The Jersey City Cannabis Control Board (CCB) approved five dispensary applications at last night’s meeting, including one co-owned by Hudson County Commissioner Jerry Walker (D-3).
By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View
The last applicant was the micro business Top of the Pot Dispensary, with a storefront at 107 West Side Ave. Tuesday Cardwell is the 51 percent majority owner and Walker is the 49 percent owner.
“It’s 100 percent African American and 100 percent local owned,” attorney Elnardo Webster said, who also pointed out that they’re in an impact zone.
Walker, who also runs the Team Walker non-profit, said they want to train students 21 and older to work in the cannabis industry.
Cardwell said she was a real estate agent and worked for the former Glenn and Sandra Cunningham Foundation. Her husband, Joe Cardwell, is a longtime confidant to state Senator Sandra Cunningham (D-31).
Webster also said they want to work with other license applicants on expungement.
Additionally, former Ward F Councilman Jermaine Robinson spoke in their favor, noting that Joe Cardwell owns a chain of daycare centers that employs 200 people.
They were approved 3-0(1), with Commissioner Stacey Flanagan abstaining and Chair Brittanni Bunney recusing.
Legacy to Lifted LLC, located at 490 West Side Ave., was first on the agenda. They were previously carried. Attorney Micci Weiss noted they received state approval from the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (NJCRC) on October 27th.
“I have put significant hours in with training with the state and these contracts,” owner Chris Broderick said.
“I am a third generation Jersey City resident. My siblings and I grew up in a one-bedroom apartment. I was arrested for marijuana and for intent to distribute. Nobody wanted to hire a convicted felon.”
Broderick continued that he now runs his own trucking company and that he has spoken to his neighbors and they are supportive of his new endeavor. He also said he had a “great” meeting with Ward B Councilwoman Mira Prinz-Arey.
“What is the square footage?” CCB Commissioner Courtney Sloane asked, to which Broderick replied that it’s 1,500 square feet.
“Chris put a lot of effort into the training. We have done a lot of operational training,” cannabis industry consultant James Barr added.
Broderick said he wants to create an apprenticeship program for minority felons to rise in the ranks.
“After a couple years, you’re going to give your employees equity?” CCB attorney Ron Mondello asked.
“If they meet the right credentials,” Broderick answered.
United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Organizing Director Hugh Giordano said they plan to work with Legacy to Legal on their apprenticeship program.
They also have a Labor Peace Agreement (LPA) signed with them whereby Legacy to Legal would not prevent its workers from joining the union.
“Would that include apprentices as part of the union?” CCB Commissioner Stacey Flanagan, also the city’s Health and Human Services director, asked.
Giordano said it would, with Shane Haywood and Alexis Torres also speaking in favor of the application.
“This is who the program was designed for,” Weiss said about the NJCRC license prioritizations.
Sloane noted her previous concerns about Broderick’s experience.
“I want to understand how Chris is going to run the business day to day,” she said.
Broderick said they would have a secure entry and do inventory checks at least twice a week. A receptionist would keep track of customers and show them where to go.
“Who will manage the operations? Sloane asked.
“I’m going to be mostly doing everything at first and then train everyone with HR,” Broderick said.
“Your security, are they armed?” CCB Commissioner Glenda Salley Perkins
“No, I don’t think that represents the cannabis community,” Broderick replied.
Flanagan then asked if he would still be running the trucking company, to which he said he would put someone else in charge to run the day-to-day operations.
They were approved 4-0, with Bunney abstaining.
The next application was Neon Heights, with an address at 535 Newark Ave. They were also awarded a dispensary license in October by the NJCRC.
Matthew Keisoglu, of Jersey City, explained that he works at a licensed dispensary and had previously been arrested for cannabis possession.
“Is there any non-compete?” Flanagan asked.
“He signed a confidential non-disclosure agreement. There was no non-compete. I was surprised,” Attorney Rosemarie Moyeno Matos said.
Alexandria Alcala, who owns 95 percent of the business, also lives in Jersey City. She moved to Jersey City from New York City shortly after cannabis legalization passed and she became immersed in the community by volunteering.
Alcala has a background in commercial real estate and budtending. She also said they worked with Ward C Councilman Rich Boggiano to secure community support.
“You were going to raise funds for a percentage of a business. Does that require reporting to the city and the state if there are additional owners?” Vice Chair Jeff Kaplowitz asked.
“We can update the board as they take on investors,” Matos said.
Flanagan said it would be difficult to regulate this and prevent conflicts of interest.
“The majority won’t change,” Mondello noted.
Alcala further stated that the company’s valuation increases significantly once local approval is secured, which makes raising money easier.
“How are you going to do your recruitment?” Sloane asked.
Alcala explained they sponsored Cannademix, an educational platform that recently hosted an event where they collected many resumes.
Bunney noted those who submitted resumes want jobs now, while dispensaries won’t open for months.
“One of the things that is important is doing the work before you come here, I love that you work with PS 127,” Bunney also said before the application was approved unanimously (5-0).
Greener on Grove, LLC, located at 608 Grove St., was next. Matos was also representing them and said they were a minority-owned company that the NJCRC approved them in July.
Owner Syringa Ko explained she is a mother of two who has built support for cannabis through the PTA.
“Does Shopping Cart Quarters have an interest in Greener on Grove?” Kaplowitz asked.
Syringa’s brother, Haines Ko – who is the CFO – said Syringa owns Shopping Cart Quarters and it owns Greener on Grove.
He explained he worked in finance and advised a cannabis company traded on the Canadian Stock Exchange. Sloane commended their work with St. Lucy’s Shelter, which Haines detailed before receiving unanimous approval (5-0).
Treehouse Ventures LLC, at 495 Communipaw Ave., was next. Their attorney, Jennifer Cabrera, explained their micro business has a conditional license issued by the NJCRC in June.
Tawfic Helou, of Caldwell, owns 90 percent of the company. He explained he has a cannabis conviction and is a social equity applicant who has built several laundromat businesses from the ground up.
He continued that he wants to support the Jersey City Anti-Violence Coalition led by Pamela Johnson. He also wanted to hire people from the Intensive Supervision Program (ISP) for non-violent felons he graduated from.
“I didn’t hear a lot about the mechanics and operations. What’s needed in the community is someone who is there,” Flanagan said.
She was also offended by their consultant’s remarks about the transitional nature of the neighborhood.
“I got that too: I didn’t hear you talk about the community,” Sloane stated, a sentiment that Perkins echoed as well.
Flanagan noted that three of her colleagues have voted for several companies with limited ties to Jersey City and Bunney agreed that Treehouse seemed qualified.
“They have more of a connection with Jersey City than others who have come before us,” she said.
Kaplowitz said conditions to their approval were that they should immerse themselves in the community and introduce themselves to their neighbors before receiving a unanimous vote (5-0) in favor.