The Jersey City Council debated about the proximity of competing cannabis dispensaries during their caucus meeting as two more applications appeared on their agenda.
By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View
Jersey City Commerce Department Director Maynard Woodson noted the planning board approved the adult-use cannabis dispensary applicant Green Flamingo on November 29th. They are poised to receive a vote on a city resolution, the last step in the local process.
Green Flamingo is set to open up in the Heights at 477 Central Ave.
“They have a signed MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) with Miracle Temple committing $7,500 per year,” he noted.
“What happens when both applications go to the state to be approved, but the ordinance prohibits them to be within 600 feet of each other?” Ward F Councilman Frank “Educational” Gilmore asked.
Woodson said that all applications should be heard, since the business isn’t formally recognized until they gain approval from the city council.
“So, there’s a possibility we could either be sued or have two dispensaries within a 600-foot radius?” Gilmore continued.
“I would say the latter. You’ll have some that will be less than 600 feet,” Woodson replied.
Council President Joyce Watterman also asked if this could lead to lawsuits, to which Woodson said that should be addressed by Corporation Counsel Peter Baker.
“We don’t put the pin in the map until the council approves it. If it receives council approval, there’s things that could happen at the state level that would result in removing the pin,” explained Baker.
“There could always be litigation surrounding that, and we could deal with that on a case-by-case existence.”
“We’re seeing this in more than one location in the city. Does it make sense to press pause on approving these? We talked about caps,” Ward B Councilwoman Mira Prinz-Arey said, referencing when the council voted down a cap of 55 dispensaries in November.
She also said that she knew of three dispensaries that were ready to receive a council vote that were all within 600 feet of another cannabis business.
“Can we make sure if city permits are on the same wavelength?” Ward A Councilwoman Denise Ridley asked, adding that a dispensary is seeking planning board approval, but a pin in the map could preclude them.
“I’ll speak to planning. I’ll figure where everyone is before the meeting on Wednesday,” Baker said.
Watterman again asked if they should pause the process based on the letter of the law, to which Baker said he would research the matter further.
“When you’re looking into this industry … there’s inherent risk involved. People getting into this business are aware of the risk involved,” added Ward D Councilman Yousef Saleh.
The governing body previously discussed providing local financial assistance.
Saleh also noted that a city resolution is the highest hurdle in the application process prior to opening before asking if the city has a map of the approved dispensaries, to which Woodson said there is.
“Just in Ward F alone, you have three dispensaries trying to get on Grand Street and Communipaw. All three applications are in. Either someone is going to try to sue the city. Or we’ll get in a worse situation where … all of them open up,” Gilmore said.
Woodson interjected that one of the applicants had withdrawn.
“Why does the CCB Board approve them if the distance … they’re not supposed to be there? Why does it come to us?” Watterman asked.
“No one really has a license at this point,” Woodson replied, noting that most applications are at different levels in the process. Very few have final approval in the New Jersey conditional and annual cannabis company licensing process.
“I will review what the state has given us. There could be a reason that the previous application could not go forward. Then the secondary application could be quote-unquote ‘next in line,'” Baker noted.
A short while latter, Watterman asked how many dispensaries have been approved for Central Avenue.
“I believe there’s four,” Woodson said, further stating that the Local Modiv dispensary was also on the agenda for Wednesday.
“This application was actually denied by the CCB. But there was a ruling by Superior Court Judge [Joseph] Turula, who sent it back to the CCB with a remand to approve,” Woodson said.
Prinz-Arey asked if that would create yet another distance issue, to which Woodson said it potentially would
“Maybe we can hold back for two weeks. They haven’t spoken to anyone in the area. Those businesses are pretty up in arms. We actually got a pretty detailed email on that specific one,” At Large Councilman Daniel Rivera said.
“We can table this one,” Watterman replied.
Ward E Councilman James Solomon, the ward where Modiv would operate in, said that he had no issue with delaying the vote in order for them to reach out to their Special Improvement District.
“Maybe there’s a checklist for the CCB Board. What are they voting up or down on? I don’t feel like it should be our job to decipher this. If they know it’s in the wrong location, how is it even passing?” Ridley asked.
“There is a list of factors that should be considered. It’s not a strict rubric per se,” replied Baker, noting that the CCB has to have leeway when considering the full scope of the project.
“Could distance be included?” Watterman asked.
“It is currently within the ordinance,” Woodson answered.
“There’s a whole conversation that needs to take place. We are the ones that will take the hit. We’ll get back on this one,” Watterman said, indicating that they want the CCB to be the ultimate judge on proximity issues.