Blue Violets cannabis dispensary faces lawsuit to halt opening

Another potential cannabis store in Hoboken is facing litigation to halt their approval

Lauren Chang and Maxwell Thompson (center left and center), the co-owners of Blue Violets, are being sued by a resident-formed non-profit over their potential dispensary. Photo by Mark Koosau.

Another potential cannabis dispensary in the Mile Square City is facing a lawsuit that seeks to stop them from setting up shop on Washington Street.

Blue Violets, a retail cannabis applicant that has received full local approval in Hoboken, are being sued by a resident-formed non-profit called “Hoboken for Responsible Cannabis,” in Hudson County Superior Court. The lawsuit also lists the city’s Planning Board as a defendant.

The potential store, which is co-owned by Weehawken couple Maxwell and Lauren Chang Thompson, would be located at 628 Washington St., and had received all the necessary local approvals from the Cannabis Review Board, the Planning Board and the City Council by last month.

A number of residents have been opposed to their store, primarily due to it being too close to two schools: All Saints Episcopal Day School and the Hoboken Charter School.

One of the residents, Elizabeth Urtecho, is the registering agent of the non-profit suing them. The lawsuit alleges that their application violates the city’s new rules that prohibit how far a dispensary can be from a school, as well as the Planning Board “improperly determin[ing] that the Time of Application Rule applied.”

The complaint, filed by Daniel Steinhagen of Beattie Padovano on Oct. 21, alleges that Blue Violets had filed their application for development a day after an ordinance went into effect that prohibits dispensaries from being 600 feet within a school.

They continue that because of the new ordinance, the city’s Zoning Board was the only jurisdiction that could consider an application under such conditions near a school, and that the Planning Board lacked the jurisdiction to consider it.

It also argues that the Planning Board’s decision, in which the Time of Application Rule had precluded applicability of the ordinance from the application for development, was “arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable.”

During the Planning Board meeting, board attorney Scott Carlson argued at the time that any applicant is “entitled to the benefit of the law” as it stands at the time they submitted the application to the city.

“In this particular case, there was no school requirement at the time the application was submitted and accordingly applied to this applicant,” he said.

The lawsuit also alleges that when members of the public had sought a ruling from the Planning Board about the Time of Application Rule, the board didn’t do so and prevented them from asking “probative and relevant questions about the jurisdiction,” and had interfered with their right to cross-examine Blue Violets.

The non-profit is asking the court to void the Planning Board’s approval of Blue Violets, which would shut them out of being able to open a store in Hoboken. Maxwell Thompson told the Hudson Reporter after their application was approved by the City Council last month that they are seeking to open in the first quarter of 2023 pending state approvals.

The lawsuit is the most recent time a cannabis dispensary has been sued to stop their operations amidst broader discussions about cannabis in Hoboken after it was legalized in New Jersey in 2021.

Story Dispensary, who are seeking a store on the northeast part of the city, had a lawsuit filed to stop them dismissed, though another one can be submitted later as it was dismissed without prejudice.

In the 2020 statewide referendum to legalize marijuana in New Jersey, Hoboken residents voted by a 5-to-1 margin in favor of it, with 21,056 casting yes votes and 4,049 voting no.

Maxwell Thompson told the Hudson Reporter in a text message that the situation is “unfortunate,” and that they’re discussing their next steps with their lawyers.

“Just one more thing we need to deal with and will waste more of our time and money, but we’re confident our efforts will be recognized and our approval will be upheld,” he said.

Steinhagen declined to comment on the lawsuit by the time of publication.

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.