The Jersey City Council reviewed long awaited cannabis changes, including capping the number of dispensaries in the city at 48, during this morning’s caucus meeting.
By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View
“There’s a moratorium on accepting new applicants. The purpose of that delay was to allow passage of changes to chapter 84,” attorney Tom Slattery, who has served as counsel for the Jersey City Cannabis Control Board, explained.
The CCB has been reviewing applications that applied before the moratorium went into effect in mid-May.
“Those applicants already in the pipeline would still have the old rules apply to them. We wouldn’t overturn those. Everyone else is someone in the process,” Slattery noted.
Following questioning from Ward F Councilman Frank “Educational” Gilmore, Slattery said there are currently 19 or 20 applications still in the pipeline.
“It was less about choosing the best applicants. It’s less of a first one through the door … and something more akin to competitive licensing,” Slattery admitted regarding the process to date.
The ordinance imposes a cap of 48 New Jersey cannabis dispensaries, with eight per ward (there are six wards in the city).
Those with an annual license from the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission and those with approved resolutions from the council will not be hindered by the revisions.
Back in November, the council voted down a cannabis dispensary cap of 55 citywide, citing equity concerns for the south side, as HCV first reported, then a six-month moratorium was approved by the governing body in April.
Thus far, 17 cannabis dispensaries have received resolutions, according to the Jersey City Department of Commerce cannabis map, and some of them also have annual licenses.
Furthermore, the same city department also indicates that 55 cannabis companies have been approved by the local cannabis control board.
The Jersey City cannabis ordinance revisions allow three cultivators, three manufacturers, three wholesalers, and three distributor licenses.
Borrowing from the NJ-CRC, prioritization of who should get licenses include microbusinesses, a “social equity business,” minority-owned businesses, women-owned businesses, minority- and women-owned businesses, service-disabled veterans, and individuals convicted of cannabis-related offenses prior to legalization.
Ward A Councilwoman Denise Ridley also expressed concerns about cannabis companies in the pipeline.
“They’re being held up, but they’ve already gone through the CCB. What’s the hold up?” she asked.
“I know they still have to get through the planning side of things and prep themselves,” Slattery noted.
“We can tell you where they’re at in the process,” Corporation Counsel Peter Baker
Ridley also noted that the so-called 600-foot rule remains problematic for many potential business owners.
“We know Central Avenue is a problem. What have we done to fix that problem?” she questioned.
“We would remove hard and fast rules about distancing,” Slattery explained, further starting they would have a more holistic review of the location.
He also said the CCB would have some discretion, to which the councilwoman added how that would work.
“We thought it better to, rather than draw a simple line, include an explanation of the location and how it serves the city,” Slattery replied.
“In my opinion that’s too subjective,” Ridley answered.
Ward B Councilwoman Mira Prinz-Arey added that two dispensaries in her ward share a wall, along with a lack of clarity on when the pin goes in the map, as well as the renewal process timeline.
Slattery replied that dispensaries securing approval need state approval to open, which will factor into their consideration.
“Are you going to propose an ordinance to change the name from Jersey City to Pot City?” Ward C Councilman Rich Boggiano, who has voted no on all dispensaries that came before him, asked.
Ward D Councilman Yousef Saleh noted they sent over a few amendments to address smoke shops.
Around this time, Slattery also mentioned that they are setting up an enforcement mechanism to go after unlicensed cannabis dispensaries.
“If they are operating without a license, without a CO, they would have local support rescinded. The health department would be able to issue a notice of violation,” he added.
“The unlicensed sales and unpermitted sale is still potentially a criminal offense,” Baker noted.
Boggiano shouted that nobody is currently enforcing these laws, which has contributed to the issues the city is experiencing.
“You wouldn’t have to go through a full planning board review, correct?” Saleh asked.
“We want to save them that step in the process by presenting a zoning determination letter and some other evidence. It really makes the Planning Board’s agenda swell,” Slattery noted.
The city also has resolutions on Wednesday’s agenda for for six cannabis dispensaries.