Hoboken Mayor Bhalla proposes changes to cannabis store rules
Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla is proposing changes to the city’s cannabis dispensary rules, in light of the local cannabis review board approving his first cannabis retail application despite criticism from the public.
In a letter to residents posted on the city’s websiteBhalla reviewed recent history regarding state and city legalization of marijuana, saying legalization “not only provides a substantial economic opportunity for Hoboken, but more importantly, an opportunity for us as community to repair the damage the ‘War on Drugs’ has done to minority communities in Hoboken.
Bhalla proposes amendments to cannabis ordinances “after careful consideration”. They include limiting the number of dispensaries (medical and marijuana) in the city to a maximum of six and a maximum of three per service; requiring notice for residents within 200 feet of a proposed dispensary for a cannabis board meeting; and prohibiting dispensaries from being located within 750 feet of any school or early learning facility.
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Bhalla said there was “misinformation that was provided to members of the community regarding this request in particular, and regarding the cannabis dispensary approval process, in general.”
The request in particular was for Story Dispensary, which had requested the establishment of a cannabis retail store at 51 14th Street, the site of the former Hudson Tavern.
As the council approved the application at its Feb. 24 meeting, residents grilled the candidates in a nearly five-hour meeting that evening, raising complaints about the store’s lack of transparency affecting residents and the surrounding neighborhood.
Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher, whose 2nd Ward includes the location, tweeted that evening that council “should be ashamed of themselves.”
“Simultaneously insulted and ignored the concerns of members of the public and defended the plaintiff”, she tweeted. “They literally gave their b/4 recommendations upon hearing feedback from the audience.”
A few of Bhalla’s proposals appear to respond to criticism from the meeting, where it was revealed that the candidates had failed to inform nearby residents of the proposed dispensary and concerns about the location near child care facilities.
Speaking of ‘a lot of misinformation’, Bhalla said the locations where the dispensaries can be located have been unanimously approved by the city council, the current demand is for retail only and not for consumption. , and that the application must go through the planning board.
He also said the council had secured a number of conditions with the applicants, including funding for an additional police officer, a donation of $50,000 a year to the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund and a annual resident education program on cannabis use.
As he spoke about the scene, the mayor accused Fisher of being “dishonest[…]who voted to approve and write in the law allowed areas for dispensaries, including on 14th Street, to now take the position that it is no longer an appropriate place in his neighborhood.
Fisher said in response to the letter that she was “delighted to see that Mayor Bhalla supports the majority of the common sense amendments to Hoboken’s cannabis laws that I submitted on Monday morning and that we will see about that at the 3/9” agenda.
“I disagree with his revisionist history and will continue, as I always have, to advocate for the best interests of 2nd Ward and Hoboken residents,” she said.
For updates on this story and others, visit www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Mark Koosau can be reached at [email protected] or on his Twitter @snivyTsutarja.