Jersey City cannabis board tables 3, votes down ex-Hoboken Vape Van owner’s plan


The Jersey City Cannabis Control Board (CCB) tabled three dispensary applications and voted down the controversial former Hoboken Vape Van owner’s plan at last night’s meeting.

By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View

Bando Farms, with a proposed location at 521 Palisades Ave., was heard last.

Noted cannabis attorney Rosemarie Moyeno Matos said it was a family business seeking a micro license. Joseph Ruggiero, a Jersey City resident who used to own the infamous Hoboken Vape Van, would serve as the CEO.

“The board has some concerns. You had an incident in 2017. It seems all over the internet, remarks disparaging a foreign national,” CCB Attorney Ron Mondello recalled an outburst caught on tape in Hoboken.

He added there were allegations that he converted a garage into an unlicensed lounge that was issued cease and desist orders.

“Are you applying a social equity person? You were arrested for cannabis,” Mondello also pointed out.

“Haunts me to this day,” Ruggiero said of the 2017 rant which drew widespread media attention.

He also said he apologized and took the mandated anger management courses.

“It is still upsetting to me. I am not a racist. My children are biracial, and my current girlfriend, who is here, is Hispanic.”

Commissioner Jeff Kaplowitz again brought up his arrest for marijuana possession with intent to distribute, which Ruggiero said was downgraded to a disorderly persons offense.

Mondello also said he had viewed a link on his website that indicated people could smoke marijuana in his garage for a $200 monthly membership fee.

“I was given a commercial lease. I wasn’t aware … It’s just a safe space for me to consume cannabis,” he said.

“I was sent your website,” Mondello pressed.

“I have not utilized those features,” Ruggiero insisted.

“There are a number of issues here. It seems that on the face of it, there’s been a lot of disrespect for the law. I don’t think your application should be approved,” Kaplowitz stated.

Ultimately, his application was voted down unanimously (5-0).

“Part of the reason for moratorium was for the council to be able to amend the ordinance and give us all involved a chance to improve the process,” Bunney said at the beginning of the meeting.

“As a result, the Jersey City Police Department will now be advising if there are issues with the security plans,” she added, indicating there were deficiencies with two of the applications on the agenda.

Mondello said The Number Spot and Art Dispensary would be tabled, the second time in a row Art Dispensary was tabled. At the prior meeting, they indicated they were unaware they were supposed to do community outreach prior to being heard.

“We did receive indications from the police department, a lieutenant. There were major problems with both. We will make sure counsel gets a copy. We apologize for the late notice,” he stated.

“You’ll be back July 10th, this is a new part of the process,” Bunney assured them.

Capital Virtues LLC, located at 54 Martin Luther King Drive, was next. Attorney Jorge Vasquez said they’re a minority and female-owned business. They were approved by the NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission (NJCRC) last October for a conditional dispensary license.

Owner Delilah Rose Scott explained she’s Caribbean and her family is from Jersey City. She further stated that she worked in pharmaceutical compliance for 15 years, as well as that she had developed a business called Outwater Healers.

Scott said she wants to call the business “Candlini” as a combination of cannabis and Kundalini or “life force.”

“Capital Virtues is the name of the company. You cannot have a DBA (Doing Business As),” Mondello said.

“We will have to amend that,” Scott replied.

Kaplowitz said Regina and Anna Lakhter were not listed as applicants, but would be own 49 percent of the business total (24.5 percent each).

“Typically, the board wants to hear from all the owners,” Mondello said.

“We do have Regina Lakhter, Anna Lakhter here,” Vasquez noted.

They also faced questions about how their community givebacks would work.

“You’re kind of doing it yourself, I don’t know how the optics will look if the social impact is you,” said CCB Commissioner Stacey Flanagan, also the city’s director of Health and Human Services.

“The social impact aspect of your plan, is that going to be off-site?” Kaplowitz asked.

Vasquez responded that they plan on having two different spaces and the giveback they will offer is “a community space for healing that includes healing.”

“I want the business to impact people directly who are our neighbors,” chimed in Scott.

Kaplowitz remained a bit skeptical, asking for an example of how they would help the community.

“Participatory planning, I would like people in the close zone … to vote as to where our proceeds should go. And even maybe have people apply,” Scott answered, adding that she also wanted to establish a fund to help people afford co-pays at medical offices.

Commissioner Courtney Sloane stated that their proposal made it seem like they were their own charity.

“That’s partially correct. The other space would be for healing. It would be an open space for other non-profits,” Vasquez replied.

Anna Lakhter, of Brooklyn, NY, said she is a nurse and is interested in helping people through cannabis, while Regina Lakhter, of Dingman’s Ferry, PA, said she is also a pharmacist and her family has opened a pharmacy in Staten Island.

They are also sister-in-laws.

Flanagan noted they’re not working with nonprofits, which creates a difficult scenario.

“That feels like it’s just not enough social impact. I don’t want to send you down the road of sending money to anyone,” she said, also encouraging them to volunteer with other groups.

Kaplowitz asked who what nonprofits on the block they had met, to which Scott answered they were not present.

She said she spoke to local businesses, including a grocery store, a restaurant, and the  NAACP, but Kaplowitz pressed that it would be tough to approve without feedback from their neighborhood.

At that point, Vasquez called for an adjournment so that they could have supporters testify.

“On July 10th, make sure you’re prepared,” Bunney said before the mattered was tabled.

Vice Chair Jose Cantarero explained they want members of the community to testify in favor of dispensaries in the future, while Flanagan pointed out that the local NAACP lost its charter.

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  1. It is pathetic how many of the people who want to be granted a very lucrative cannabis license have not even tried to do the prerequisite work required.