In a meeting that lasted until midnight, the Jersey City Cannabis Control Board heard from six applicants on their agenda, and they approved three, tabled two, and denied one.
The three applicants approved include Uforia, who are looking to locate their business in the Heights, Cannabis Place 420 Corp., and Kushmart Jersey, who are proposing locations near each other in Greenville.
Oceanfront Holdings, who want to create a shop in Downtown, and Medusa NJ were tabled, with the latter having been carried the second time, and another carried applicant, Local Modiv, was denied approval.
Uforia wants to create a retail cannabis store at 138 Griffith St. in the Heights. They were first heard at the board’s June 28 meeting, but were tabled following a number of concerns from the board commissioners.
The owner of the business, Bashkim Spahi, pitched his story as a child of Muslim immigrant refugees that had lost friends from gun and drug-related violence during his childhood. He said his company’s main mission will be childhood prevention and making sure the community is safe.
He added that their attorney does pro bono work with Northeast New Jersey Legal Services. He also said that they got an MOU signed by the Jersey City Anti-Violence Coalition Movement.
Commissioner Courtney Sloane said that while Spahi had gotten more information and appreciated his personal stories, she questioned him on how he would run the dispensary. Spahi responded that he would be on the ground day-to-day, hiring and managing inventory.
He said he sat down with Heights Councilman Yousef Saleh on the dispensary and discussed getting the Muslim community involved with the business. He said he reached out to the Central Avenue Special Improvement District and that Executive Director Alexa Lima told him that they would assist him, even though he’s just outside the district.
“It’s not just a store,” he said. “It’s a lot of history behind cannabis. I know you guys all know that. So we have to kind of work together as well. That’s not something that I’m promising to do; I have a lot of stuff to do already. But it’s just an idea that I think it’d be a good nucleus for us to work together and stay connected.”
“I think that’s exactly what we wanted to hear,” responded Commissioner Stacey Flanagan, who’s also the city’s Health and Human Services director.
Uforia was eventually approved 3-0-2 with conditions, with Sloane and Chairwoman Brittani Bunney abstaining. Uforia has not presented before the city’s Planning Board yet, with Uforia’s attorney, Zachary Rosenberg, noting that they were told to come before the cannabis board first.
And greener, too
Two applicants located within about 300 feet of each other in Greenville were approved by the board, although it was not without concerns about their effect on the neighborhood.
One applicant, the Cannabis Place 420 Corp., are seeking to create a retail store at 1542 JFK Blvd. They were represented by attorney Brian Aiola, who’s also Corporation Counsel in Hoboken.
Osbert Orduna, the CEO of the Cannabis Place, pitched his background as a first-generation Latino and a disabled Marine Corp veteran who served in Iraq, saying he wanted to create change after seeing a number of dispensaries that weren’t owned by people of color.
He said he plans to have at least 18 full-time unionized employees, to collaborate with other groups to create a cannabis workforce, and to create a community impact room to host and sponsor partner events for community empowerment.
The applicant had been met with resistance at a previous Planning Board meeting by a number of Board of Education trustees over it’s close proximity to P.S. 30. They argued at the time that putting a dispensary within 1,000 feet of a school building would violate federal law and put federal funding at risk.
Orduna said in response to those concerns that he had written to the Board of Education to request a meeting with them, and had reached out to the principal at P.S. 30.
School board Trustee Lorenzo Richardson, who had spoken out against them at the Planning Board meeting, took issue with the location on Monday night and said that he would prefer if dispensaries were near roads such as Tonnelle Avenue and Route 440.
“All I’m asking is that when this process is done, that it is done responsibly, and not done in a way that is socially and morally corrupt,” he said.
The board voted 4-0-1 to approve them, with Bunney recusing herself from the application.
The other applicant, Kushmart Jersey, would be located down the street from the Cannabis Place at 1521 Kennedy Blvd. Originally both a retail and consumption application, their attorney, Robert DiPisa, asked the board to bifurcate their application in regards to consumption.
Kushmart representatives said they plan to hire 25 to 30 employees, along with providing expungement for any, hiring 10 percent of their work force from the New Jersey Reentry Program and from the Greenville area.
But concerns were brought up by a nearby charter school and number of public speakers from the neighborhood.
Soaring Heights Charter School appeared as an objector to Kushmart, with Jacqueline Quagliana, the lead person at the school, said that she was focused on keeping her students safe.
“This is legal at this point, but it is not legal for someone in eighth grade, just like if they were going to have alcohol,” she said. “I would oppose that, right? So I can’t control that. But I can only do the best that I can. So this is one thing that I can do.”
A number of residents from the neighborhood also spoke on their opposition against having a dispensary in their area, including that they weren’t directly given letters from Kushmart, despite the applicants saying they did outreach.
The board eventually voted 3-2 to approve them, with Bunney and Flanagan voting no.
Medusa NJ, who are looking to create a dispensary and consumption lounge in Journal Square, was tabled for the second time amidst concerns from a number of educational institutions such as Saint Peter’s University and Hudson Catholic about its proximity to them.
Their attorney, Rosemarie Moyeno Matos, said that she had met with representatives from the aforementioned institutions and discussed their concerns and requests they had for their operations.
She said that afterwards, her client, Haytham Elgawly, had gone back with his professionals to put together a proposal with some computations and sent them last Thursday, to which counsel from both Saint Peter’s and Hudson Catholic then requested to have Medusa carried over to discuss the proposals at another meeting.
Matos also added that the retail part of their application had received approval by the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission on June 30, and that “our clock has started ticking” regarding submitting a conversation application.
In the meantime, Oceanfront Holdings was a new applicant that was heard before the board, but was also tabled.
Oceanfront is looking to create a cannabis store on 141 Newark Ave. to sell both recreational and medical marijuana. The applicants explained that they had gotten state license to sell medical cannabis, and that they’re asking the cannabis board to seek retail approval.
Board attorney Ron Mondello said that while state statue and regulations say that a medical dispensary that wants to expand to adult use can get a letter from the mayor or governing body for support, he noted a memo in Oceanfront’s approval from CRC Director Jeff Brown saying that they would still need to get a new resolution from the governing body.
Amanda Handy, the owner and president of Oceanfront, said that they plan to open by the end of October to early November. Ron Smalley, an industry consultant, also said they plan to hire 20 employees, with 80 percent of them being local reentry minority employees.
The commissioners however had questioned their plans for medical sales and hiring reentry programs.
“I feel somewhat misled,” Flanagan said. “Because I feel like if you are sharing with us at your base is medical, [and] you plan to open in October related to that, but your financials show your interest is like 10 times the amount of recreational sales than you medical sales.”
The board then questioned Nancy Georges, a reentry consultant from West Virginia, over what their reentry focus will be. Flanagan asked Georges how they plan to open by October if training and supporting individuals, to which the latter replied, “You don’t have to be, in my opinion.”
“The community is Jersey City and I am familiarizing myself with that level, with all due respect.” said Georges. “But you don’t have to be in Jersey City per se, to understand reentry and what it takes and how to rehabilitate people in general.”
Commissioner Glenda Salley-Perkins then questioned her on what organizations they plan to reach out to, to which Georges replied that it was a work in progress. Handy later clarified that Georges plans to reach with the New Jersey Reentry Program.
The board eventually voted 3-2 on a motion to table them, with Bunney and Kaplowitz voting against the motion.
Local Modiv derails
Local Modiv, who had returned for the third time before the board to seek approval for a store in Downtown, ultimately had their application denied by the board.
The applicants were seeking to create a retail cannabis store at the former Sleep Cheap store on 155 Newark Ave., but were tabled the first time last month so that the board could get more evidence of their connections with the local Special Improvement District.
But while their attorney, Josh Shapiro, had submitted more documents to the board, the commissioners signaled that they still weren’t on board with the applicants. Sally-Perkins in particular said she had concerns about hiring priorities and the impact zone, including the hiring of minorities and working with minority areas.
Chelsea Duffy, a principal of Local Modiv who’s also the vice chair of the city’s Women’s Advisory Board, said that they had partnered for a career fair in September, and that they were working with #HireBlack, a platform to help Black women with hiring. She also said they had chosen a few groups to support.
Sloane however pressed Duffy on their company DNA and where they stand. “This is just going back to just the diversity and speaking into your interest and hiring different people,” she said. “That’s basically the same question and you shared by sharing all the different organizations that you’re working with that assist you in bringing, perhaps people.”
“I am very aware of how it appears,” said Duffy. “I am very present with what I’m doing, who I am and the opportunities that exist, and who can be a part of that. So I appreciate that. I’ve gotten really, really comfortable with understanding that there are a lot of beautiful things outside of this alongside of this, and all of those are going to continue no matter what.”
They were eventually denied 3-0-2, with Bunney abstaining and Flanagan not present for the vote at the time.