The Jersey City Cannabis Control Board (CCB) approved two dispensaries last night while postponing the vote on two other applicants.
By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View
Decades Dispensary, which will be located at 404 Central Ave. in the Heights, owned by Neel Patel and Bakula Patel, received approval.
“Jersey City has been my second home since I immigrated to the United States in 1983,” Co-owner Bakula Patel said. While she currently lives in Morris Plains, she grew up in Jersey City.
Bakula Patel is a pediatric physical therapist in Jersey City and owns a daycare, while her partner Neel Patel lives in Oxford, CT. He explained they have been involved with dispensaries in Massachusetts, Ohio, and Connecticut.
They received a unanimous vote (4-0) without much discussion.
That was primarily saved for the locally-owned Medusa dispensary lounge near McGinley Square at 759 Bergen Ave. due to opposition from local Catholic institutions.
Officials from St. Peter’s University, Hudson Catholic High School, and St. Aedan’s Church testified against the project, as they did before the proposal cleared the planning board in April.
“I’m not against your business, but I have the utmost respect for the people who spoke tonight. Cannabis is here. It is going to be in Jersey City,” CCB Chair Brittani Bunney said.
“I don’t have an issue with your application. You have not spoken to St. Peter’s or Hudson Catholic. We just can’t disregard these institutions. I hope that both sides will sit and have a conversation and try to find a way to move forward because I do think cannabis is in this city and that’s the reality.”
United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) Organizer Hugh Giordano said Medusa has signed agreements saying the building will be constructed using union labor and they will allow their dispensary workers to organize a union without interference.
Furthermore, Medusa’s attorney Rosemarie Moyeno Matos noted there was no danger of the local schools losing federal money due to legalization.
“There is a plan to reach out to local neighbors. There’s not much to be done until we get a license. We can control who walks into that establishment, 21 and older with proper identification.”
Nevertheless, due to the controversy around the project, the board opted to table the measure until next time.
From there, Local Modiv dispensary co-owner Chelsea Duffy explained she has been living in Jersey City since 2016 and has become involved in different civic organizations, including the Jersey City Women’s Advisory Board.
“Everyone at this table is a Jersey City resident,” LM attorney Joseph Shapiro said.
Their establishment would be downtown at 155 Newark Ave., though noted they’d like to be able to help each ward in the city.
“There’s a lot of sweetheart work going on. We’re unable to promise anything we can’t see through,” Duffy said when pressed about giving back to the community.
However, a representative from the cannabis company Oceanfront Holdings said they have been approved for licenses from the state and were based at 145 Newark Ave., raising a boundary issue.
“It boils down to council. There’s going to be two resolutions before that body, and they will understand that,” CCB attorney Ron Mondello said regarding the dispute.
Bunney added that settling such a controversy wouldn’t be in their purview.
“I don’t feel comfortable with limited information,” CCB Commissioner Stacey Flanagan, also the city’s director of health and human services, said.
She also said they should’ve talked to the Historic Downtown Special Improvement District (SID) to try to avoid conflict with other applicants.
As a result, Bunney indicated the application may as well be incomplete at the moment for all intents and purposes.
“It’s new to us: We don’t have the information,” she said.
“I want something in writing from the SID,” Flanagan added.
Ultimately, this led to their application being tabled as well.
The final agenda item was the Jersey Leaf dispensary at 554 West Side Ave., which saw County Commissioner Bill O’Dea (D-2) speak in their favor.
He noted the principal owners are the Margetis family, who have owned businesses in the city for 30 years. O’Dea also noted they are involved with his non-profit, the South Hudson Civic Association.
“They’re social justice. They’re micro-retail, which I think is the type of businesses we want,” he said.
George Margetis noted his family owns the Miss America diner, which is located in the same neighborhood.
“We are committed to hiring only Jersey City residents. The diner is three blocks away from the store.”
Jersey Leaf’s attorney, Fruqan Mouzon, explained he worked for the New Jersey Senate Democratic Majority Office when now-Senate President Nick Scutari (D-22) first sought to sponsor adult-use cannabis legalization.
He said as a staffer, it was part of his job to ensure that not only rich, white men from out of state would benefit.
“I am honored to represent what I think was the ideal of this. What we have here is the unicorn. They’re not white, they’re not rich, and they’re from Jersey City,” Mouzon exclaimed.
Jersey Leaf co-owner William Pena noted he is a felon who now owns a trucking company.
“I definitely want to give people opportunity who got in trouble like myself. I’m just an open book to help the next person get ahead in life,” he explained about second chances.
Bunney asked what Margetis role is with the South Hudson Civic Association.
He replied that he has helped minorities and felons get jobs, as well as getting involved in activities with seniors and kids. He also noted he coaches youth sports and is a member of the West Side Ave Special Improvement District.
“You check all the boxes,” Bunney said before the applicant received unanimous approval (4-0).