“Mark my words, if you approve this tonight, you’re making a serious mistake,” said resident Mary Ondrejka.
“I’m not making a joke of this, this is horrible,” said resident Mary Naddeo. “If you let this go through, you’re gonna regret it.”
“I am worried that what it took decades for Hoboken to get its waterfront back, we may lose, because these people, they will not respect ordinances that are not being enforced,” said resident Roberto Verthelyi.
Despite a NIMBYism wave that attempted to crash through in City Hall, Blue Violets became the first ever recreational cannabis applicant to receive full approval in the Mile Square City, after the Hoboken City Council approved them and put them within one last step of being able to open.
The council voted on Sept. 21 on a resolution to support Blue Violets, who are looking to create a cannabis store on 628 Washington St.. They now have full local approval in the city after receiving the thumbs up from the Cannabis Review Board in April and the Planning Board last week.
Weehawken couple Maxwell and Lauren Chang Thompson, the co-founders of Blue Violets, had to endure opposition from nearly a dozen residents who spoke against their application at the meeting, including arguments that a dispensary should not be close to nearby schools, particularly All Saints Episcopal Day School and the Hoboken Charter School.
Elizabeth Urtecho, a resident who had organized a petition against the applicants, said that she was concerned that there will be “an increased economic and administrative burden on the schools to safely move children from one campus to another.”
“After school is a swarm of children congregating with their friends and rushing into Hoboken Bagels, Davis Stationery or Dunkin Donuts for the afternoon snack, steps away from the dispensary,” she said. “I am concerned about the dispensary patron who enters, purchases and uses cannabis, then gets into a car on the corner at a busy time.”
Some residents opposed to Blue Violets also said that their opposition wasn’t about stigmatizing cannabis. “This is not about stigmatization and/or negating the commercial opportunities that cannabis provides,” said resident Bob Conrad. “This is about acting in the best interest of the people of Hoboken.”
A few also referenced the 2020 statewide referendum to legalize marijuana in New Jersey, where Hoboken residents voted by a 5-to-1 margin in favor of it, with 21,056 casting yes votes and 4,049 voting no, and said that the referendum didn’t say how many dispensaries there could be in a town.
“The question that was not put to them was ‘do you endorse six dispensaries being put in one of the densest cities/urban areas in the state of New Jersey?’” said resident Konrad Motyka. “I guarantee you that if in the next election cycle, you put that question to the public to a vote, it will be resoundingly clear what the public’s position is.”
Lauren Chang, who was at the meeting alongside Maxwell, asked the council to approve their application, saying that the process wasn’t easy, and that they’re looking to normalize cannabis. She also pointed out the usage of liquor and tobacco advertisements near schools.
“We want to talk about Davis Stationary, there’s a Newport cigarette ad at waist height,” she said. “I myself is five [foot] two [inches]. Children can see that every day in and out of that store. There’s even a Corona [beer] advertisement on the ground of Washington and 7th St. It’s life size, all in colors.”
Following public comments, the council members debated on whether they would approve Blue Violets or not. Councilman Joe Quintero was the first to speak, saying that “the world is not ending this evening.”
“If it passes, the end will not be near,” he said. “Life will go on, everything will be fine. I say this because the fight over cannabis dispensaries in Hoboken has reached levels of hyperbole and fear mongering which have gotten out of hand. It’s time to turn the temperature down”
Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, who has been opposed to Blue Violets, argued that they shouldn’t be approved because they don’t meet the local requirements, and took issue with the timing of application, saying that through an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) request that they didn’t get their application in time.
“This is so important to our community, everyone has come out,” she said. “It is about our children, we have an opportunity to either not support it or delay it, and let’s just do the investigation we need on the time of application rule, which by the way, is precedent setting.”
After the debate ended, the council voted 5-4 to approve Blue Violets, with Council President Michael Russo, Council Vice President Emily Jabbour, and Council members Quintero, Jim Doyle and Phil Cohen voting yes. Council members Fisher, Michael DeFusco, Ruben Ramos and Jen Giattino voted no.
The day after the vote, Maxwell said in a text message to the Hudson Reporter that “words can’t describe how excited and relieved we are to finally get this resolution of support!”
“It’s been a ton of work and stress, but we supported each other and made it through,” he said. “Now we’ll send our application to the state and hopefully things will move much smoother from here.”
Maxwell explained that they were originally going to apply for an annual license earlier this year, but decided to apply for a conditional license after local delays.
“Since we applied late we haven’t received that yet, so we’ll apply for the annual now,” he said. “If we get the conditional in October, we’ll apply for the conversion as well and let the state take whichever one comes up for review first.”
Blue Violets will need state approval from the state Cannabis Regulatory Commission before being able to open. Their next meeting is on Oct. 20.
Thompson said that they are looking to open their store in the first quarter of 2023 “if everything goes smoothly with the state.”