Jersey City cannabis board approves four applicants

One approved applicant has rapper and actor Ice-T as a business partner

Medusa NJ had their applicant approved by the Cannabis Control Board after being tabled multiple times. Photo by Mark Koosau.

The Jersey City Cannabis Control Board approved four applicants at their most recent meeting, including two that had been tabled and two new ones that included rapper and actor Ice-T as a business partner.

Medusa NJ, who had been tabled multiple times beforehand, and Oceanfront Holdings, who was tabled at the previous meeting, were both approved by the board. Also approved were The Other Side, who are looking to create a dispensary in the Heights, and The Medicine Woman, who would be located on Tonnelle Ave.

The tables have turned

Medusa NJ, who are looking to create a cannabis dispensary in Journal Square, had their application approved 3-0-1 by the board (with Commissioner Stacey Flanagan abstaining and Commissioner Courtney Sloane absent from the meeting that night) after being tabled multiple times.

Their owner, Haytham Elagwly, a local businessman, is looking to create a dispensary in his former clothing store called Clearpoint, but had received pushback from a number of educational institutions such as Saint Peter’s University, Hudson Catholic and the Archdiocese of Newark over the dispensary’s nearby proximity.

Returning before the board once more, his attorney, Rosemarie Moyeno Matos, explained that they had a meeting with said institutions and heard a number of requests such as removing their proposed consumption lounge, decreasing the hours of operation and adding security.

To that end, they proposed not removing consumption and reducing the amount of hours by 40 per week for at least the first two years of operations (though she did note that they agreed to bifurcate that part for this application), decreasing the hours of operations for retail, and agreeing to have another security guard.

But she then said that Saint Peter’s had rejected her request, saying that they did not “sufficiently meet their demand/request”, and that Hudson Catholic did not reject it outright but also didn’t accept it.

Oceanfront Holdings were also approved after having been tabled at the previous meeting. Photo by Mark Koosau.

Vice Chairman Jeffrey Kaplowitz said that after carrying their application multiple times and seeing Medusa’s new proposals, they had met all the legal requirements and they should be voted on.

“I think that they’ve done everything possible,” he said. “Over a period of time, I think the participants in this discussion will find that the applicant is very diligent and responsible to be a good neighbor.”

The other tabled applicant, Oceanfront Holdings, was also approved unanimously by the board after being tabled at the previous meeting.

Oceanfront is proposing a dispensary on Newark Avenue in Downtown for both recreational and medical cannabis, to which they previously said that they had previously received state approval for medical use. But they had faced concerns before about their medical sales and hiring reentry programs.

Returning to the board to explain their social equity plans, their owner and president, Amanda Handy, explained that they plan to hire 20 full time and part time employees, with 16 of them being Jersey City residents and 10 of said residents being either reentry or minority.

She also explained that they plan to work with the law offices of Michael Rubas to provide free expungement services, work with local and state agencies to publicize employment opportunities, and partnering with services such as Miracle Temple Church and the Hope House.

Chairwoman Brittani Bunney said that since the medical part is going to open, she didn’t see a reason not to allow them to expand to recreational use. “I don’t have any questions,” she said. “I read what you guys sent over on my way here. I think it was very thorough, so thank you for doing that.”

See you on the other side

The first new applicant approved unanimously by the board was The Other Side, who are looking to create a recreational dispensary on 36 Congress St. in the Heights. Originally both for retail and consumption, Matos, who is also their attorney, told them that they’re willing to bifurcate the consumption part.

The majority owner of the applicant, Alyza Brevard-Rodriguez, pitched her background as an Afro-Latina LGBT veteran who has lived in Jersey City since she was 17, having served in the Navy and also opened the SW3AT Sauna Studio in Jersey City and Hoboken.

The minority owner, Corey Jackson, is a child of military parents who worked in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical manufacturing before leaving to work in cannabis for four years since then.

Brevard-Rodriguez explained that she plans to shift the narrative around cannabis and highlight the wellness aspect of it. She also plans to prioritize veterans for hiring, as well working with the Minority Cannabis Academy for employee training or hiring students from their cohort.

Alyza Brevard-Rodriguez (seen right) pitched her background as an Afro-Latina LGBT veteran as part of her application for The Other Side. Photo by Mark Kooasu.

“Most of the barrier to entry in this industry is high,” she said as she teared up. “I want to afford to save funds for the advancement of my family, and together, we decided that this was a wise use of that money. So I hope that this is a testament to my commitment to this business in this community.”

After being asked about expungements, Jackson added that they have spoken with lawyer Michael Hoffman about doing one-on-one private expungements.

Hugh Giordano, a union representative for UFCW Local 152, spoke in support of The Other Side, saying that they have committed to “training, education, fine living wages, creating economic wealth for the future of Jersey City residents.”

Flanagan, who’s also the city’s Health and Human Services director, praised Brevard-Rodriguez for her past work and said that “it’s something that we would really like to see in the community.”

The last applicant approved unanimously by the board was the Medicine Woman, who are looking to create a recreational dispensary on 660 Tonnelle Ave., and had opened their original location in Bellflower, California in 2015.

Ice-T, who’s real name is Tracy Lauren Marrow, said that he decided to create a dispensary in Jersey City instead of his current residence in Edgewater, and partnered with Charis Burrett, a Playboy model who owns the original location, to open a store in the Garden State.

“Nobody starts a business thinking about social impact,” he said. “They start a business because it’s lucrative, that’s why. But it’s lucrative enough to give back; it’s lucrative enough that you should want to help the community and all those things.”

Pitching their application, Burrett said that it’s important for them to bring affordable medicine into the city and have products at price ranges for everyone, while John Batchelor, the director of operations, also explained that they’re looking to partner with the Christian Flow Church Center and the Redemption House as resources for employment.

Ice-T (seen second from right) is partnering with the Medicine Woman for a dispensary on Tonnelle Ave. Photo by Mark Koosau.

The location of the Medicine Woman on Tonnelle Ave. did not go unnoticed by board attorney Ron Mondello, noting the frequent comments by Board of Education Trustee Lorenzo Richardson on his preference to have dispensaries there or other local highways.

“We’re finally gonna make Mr. Richardson happy!” he quipped with the audience laughing.

Speaking to the applicants himself during public comment, Richardson said that he had grown up in the Montgomery site in the city seeing drugs such as weed, cocaine and heroin traded around. “I’ve seen what it’s done,” he said to Ice-T. “Watching your movie that I’ve seen how some of this stuff plays out.”

He then told the applicants that he respected their decision to locate it on the highway. “I’ve seen applicants come here, where I can see that you’re being up front about everything,” he continued. “But I’ve seen people, LLCs putting people out there as the face, but it’s really other people behind them. So thank you for respecting our community.”

For updates on this and other stories, check hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Mark Koosau can be reached at mkoosau@hudsonreporter.com or his Twitter @snivyTsutarja.