The Jersey City Cannabis Control Board (CCB) carried two dispensary applications and approved two others at last night’s meeting.
By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View
The first application on the agenda was Kreme of the Pot at 50 Journal Square.
However, CCB Counsel Ron Mondello said off the bout Jersey City Business Administrator Metro and Jersey City Corporation Counsel Peter Baker said the property is being redeveloped by the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency (JCRA).
“The board is not to hear this application this evening. We report to the legislative branch and the executive branch. This application cannot be heard this evening,” he explained.
“The property has simply received a letter from the development agency,” Elnardo Webster, the attorney for the project, argued.
Commissioner Jeff Kaplowitz asked if the landlord informed the applicant that the property was “subject to a taking,” to which Webster said they were not.
“I’m not comfortable hearing the application. We were told the city was going to condemn the building,” CCB Chair Brittani Bunney said.
The CCB carried the application by a vote of 3-1 with Kaplowitz voting no. Commissioner Courtney Sloane was absent.
The Garden on Summit, with an address at 510 Summit Ave., was heard next.
Their attorney, Jennifer Cabrera, noted they were adjourned at the February 6th meeting and told to reach out to the community.
“We have worked diligently to reach out to the community,” owner Alejandra Fonseca, also serving as their director of community relations, said.
She explained they talked to the local businesses, associations, and local officials about the Newkirk House building, built in 1690, where they seek to locate.
Cabrera added that the Jersey City Landmarks Conservancy approved their project involving the building and had met with the Journal Square Community Association.
“Did you submit any evidence? You said you met with Katrina Boggiano. Did you talk to [Ward C] Councilman Boggiano?”
Director of Operations Steve Rothstein replied that “the community has been overwhelmed with the amount of applications, thus the councilman has been conservative, not to support any one application at a time … We want to restore it to where it is, and so does the community.”
United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Organizing Director Hugh Giordano came out in support of the application since the owners committed to signing a Labor Peace Agreement (LPA), which means they would not interfere if their workers formed a union.
“They’re working class. They’re from the area. These are the facilities we want to see open. These MSOs (Multi-State Operators) coming into the state don’t support workers’ rights and break laws,” Giordano stated.
CCB Commissioner Stacey Flanagan, also the director of the city’s Department of Health and Human Services, pointed out that the application paperwork specific to the building came in late.
“It should have been here two weeks ago. There’s never any evidence of these community meetings. I don’t see any evidence of the community support,” Bunney said.
Flanagan said friends of Fonseca who spoke in her favor were not representative of the community at large.
Still, Kaplowitz felt that there was not a compelling reason to reject the application.
“I think it should be adjudicated in court. It should not be arbitrary,” he declared.
“You did not ask us to come back with evidence. They’re not lying,” chimed in Cabrera.
“I would want to prove that you did what you were asked to do,” Bunney replied, later noting this is the third application on the same property.
Flanagan added that it was difficult to take them at their word without paperwork.
“If you want to come back, you can come back. We have people come here and lie to us. For all the people booing … this is a very difficult position for us to be in. I have personally advocated for a notice requirement,” Bunney added, noting this has been consistent for all 46 applications they granted.
Jersey City Commerce Director Maynard Woodson added that they informed the applicants late submissions may or may not count.
Ultimately, the application was carried unanimously (4-0) with the applicant asked to come back with more documentation next time.
A potential micro-business, High Key 201 with a location at 95 Monticello Ave., gave their proposal next.
“We have a member of the Jersey City community who is the 51 percent owner. They are the exact people the legislation was pointed to as MBE (Minority Business Enterprise) enterprises … We’re all Jersey born and bred,” Attorney Nick Lewis said.
Craig Davila said he was raised in Jersey City and received a resolution from the city as part of famed St. Anthony High School Head Coach Bob Hurley’s winning 2010-2011 team. He said he has since started a career as a social worker.
Davila said he wanted to hire people affected by the War on Drugs and those living in the housing project near Ferris High Schoo, as well expressing an interest in increasing athletic programs for youth in the city.
They also want to fund expungement clinics to clear cannabis conviction records and help the noted local group Women Rising.
Furthermore, he said they had met with Ward F Councilman Frank “Educational” Gilmore, local businesspeople, and community members to outline their plans.
His partner, Carol Johnson, of East Orange, explained she has been involved in many community organizations and groups that seek to empower Black businesspeople.
Johnson currently works for NBC Universal and would be their full-time CEO if approved.
“What do you plan to do here in Jersey City?” Bunney asked.
Johnson said they would do expungement clinics on an appointment basis and hold a career fair, along with regular in-person cannabis education events.
On the more technical side, Mondello noted that as a micro-business, only 2,500 square feet can touch cannabis, though auxiliary space for offices does not count. Lewis said that they’d like to expand to a cannabis consumption lounge in the future.
The state is still in the process of approving consumption lounge rules.
“Clarify that when you go to the Planning Board,” Kaplowitz said, while Bunney said she was satisfied with their community outreach efforts and future plans.
The application was ultimately approved unanimously (4-0).
Green Stop Wellness, hoping to open at 516 Tonnelle Ave, was the fourth and final application. Attorney Rosemarie Moyeno Matos, who is the East Orange cannabis board attorney, noted they’re a minority-owned business.
“This is nothing short of a dream come true: We’re looking forward to having our first home in Jersey City,” expressed CEO Bansi Badalia, of Mountain Lakes.
She explained she grew up in a small Indian village and now works as a manager in a New Jersey medical cannabis dispensary.
“COO Smeet Biknni said he attended the High Tech High School, had been arrested for marijuana possession in his youth, but has since earned a Master’s Degree and has worked as a data scientist for a medical cannabis dispensary.
He said they are working with Diversity and Inclusion Director Floyd Jeter to increase local science and math education.
“They truly care about social justice,” Giordano said in their favor. Additionally, Nirmit Patel said that as the Silver Leaf Wellness dispensary founder in Somerset County, he employed them and could vouch for their work ethic.
Alberto Infante, of Little Falls, said his family operates A & L Auto Body nearby and supported their opening. He is also the landlord of the property in question for the dispensary.
“I’m struggling because of the number of businesses in the area, although I do appreciate it being on Tonnelle Ave. We just approved another location within 400 feet,” noted Flanagan.
“Tonnelle Ave is a different animal … It’s different than being on Newark Ave or Central Avenue. It’s really not a neighborhood,” Kaplowitz said, arguing that it’s a major thoroughfare in the city and county that hosts a number of businesses.
Mondello said Kush Klub, which they approved, is nearby but has not gotten city council approval yet. Bunney noted that they have to be heard by the planning board before reaching the council.
Their application was eventually approved unanimously (4-0).