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Update from Mayor Bhalla on Cannabis Dispensaries

Dear resident,

I provide this communication to update you on the subject of cannabis dispensaries in Hoboken.

To give some insight into the matter, as you may know, in 2020 New Jersey voters had the opportunity to vote, at the polls, in a statewide referendum to legalize the cannabis. Voters overwhelmingly chose to do so, with 2,737,746 voting yes (67%) and 1,343,637 (33%) voting no statewide, and more than 70% of Hoboken residents voting in favor of legalization. cannabis. As a result of that vote, the state gave cities like Hoboken the power to determine whether to allow medical and recreational cannabis dispensaries in their respective municipalities.

My personal view then, as it remains today, is that the legalization of adult cannabis use not only provides a substantial economic opportunity for Hoboken, but more importantly, an opportunity for us as that community to repair the damage that the “War on Drugs” has caused to minority communities in Hoboken. This damage has affected countless young people in Hoboken who have been labeled as criminals and incarcerated for simple possession of small amounts of cannabis – a now legal offence. We must invest in restorative justice for minority communities, that is my commitment. It’s also why I’ve insisted that at least 75% of Hoboken’s local tax revenue from cannabis sales be dedicated to minority community relief and rehabilitation services. And that’s why the State of New Jersey has put in place a regulatory framework that provides minorities with increased opportunities to have a real seat at the table to reap the economic benefits associated with the legalization of cannabis use by adults. I view this topic primarily through the lens of civil rights and racial justice.

As we considered whether to move forward and allow cannabis dispensaries in Hoboken, my administration worked with the city council to craft legislation that would only allow medical and recreational dispensaries in certain areas of the city. This process has been adopted by a number of cities in New Jersey and has begun to unfold in New York State as well.

As part of that process, city council members helped determine which areas of Hoboken should — and shouldn’t — be allowed to have cannabis dispensaries. The overwhelming consensus of the city council was that dispensaries should only be allowed in areas that were not primarily residential. My administration has asked every member of the ward council to provide information about authorized locations for dispensaries, and some have actually provided information to the city. As an example, Second Ward (Downtown Hoboken) Council Member Tiffanie Fisher recommended that certain areas (zoned as industrial) surrounding the Hudson Tea Building, Maxwell Place, Shipyard, and Park & Garden are excluded from permitted areas. We have incorporated the adviser’s comments into the ordinance authorizing cannabis dispensaries in Hoboken.

The ordinance and subsequent amendments also included specific information on required dispensary guidelines.

These include:

  1. Dispensary approval requirements before a Hoboken Cannabis Review Board and Hoboken Planning Board, as well as license approval before the State of New Jersey
  2. A minimum of 500 feet between dispensaries
  3. Prevent dispensaries from being located in the same block as a school
  4. Maximum opening hours between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m.
  5. Equipment requirements to mitigate cannabis-related odors, which includes a ventilation system with carbon filters for inventory stored in dispensaries
  6. Security protocols within the facility, approved by the Hoboken Police Department and required by the State of New Jersey

I thank the many members of the public who took the opportunity to provide input into the ordinance, which included a community forum, as well as public sessions before city council as they considered the ordinances and amendments that finally been considered and voted on.

The four ordinances and amendments that contemplated and authorized medical and retail cannabis dispensaries in Hoboken, which included licensed locations, passed unanimously 9-0 with the support of every member of Council.

To clarify misinformation: any dispensary must currently remain retail-only, as opposed to a location where cannabis can be consumed within the facility or in outdoor spaces within the property. No applicant or dispensary is permitted to file a consumer application (also commonly referred to as a salon application), as it is not yet state-approved for local dispensaries. In our local Hoboken ordinance, even where on-site consumption is permitted by the state, any dispensary must receive approval from my office, the city council, the planning board, and the cannabis review board.

To date, two dispensaries for medical use have been fully approved.

Recent application to the Cannabis Review Board

Recently, an application was filed with the Cannabis Review Board for approval to open a new cannabis dispensary at the location of what was previously Hudson Tavern, at 14th and Hudson Streets, in what is considered by Hoboken zoning to be in a commercial district (C-3). I sincerely thank the many residents who provided feedback to my office, as well as to members of City Council.

Unfortunately, as noted above, a lot of misinformation has been provided to community members regarding this particular application and regarding the cannabis dispensary approval process in general. While I hope the information above was helpful regarding the process, I would like to further clarify some inaccuracies that may have landed in your inbox.

  1. Authorized locations for dispensaries: As mentioned earlier, the locations where dispensaries can be located were approved by a unanimous 9-0 vote of the City Council. As part of this vote, Councilwoman Fisher voted to approve potential dispensary locations in the C-3 commercial area on 14th Street between Clinton Street and Hudson Street (the Hudson Tavern dispensary is proposed to be located in this area), while recommending that other areas such as the Hudson Tea, Maxwell, Shipyard, and Park & ​​Garden buildings (as noted above) be specifically eliminated as potential dispensary locations. We have referred to this request within his department, which is reflected in the Final Cannabis Order. I think it is dishonest for the councilwoman, who voted to approve and enshrine in law permitted areas for dispensaries, including on 14th Street, to now take the position that this is no longer an appropriate place in his neighborhood.
  2. Retail application vs. consumption/relaxation: The current demand for a cannabis dispensary is for retail only. No consumer/lounge license was requested by the applicant, and none would be considered. If approved, only the retail sale of cannabis will be permitted, no cannabis will be consumed on site.
  3. Review by the Cannabis Review Board does not constitute final approval of this application. The application must also be presented to the Planning Council at a later date, with notice.

Based on community feedback, the Cannabis Review Board secured the following conditions when approving the application:

  1. No cannabis use/lounging on site, in perpetuity: the applicant has accepted a restriction of act which would prevent any consumption/relaxation on the site, for the duration of the activity on this site.
  2. Funding for an additional police officer: the applicant has agreed to fund the salary of one Hoboken police officer per year for the duration of the undertaking
  3. Donate $50,000 per year to the Hoboken Affordable Housing Trust Fund
  4. An annual educational program for Hoboken residentsregarding cannabis use

And, like all other dispensaries, if approved, 2% of cannabis sales revenue would be donated to the City of Hoboken, 75% of which is to be directed to advancing restorative justice in Hoboken.

After careful review of the prescription, I believe we should make the following changes to our cannabis prescriptions:

  1. Capping the number of dispensaries (medical and recreational) in Hoboken to a maximum of six, and a maximum of three per neighborhood (there are six neighborhoods in Hoboken)
  2. Although notice is required for any resident within 200 feet of a proposed dispensary for a Planning Commission hearing, I believe notice should be required for those same residents for the initial Commission hearing Cannabis Review, which precedes the Planning Board hearing.
  3. A resident also brought to my attention that if a dispensary is prohibited from being located on the same block of a school, it could be located on the adjacent block. Accordingly, I also propose that any dispensary be prohibited from being located within 750 feet of a school or early learning facility.

City Council will consider these amendments, which I anticipate will go to first and second readings at the next two council meetings (March 9 and 23).

I hope this information was helpful.

Truly,

Ravi S.Bhalla

Mayor


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