The Jersey City Cannabis Control Board insisted that city council approval of a dispensary leads to a pin in the map requiring a competitor to be at least 600 feet away, contrary to the planning board’s interpretation last week.
By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View
The CBB approved two cannabis dispensary applications, denied two, and carried one at last night’s meeting.
Altalune, seeking to open at 288 Central Ave., said through their attorney Allison Reynolds that they got their New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (NJCRC) conditional license in October.
Majority owner Amanda Rallo, of Norwood, noted the fact that the city currently does not have a dispensary cap incentivized their decision.
CCB Chair Brittani Bunney expressed concern over the amount of dispensary proposals for Central Avenue.
“I have a concern about the number of cannabis establishments on Central Avenue. There was only ever supposed to be six. We’re already two over,” she said.
“There’s too much concentration. There’s plenty of places you could operate,” Commissioner Jeff Kaplowitz added.
Reynolds brought up that at last week’s planning board meeting, they didn’t recognize the city council resolution pins given after CCB approval as the final part of the approval process.
“There was never anything specific in the ordinance about pulling permits being when the pin goes in the map,” Bunney responded.
“The Planning Board is a separate regulatory agency. Once there was a city council resolution issued … that was the pin on the map. This board has different discretions,” CCB Counsel Ron Mondello added.
Their was denied 4-0(1), with Bunney abstaining.
High Life Sales. Inc., aiming to open at 860 Bergen Ave., tabled the earlier meeting this month, was also on the agenda.
Vice President Felix Dorfman, of Brooklyn, explained he is a U.S. Navy veteran who has operated gas stations who plans on moving to Jersey City if they receive approval to open.
“Why did you pick Jersey City?” Bunney asked.
Dorfman said it was one of the first cities open for cannabis business licensing, though Bunney expressed concerns about their efforts to date.
“To say you’re going to reach out is not enough. What we’re supposed to be specifically evaluating is community outreach,” she began.
“This looks like it’s people who want to come to Jersey City because we don’t have a cap. A lot of it is starting to not seem genuine to me,” Bunney said to applause from the audience.
Dorfman replied that he thought it was a fluid situation.
“I have concerns about the number of dispensaries approved. It’s getting to be too many,” Bunney added.
Commissioner Stacey Flanagan, also the city’s Department of Health and Human Services director, said the council is blaming anti-cannabis dissent expressed on the CCB for not handling it.
“We have to vet people more because there are so many,” Bunney stated.
“If we had known that, that would not have been an issue,” co-owner Monique James said, emphasizing that she had a background in working for non-profits.
“My job is not to tell you how to get approved for a cannabis license,” Bunney said before the application was denied unanimously (5-0).
Benedicts Supply, LLC, seeking for approval at at 3523 John F. Kennedy Blvd. was next.
“This is exactly what I wanted to work on when I worked in [state] Senator [Declan] O’Scanlon’s office trying to get the Jake Honig Act off the ground,” attorney Beau Huch said about the applicant.
Benedict’s Supply owner Sarah Russell, of Englewood, said she worked at Google and then for a jewelry company and said she viewed Jersey City as a welcoming city.
“It’s full of wonderful people,” she added.
Kaplowitz asked about her thoughts on their neighborhood.
“Leonard Gordon Park is super close. The plan has always been to give back to that park. The Western Slope Neighborhood Association has been very welcoming,” Russell said, indicating she wanted to help them host community events nearby.
Frank Robinson, of Garden Greenz dispensary, said he met Russell at the ABC Kids Halloween party.
“She cares about the kids in Jersey City. If anybody in the city should get one, she should.”
Western Slope Block Association President Ricardo Bobe also spoke in their favor.
United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Organizing Director Hugh Giordano favored their opening since they signed a Labor Peace Agreement (LPA) where the company would not interfere if their workers wanted to join a union.
Eventually, the board approved them unanimously (5-0).
White Lotus Dispensary, LLC, with a proposed location of 749 West Side Ave., was next. Attorney Zachary Rosenberg explained they’re a social equity micro-license applicant and that owner Lillia Diaz was raised in the area.
Bunney noted Diaz had appeared before the board on behalf of other applicants, to which she replied that she did while she was representing the Jersey City Anti-Violence Coalition Movement.
The chairwoman expressed dismay over this, noting that it was a clear conflict of interest.
“It seems this cannabis industry in Jersey City is interconnected in a lot of ways that’s not disclosed,” Bunney stated.
“Did you disclose that to other applicants?” Mondello asked, to which Diaz said she did. She also said she was never paid by other cannabis companies.
She explained that JCAVCM Executive Director Pamela Johnson collaborated with applicants and she simply spoke on their behalf.
Furthermore, Diaz characterized herself as a mother of two living in Ward A, a Gap store manager, and a part-time consultant who works with JCAVCM.
In addition, Diaz noted they held a community meeting with Ward B Councilwoman Mira Prinz-Arey and Hudson County Commissioner Bill O’Dea on this application.
“There were a lot of concerns,” she explained, noting they were committed to sending one percent of their profits to the non-profit Women Rising. Diaz also expressed wanting to help lawyers working on expungements of criminal cannabis records.
“We already approved 747. You guys share a wall. I expect the board is going to weigh that very heavily,” Mondello said.
Rosenberg said his client called the CCB in November and no one in the area was approved then. He noted while they’re a micro business, their neighbor is not.
“A standard can be within 200 feet. These guys share a wall,” Mondello said.
“That’s a zoning determination,” Rosenberg replied
“Not necessarily,” Mondello quipped back.
Jersey City Commerce Director Maynard Woodson gave his take on the predicament.
“We have concurrent applications. The concern really is after an applicant comes in after a pin goes in the map. At the time she inquired, we didn’t have another application,” later stating the distance issue would have to be cleared with the council.
“It’s a glowing application,” Commissioner Courtney Sloane stated.
They were approved 4-0, with Flanagan abstaining due to a potential conflict of interest.
Finally, at their request, Garden State Green LLC, with an address at 120 Tidewater St., was carried to another meeting.