The Jersey City Council approved a resolution calling for a 6-month cannabis dispensary application moratorium, starting next month, at last week’s meeting.
By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View
The resolution, which was highlighted last week, was requested by the local cannabis control board, citing several areas getting oversaturated with cannabis dispensaries.
As of March 6th, about 61 applications have been submitted to the CCB and 46 have been approved. A CCB meeting that was held simultaneously with the council caucus last Monday saw two more dispensaries receive approval.
Chris Broderick, of Legacy to Lifted – a local social equity dispensary applicant – explained that while he has CCB approval, he does not have planning board nor city council approval and a temporary halt would likely leave him in limbo until next year.
Another cannabis entrepreneur, John Schram, echoed a similar sentiment.
“I’ve been working extremely hard on locating a site. I’m at the finish line. The ordinance disenfranchises those of us who wish to open dispensaries in other areas. This ordinance could bankrupt us,” he said.
He asserted that is the local legislation was approved, it could cost him tens of thousands of dollars, the loss of his investor, and his state conditional license if they truly delay the whole process for six months.
“Give us a deadline to make,” Schram added.
He wanted to open elsewhere in the area but had problems with the small green zones where cannabis companies are allowed.
Elizabeth Sarofiem, whose Seraph and Sons dispensary was approved at last week’s CCB meeting, said a moratorium would hinder progress.
“Just two nights ago, I was approved with overwhelming support by the Cannabis Control Board who unanimously voted to approve my application. It was an incredibly productive meeting, and I would love to keep that momentum going.”
“I recognize the impetus behind resolution 10.40 being heard tonight proposing a moratorium on Class 5 applications, but I do want to emphasize the importance of continuing progress – especially for applicants who are Jersey City natives, such as myself, and for applicants seeking to open in locations in need of redevelopment, as I am doing.”
Julissa Bonilla, of Cannabotique by Greenhouse, called for a compromise where the council should vote on dispensaries that have already received CCB and planning board approval.
“I don’t think it’s fair, the CRC is only allowing a certain amount of extensions.”
Bonilla argued they have not prioritized locals or minorities, as well as pointing out the costly and long process to apply.
Ward D Councilman Yousef Saleh made the initial motion to amend the resolution to not implement the temporary pause until 11:59 p.m. on May 15th.
“We’re not trying to move the goalposts for anyone. It was something that was not thought of when we were writing this. People in the pipeline can move forward until then,” Councilwoman-at-Large Amy DeGise, who sponsored the measure, said.
“We’ll have something more substantive when it comes to the ordinance and putting a cap in place. There’s a few things we have to clean up,” Saleh explained.
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.
Council President Joyce Watterman asked how many microbusinesses had been approved so far.
“I can get that number for you,” Corporation Counsel Peter Baker replied.
Ward B Councilwoman Mira Prinz-Arey said a committee would make changes to the Jersey City cannabis law. She claimed that along with the council, the planning board, and the CCB, “members of the public will be part of the process.”
“In the next iteration of the cannabis ordinance, we should make sure that social equity applicants and minorities and women are given priority,” Saleh said.
“We have a lot of women here Jersey City born and raised. They deserve a shot.”
Ward E Councilman James Solomon thanked Saleh for introducing amendments, which also says that the CCB and Jersey City Commerce Department can still receive applications during the moratorium.
“As a council, we have to have some control over what’s going on. I know that minorities and individuals who didn’t necessarily have the big financial capacity were going to run into some roadblocks. So I didn’t want to get into the business of penalizing them,” Ward F Councilman Frank Gilmore noted.
DeGise told those in the cannabis business that the governing body was actually trying to help them, noting that Jersey City still hasn’t had a dispensary open yet.
“Hopefully, see you on the agenda here soon. We’re actually pausing to check our current state versus what our desired state is supposed to be. That really is in all of our minds to prioritize Jersey City residents, social equity applicants, people who want to create businesses here, raise their families here.”
“We want to ensure we’re doing all we can to keep you in business and keep you here,” DeGise exclaimed.
Watterman, who in August apologized for voting for a dispensary co-owned by her daughter, said the city dropped the ball by allowing so many out-of-town applicants to receive approvals.
“Part of the goal was to help women and minority businesses from the very beginning. If a sufficient number wasn’t approved, we failed as a city. A lot of the big guys have come in and been approved,” Watterman admitted.
“I was surprised that some people from the community allowed them to be put on the application and have five percent ownership. I know some of them didn’t live here. It probably squeezed out a little of the little guys. Now we’re faced with decisions on how to go forward with this. It’s out of control: That’s just the truth.”
The amended resolution was approved unanimously (8-0), with Councilman-at-Large Daniel Rivera absent.
According to the Jersey City Department of Commerce, 17 dispensaries have received approval from the city council thus far.
Harmony Dispensary in Secaucus, which also has a medical license, is the only Hudson County business open for recreational sales as of this writing.