By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View
They first reviewed Voox Farms., Inc., 80 Harrison Street, their first cannabis cultivator versus a standard dispensary application.
Cannabis attorney Rosemarie Moyeno Matos began stating they’re a minority and veteran-owned micro business.
“I grew up on Grant, Bergen, Virginia Avenue. I’ve owned a house on Armstrong Avenue,” owner Rodney Aycox, a U.S. Marine Corps who served during the Gulf War, explained.
Disabled but not regular veterans are prioritized in the New Jersey state cannabis licensing process. Aycox said he went into IT after the Marines but currently works for an ad agency as a project manager specializing in Pharma.
They are working with the non-profits Backpack for Life and Community Treasures to help them and attorney Michael Hoffman to hold expungement clinics.
“What are you doing at the cultivation facility?” CCB attorney Ron Mondello asked.
“I’ll be a Swiss army knife type,” Aycox replied.
Franco Perretti, of Newton, would be the director of cultivation. He explained they would have a 1,750 square-foot space with five rooms. There will be two grow rooms and rooms for drying, curing, processing, and propagation.
Commissioner Jeff Kaplowitz noted the building must be bigger and their application described expansion.
“They have discussed with the landlord if they were to convert their license to expand it,” Matos explained.
“You would reapply to the state?” Kaplowitz asked.
“We would have to apply to convert the license,” Aycox said.
“How many plants are in that space?” Kaplowitz asked.
“138 plants,” Perretti said.
CCB Chair Brittani Bunney said the Jersey City Police Department denied their security plan after reviewing it and that they only received the information today.
“Your qualifications are superb. You received a zoning letter from [Planning Director] Tanya [Marione] … saying this is an R-1 one- and two-family neighborhood. Her opinion was since this was an industrial building pre-existing … that cannabis is allowed in it. I don’t believe her opinion is right. It opens up a can of worms,” Kaplowitz said.
Mondello said that the CCB has no jurisdiction in this matter and that’s up to the sole discretion of Marione.
“We can’t deny you based on zoning or planning. Our issue is whether you’re a good fit for the community,” Bunney explained.
“Voox Farms is an improvement to this building. My mother-in-law is the landlord of this building. It is grandfathered in commercial. It is a commercial building. It has been since 1917. Voox Farms is a major improvement to this property,” Sean Hurley, of Maplewood, said during public comment.
“Voox Farms is stabilizing the property … making it better for all the neighbors around there.
Due to the security issue, the CCB tabled them unanimously (4-0). Commissioner Courtney Sloane was absent.
“The issue we keep going back and forth here is your community impact plan,” Bunney reminded them
Attorney Walter Nealy said they secured a Memo of Understanding (MOU) with a local nonprofit and submitted an updated community impact plan and documents.
“There will be expungement clinics that will help anyone with marijuana charges,” owner Anna Tolentino, who was an attorney for 25 years being disbarred for mishandling client funds, said.
Monique Smith Andrews, the founder of the Mo Hair Foundation, explained that they give wigs to people with cancer and alopecia and would work with them.
“I do appreciate Mo Hair Foundation being here. I don’t know if you have satisfied everything,” Vice Chair Jose Cantarero said.
“I have to agree. I don’t feel as comfortable,” Commissioner Sonia Marte-Dublin
Bunney also noted there were approved dispensaries near their location before the board voted unanimously (4-0) to deny them.
Kine Buds Jersey City, LLC, with a planned storefront at 545 Newark Ave., was next. Noted cannabis attorney Fruqan Mouzon represented them.
Owner Michael Daniel is a Jersey City resident who has owned a cafe for three years on Mallory Avenue.
Mouzon also noted he doesn’t have an issue with access to capital.
“I do get a lot of pushback. We’re turning Newark Ave into a strip of cannabis and people are not happy with that. I have an issue with the location,” Bunney said.
“I agree. Have you met with the Hilltop Block Association?” Marte-Dublin noted.
“I have not. I have met with other businesses on the same block,” Daniel said.
With that, Bunney said more neighborhood outreach was needed, particularly since approving them would essentially put four dispensaries on top of each other.
“An oversaturation in any business district will cause a 50 percent bankruptcy failure. It doesn’t make sense to saturate any one business district,” Kaplowitz declared.
“We kind of built the plane as we’re flying it. Now we’re starting to see the repercussions,” Bunney noted.
The board has mentioned that Central Avenue in the Heights, Newark Avenue in downtown, and West Side Avenue in Ward B already have too many dispensaries approved already.
“Totally understand all the concerns. There would be over 100 if not for me. This applicant made what have been the mistake of getting his stuff together first. He wanted to get the money straight,” Mouzon stated.
He noted other clients got approved, but ran out of money.
Kaplowitz said they should meet with the Hilltop Neighborhood Association, while Bunney said she felt their community outreach and impact plans had been misrepresented.
Their application was adjourned unanimously (5-0).
Kreme of The Pot, with a planned location at 497 Communipaw Ave., was up next. They had been adjourned in both March and April.
Bunney also said their security plan has been denied by the Jersey City Police Department, while Kaplowitz indicated that they would have to move their location.
Attorney Tom Leane noted the location was approved for a different applicant who has moved on.
“It was Treehouse Ventures,” Bunney said. They were one of the five applicants approved in December.
Leane noted they are a woman- and minority-owned micro-business.
Owner Pleshette Rose explained they’d have a community engagement manager and a community advisory board. They also plan to work with a nonprofit that gives kids haircuts. Another one will give out tote bags with hygiene products to school children.
Arthur Williams, of Jersey City, said they are also helping a program that mentors young women, working with the Jersey City Housing Authority, and then a third a program to foster Black history education.
Bunney noted they had many people to speak on their behalf and Kaplowitz called it an “excellent application.”
She then made a motion to approve them with the condition of the Jersey City Police Department approving them, which drew applause from the crowd before the application was approved unanimously (4-0).