endorsed them, claiming they’d had an ongoing dialogue with the community.

They were approved 2-0(2) with Bunney and Flanagan abstaining. Sloane recused herself since she missed the prior meeting.

Art Dispensary, at 669 Bergen Ave., was up next. Anna Tolentino, a native of Jersey City, is the owner. She was an attorney for 25 years and was disbarred for mishandling client money.

Upon questioning from Sloane, she claimed she was unaware that she was supposed to talk to local neighborhood associations and groups before being heard. As a result, her application was carried unanimously (5-0).

Memes Danckk World LLC, at 1704 John F. Kennedy Blvd., was last. They have a micro-license from the state and Meme Wiggins owns it.

Kaplowitz noted they want a consumption lounge in the future.

Wiggins explained she works in real estate, want to help women with HIV, and plan to do extensive community outreach on the benefits of cannabis. She also said they’re holding a town hall on May 27th after having done outreach to several local businesses.

Her credentials makes her a Goldilocks candidate, meaning they are small, local, minority-owned, and/or legacy company.

“That’s the kind of business we want in our community,” Flanagan stated.

They were approved unanimously (5-0) to applause from the audience.

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