The Jersey City Cannabis Control Board (CCB) approved five adult-use cannabis dispensaries, including the first one in Ward F, during last night’s nearly five-hour meeting.
By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View
The first application was Strictly CBD, seeking to open at 394 Communipaw Ave. Their cannabis dispensary application was approved by the Planning Board in March.
Co-owner Venus Smith said she has lived in Jersey City since 2005 and their CBD establishment has been open since 2018.
“I’m one of the founders of Black Wall Street, Jersey City chapter,” she said, while co-owner Jeffrey Devine noted he worked with doctors to educate them on the merits of CBD. He also identified as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Smith mentioned that they supported the Kismet of Kings charity, while Devine pointed out that they also helped with a health fair at the Mary McCleod Bethune Center.
They also want to help other minority-owned companies get cannabis licenses, noting that start up costs aren’t easy for many.
“That’s not realistic for a mom and pop. The things in place don’t make it easy currently for people like us,” Devine said, also stating they’d like to hire some of those people and offer scholarships for budtending courses.
“What’s your immediate plan for hiring minorities?,” Commissioner Glenda Salley Perkins asked.
They both described wanting to hire people from the south side of the city, noting that they are located in Ward A after rewarding – it was previously Ward F.
“I’m always out and present at the store. I’ve got them organized so we can get things done in our area,” Devine stated.
He also mentioned that they will not be open on Sundays to be respectful of nearby churches.
“It’s nice to see they’re in the impact area, and they’ll definitely hire Black and Brown people,” Perkins said.
“It seems these businesses are all partnering with the same non-profits. It’s a bit of a concern to see the same names. I do know the health department has a list of 800 vetted non-profits. I would encourage you to look through that list for new names,” Board Chair Brittani Bunney said.
They were approved 3-0-(1) with Commissioner Courtney Sloane recusing herself and Commissioner Stacey Flanagan absent.
Additionally, attorney Tom Slattery filled in for Board Counsel Ron Mondello after he recused himself.
The next was Lifted Vision, located at 481 Central Ave, represented by Mickey Weiss, who said they were a woman-owned business. He noted they were approved by the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (NJCRC) in October.
Jeanette Rodriguez said she was raised in Jersey City and now lives in Union City.
“I lived on Central Ave my whole life,” she stated.
Rodriguez said she previously managed other stores. She explained Ward D Councilman Yousef Saleh said she should speak to his sister, who runs a self-defense training class, and so she will partner with her.
Rodriguez continued that they were 100 percent Hispanic-owned and wanted to hire to reflect the city’s diversity.
She added they had a Labor Peace Agreement (LPA) with the UFCW whereby they would not thwart their efforts should their employees seek to join their union.
“I had a rough upbringing growing up … so I want minority women to know they can work hard and achieve their goals,” Rodriguez said.
“You have two other partners. Where are they?,” Perkins asked.
Rodriguez said her partners could not make it. She added they would work with Saleh on his holiday charity efforts.
“Are the other owners Jersey City residents?,” Perkins questioned.
Rodriguez said one is, while the other previously lived in the city.
The application passed 2-1-(1) with Sloane voting no, Bunney abstaining, and Flanagan absent.
The next application was Chilltown Dispensary, another Heights application that would open at 326 Central Ave. Jared Pollard and Michael Carbone are the owners. Carbone is a veteran who has cancer and is receiving treatment in Florida.
Pollard noted they are owned by himself, an African American, and his partner, a disabled veteran. He explained he moved to the city 20 years ago, and he created a real estate development firm.
Although he relocated to South Orange, “we very much still consider Jersey City home.”
Pollard read a statement from Carbone saying he grew up in the Heights and started a contracting business. They have worked with many groups that seek to help troubled youth.
Mondello said the NJCRC awarded the license to Jared Jackson.
“That’s my middle name,” Pollard explained.
He noted the cannabis lounge regulations are pending, so they were focused on the dispensary part of the application.
“We are waiting on the state to issue their guidelines,” Bunney said.
Tom Donahue, of United Food and Commercial Workers, spoke in favor of the group.
“Will it be you handling the day-to-day?” Sloane asked, to which Pollard answered they are working to find a General Manager.
“It’s hard to folks to talk in a serious way until you’re further down the hiring path,” he further explained.
Bunney expressed concerns about the number of dispensaries seeking to open on Central Avenue, though Vice Chair Jeff Kaplowitz said the city council has not done anything to prevent this.
“I don’t think any street in Jersey City should be filled with an abundant amount of dispensaries,” Bunney said regarding their location.
“The council didn’t put in their ordinance a limitation. There is a problem with Newark Ave and Central, but it’s not in the ordinance,” Kaplowitz said.
“It does say we’re supposed to look into the number within 1,000 feet of each other,” Bunney responded.
Jersey City Commerce Department Director Maynard Woodson noted there is a public map of where the approved applicants are located.
“It’s kind of unfair for a minority-owned business for us to say, hey, there’s too many,” Kaplowitz said.
“It’s a competitive landscape, like a restaurant. It’s up to them to be competitive,” Sloane agreed.
The measure passed 3-0(1), with Bunney abstaining.
Lady L Cannabis, located at 547 Westside Ave., was next. Attorney Chirali Patel noted they won a conditional license from the NJCRC in July.
“I am looking to get my own part of the American Dream,” owner Lilliana Holland said.
She explained she immigrated from communist Bulgaria in 1990 and also markets Big Pharma companies, so she understands regulation.
“It is a privilege to hold a cannabis license. I don’t take this lightly,” Holland added.
She continued she would be the 100 percent owner of the company, wanted to help a charity called Sarah’s Daughter with marketing, as well as the Jersey City Anti-Violence Coalition.
Additionally, Patel said she would organize an expungement clinic for Lady L Cannabis, as well as that she is a micro-business applicant.
“I wanted a small, homey, boutique feel,” Holland noted.
Garden State Greenz consultant Frank Robinson claimed they are too close to another dispensary, though Mondello said there was an exception for 600 feet.
“For a micro, it’s 200 [feet],” Woodson added.
“We’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t … Is it the first person who gets to us?,” Flanagan asked.
“Once the governing body [city council] issues a resolution of support, the pin goes in,” Mondello said.
“We’re going to base it on a pin in the map. We’re going to advise them … there’s a chance you’re going to be denied.”
He noted the resolution of support makes it so a dispensary can claim territory that the law protects.
“It’s up to the council. They may say they will grandfather you, approve you or deny you,” Mondello added
“We’re pitting them up against each other,” Flanagan stated, to which Bunney said she saw it as making a recommendation to the council.
She noted applications need planning board and CCB approval before securing council approval.
“In some of those cases, it will be grandfathered in,” Woodson said. He noted some were approved by the planning board first, although the CCB is supposed to be first, due to delays.
“We are building the plane while we are flying it. It is what it is,” Mondello said.
The application was eventually approved 4-0, with Kaplowitz recusing himself.
Backpack Boyz LLC, located at 746 Grand St., was last. They have a licensing agreement for the name. Co-owner Elizabeth Sandberg, of Allendale, said she is an immigrant who started a plant nursery 25 years ago with her husband.
Her son Brett, who manages the nursery, would be the dispensary manager. He also launched a cannabis company in California a few years ago.
“So, you have a license to cultivate in California?,” Mondello asked.
Brett said their California-licensed company is called Parker Valley Farms.
“My mother has really harped on Jersey City. It’s close proximity to New York, where she’s from,” he explained.
“Nobody lives here. Why is it that you love it, but you can’t live here?” Perkins asked.
“I plan to,” Elizabeth Sandberg said.
“I actually fell in love with the building,” Brett Sandberg added.
Kaplowitz said the building had been abandoned for several years, while Bunney noted they were the first dispensary to get approval in Ward F.
The application was approved unanimously (5-0).
Last week, the Jersey City Council voted down a citywide dispensary cap of 55, with many citing equity concerns on the south side.