Home CultureAAPI-owned Hudson County Cannabis Businesses + Their Leaders: A Deep Dive

Hudson County Cannabis Businesses + Their Leaders: A Deep Dive

by Hoboken Girl Team
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While most of the conversation around the new market for recreational cannabis in New Jersey has focused around the laws and regulations, there is an exciting group of entrepreneurs looking to make their marks on this nascent industry — and a host of new businesses that are expected to join the Hoboken + Jersey City scenes soon. Here in Hudson County, there are several local businessmen and women who see the new market as full of opportunities to own their own businesses, serve their community, and change the conversation around marijuana. The Hoboken Girl was able to chat with several of these creative locals to learn more about the faces behind the businesses, and we’ve broken down our conversations based on different classifications and licenses — including cultivators and retailers. Read on to learn more about what drives these innovative cannabis entrepreneurs and leaders.

Class 1, Cultivator:

Jersey City – Shayla Cabrera – Tia Planta

Shayla Cabrera is one of the first in New Jersey to receive a Class 1, Cultivator license. Shayla’s background in horticulture made moving into cannabis a natural fit. Shayla feels as passionate about cannabis as a tool for healing as she does about keeping the cannabis business home-grown.

“I’m a firm believer in plant medicine across the board,” Shayla said. “It could be houseplants or any other form of medicine that comes from nature. So I’ve definitely been an advocate for cannabis.” Shayla is the woman behind Tia Planta, a Jersey City-based plant studio and shop. For several years, she has been guiding Hudson County residents as they select, bring home, and care for their plants.

Shayla-Carbera-Headshot

Shayla continued, “My father has been incarcerated for over 24 years due to non-violent drug offenses. So I’m very passionate about advocacy for social equity/social justice. Now that the industry is open, opportunities should be going to the communities most impacted by the previously criminalized acts of this same plant.”

In terms of establishing her own foothold in the nascent market, Shayla says that being deliberate in standing up, staffing, and running her company is part of the mission. “It is a small scale craft style cannabis company. It’s a minority-, woman-owned and run. We are working tirelessly to get real New Jersey people out there in the market,” she said. “We are trying hard to keep our staff, operations, and product as locally-sourced and run as possible.

Shayla’s license is also designated as ‘micro,’ which limits the quantity of plants she can grow.

Since only a handful of other people and businesses have the Cultivator license, Shayla says that it remains to be seen how it will all shape up. “It takes three to four months to harvest a plant,” she said. “So it takes time to get up and running.”

Class 5, Retailer

Hoboken:

Blue Violets | 628 Washington Street

Lauren Chang Thompson and her husband Max Thompson are the team behind Blue Violets. Lauren grew up in Weehawken and is a nurse. She got involved with cannabis when interacting with patients using cannabis to manage pain. “What I realized is that cannabis is plant medicine,” she said. “We can see the positive impacts with patients, hospice, cancer, chronic pain. We want to change the conversation around cannabis.”

Blue Violets logo

Blue Violets will be Hoboken’s only micro dispensary. The micro category limits what the size of the shop and how many employees it can have. The storefront where Blue Violets will be is 850 square feet. Both Lauren and Max describe the space’s petite size as an asset, in fact, the brand’s tagline is “a thoughtful cannabis experience.”

“Because the store is very small, it will have a spa-like aesthetic. It will be sophisticated, with clean lines,” said Max. “We want guests to enjoy the experience without it being exclusive, but it will be a welcoming and inviting experience.”

Lauren added, “Everyone’s curious about cannabis and people have different previous experiences. We want everyone to feel comfortable coming through and getting educated about what’s available. We want people to come back to us because of the educated choice. We want people to come to us for a more elevated conversation about cannabis.” She said that Blue Violets will have a wellness vibe, which in turn will make it easier to have conversations about cannabis.

Lauren and Max - Blue Violets

In terms of offerings, Lauren will use her scientific and nursing background to focus on what strain of terpenes are in the product. “Terpenes are essential oils from any plant, such as lavender oil, cinnamon oil, etc. It is distilled from the plant matter, in the most pure form, and can be added into other products.” Lauren said. “With Cannabis, there can be hundreds of different terpenes in the plant. We want to emphasize education and information about this. It’s less about skinny leaves vs fat leaves, sativa vs. indica. We want to take a more scientific approach.”

Lauren and Max said that this scientific approach will help them curate the best possible offerings for customers. “To start, we want to build relationships with lab owners. We want to do more testing on the plant matter than what’s required in NJ. We are looking at different terpenes. NJ is now adding a standard for testing and standardizing terpenes.”

Lauren said she wants to take any and everything to a lab before offering it to customers. “I want to have the latest data, and the most up-to-date testing,” she said. “The packaging matters, light can impact the degradation of the product over time.”

Jersey Joint | 1427 Grand Street

It’s a family affair for the team behind the Jersey Joint. Nehar Patel is the operator of the store, which he co-owns with his mother, Alpa, and some other family members. The family emigrated to the US from India and landed in North Jersey, including spending time in Jersey City. Along the way, the family owned and operated several small businesses, including several Texaco stations. The family is spread out now between North Jersey and Massachusetts, where they started another dispensary called Campfire Cannabis.

Logo - The Jersey Joint

Alpa’s background in chemistry helped the family land on starting a cannabis business. “Cannabis is a good benefit to society,” Nehar said. “We want to offer people alternative means to heal.” Nehar has a background and education in business, so it was a good fit for him to take the lead. Nehar says that the experience in getting Campfire Cannabis up and running was good preparation for him to start The Jersey Joint.

“Since Day 1, I’ve been involved with all of the permitting, all of the applications,” he said. “I still do a lot of behind-the-scenes things in addition to running the store day-to-day.”

In terms of trying something new in Hoboken, Nehar says that the community of Hoboken is what led him to opening the dispensary here. “People here look out for each other. There are a lot of families, and people who really care about the community,” he said. “That is a shared value with my family, and we want to contribute to that.” Nehar said that getting to know the customers at Campfire has been one of his favorite parts of running the business, and he looks forward to replicating that in Hoboken.

Story Dispensary | 51 14th Street

The Story Dispensary team has declined to be interviewed for this piece.

Nug Hoboken, LLC

The team did not respond to requests to participate in this story. 

Culture Hoboken

The team did not respond to requests to participate in this story. 

Jersey City

Artistic Dispensary | 365 Central Avenue

The team did not respond to requests to participate in this story. 

Blossom Dispensary | 746-8 Tonnelle Avenue

Bina and Sapna

Blossom Dispensary’s CFO Bina Bhatt, left, and CEO Sapna Bhatt, right

Blossom Dispensary was the first Jersey City dispensary applicant. The dispensary location on Tonnelle Avenue was part of the appeal for co-founders Bina Bhatt and Sapna Bhatt. ”

The location is primarily in an industrial area with a few businesses that have been there for a long time. We are excited to bring something new to that Tonnelle Avenue corridor and believe it’s a great location with easy access for the people in the neighborhood as well as anyone that is simply passing by,” Bina said. “For accessibility, we are building out a new sidewalk that will connect to North Street which will allow customers to walk or ride their bicycle to our location.”

CFO Bina has spent most of her life in Jersey City and said that being able to run this type of business in Jersey City is an incredible opportunity. “We also feel like the progressive nature of this City as well as it being a central hub for so many surrounding cities… we felt like the decision for us to be in Jersey City would allow us the opportunity to easily serve a community that is beyond the city borders,” she said.

The two also view the opportunity to employ locals as well as to be involved with neighborhood organizations as a critical aspect of their plans. “We also are excited to give back to the community we live in and have grown up in,” Sapna said. “By establishing a cannabis dispensary here, we will be in a direct position to hire from the community right here in Jersey City and Hudson County as a whole. It will give us the opportunity to build and nurture our relationship with the community and other businesses that have a positive impact on the local community.”

Blossom dispensary
Bina’s professional background is in the non-profit space where she handles a lot of compliance and reporting responsibilities. But it was her previous experience as a law enforcement officer that got her interested in cannabis. “I was a police officer with the federal government where I was responsible for law enforcement duties and protecting the premises and personnel of the agency I worked for,” she said. “These positions have provided me with the experience needed to operate a cannabis business and ensure compliance with local and state regulations which is why I got involved in opening a cannabis dispensary.”

CEO Sapna is a clinical pharmacist, which means she collaborates with doctors and healthcare professionals to improve patients’ health. “I have a passion to help people live better through wellness education,” she said. “I have also grown up in a culture that have relied on eastern medicine and herbal solutions rather than relying on prescription medication and therefore live by that same mentality, and cannabis provides the opportunity to assist people with various ailments which is what made me want to get involved in the cannabis industry.”

Something that Bina and Sapna say will set Blossom Dispensary apart is their desire to educate customers. “Our main mission with the dispensary is to educate the consumer,” they said. “We want to promote safe and responsible use of cannabis but we also want to break through the stigma associated with the cannabis industry and genuinely help those individuals that will benefit from cannabis use.”

Both Bina and Sapna say that they look forward to educating and interacting with the community. “We’re excited about the opportunity to help people to use cannabis safely and responsibly and to serve the community.”

Butler & Baldwin | 75 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard

The Butler & Baldwin team declined to be interviewed for this story.

The Cannabis Place | 1542 John F. Kennedy Boulevard

Osbert Orduna is the CEO of The Cannabis Place. Osbert is an Latinx NYC native, a disabled Marine veteran, and believer in the power of community. Osbert said that growing up in NYC, he saw many friends and neighbors whose lives were upended by the criminal aspect of cannabis. Over time, as he saw more states move toward legalization, he realized what an opportunity it could be, both for himself as an entrepreneur and for the community as a whole.

Osbert Orduna

In advance of the store’s opening, Osbert has set up several policies and agreements that support his mission of being community-oriented. First, the employees of The Cannabis Place will be protected by a union. “My mom’s life changed the day she joined the union at her job, and I want to offer that at my store,” he said. “This will help the community we’re in, Greenville, by providing stable income with benefits to employees.”

He continued, “The store has to fit into the community. We have several memoranda of understanding with anti-violence groups, such as Credible Messengers.” In addition to MOUs, Osbert said that the store will offer additional resources to these groups such as community impact grants and dedicated space in the store for gathering to hold community meetings and information sessions. “I grew up in the crack era with lots of violence,” Osbert said. “I see the benefit of violence interrupters, who are people being released from jail being trained to interrupt violence. These people are out there trying to stop violence in the community.”

The cannabis place logo

The community space in the store will also host events in partnership with the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey geared toward economic empowerment events such as financial literacy or training for folks who need to update their resumes or interview skills.

Read More: These Local Women are Leading the Cannabis Industry

One resource that Osbert plans to offer is a mix of traditional Marine Corps training using modern tools and methods. “We will host ‘train the trainer’ sessions, which goes back to my Marine Corps training,” he said. “We have partnerships with some legal groups who will create modules to train people to be able to do different types of expungements. The goal is to be able to assist people quickly, on an iPad, and make it as easy as possible. The program will cover expungements for cannabis, drug court, and clean slate programs.”

Osbert envisions these trained volunteers meeting neighbors where they are and bringing the expungement process to them.

Cream Dispensary | 284 1st Street

AJ Prasaguet and Heinrich Badenhorst are the team behind Cream Dispensary. AJ has a background in hospitality, and Heinrich handles the creative side of things. Their route to the cannabis industry came through the hospitality industry. “I had been hired to help turn around a struggling hotel in San Fransisco,” AJ said. “I had taken a struggling hotel and made it completely different. A person who became my client was looking for the same thing for his dispensary.”

Team Cream

Cream supports Jersey City’s Whole Spectrum Autism Foundation (L-R): John Caracciola Nicole Renzi, AJ Prasaguet, Karl Roberson, and Heinrich Badenhorst.

The dispensary was located in San Fransisco and both AJ and Heinrich got involved in the project. AJ ended up leaving the hotel to work on the dispensary full time. “Heinrich did the creative side of things, I did the financial, logistical, front of the house part,” said AJ. Through that experience, the two learned about everything necessary to run a successful dispensary – permitting, marketing, compliance, etc.

At the same time, AJ’s New Jersey roots were calling. He grew up in New Jersey and has family in the area. Since cannabis was being legalized in New Jersey, it made sense to make a go of it at home. The two divested their interests in the San Fransisco dispensary and moved East.

Cream dispensary logo

AJ and Heinrich said that the goal of Cream Dispensary is to make it fun. “We don’t want it to be very formal or clinical,” Heinrich said. “We want to have a fun atmosphere that closer resembles a casual environment.” The team’s experience in hospitality will be at the forefront. “With most dispensaries, the piece that’s missing is the hospitality and that is the forefront of what we’ve done,” AJ said. “With all of our experience in hospitality, that’s what we’re focusing on. From the moment you click online till you grab your goods to go, that is the focus.”  

Heinrich went on to say that the physical space will have a modern aesthetic. “From the design to the displays, it will all be very modern. We will have interactive displays inside the store. There will be self-guided kiosks in an open environment.” Perhaps one of the most unusual aspects of the store will be way orders are fulfilled. “Orders will be fulfilled downstairs, and then sent upstairs in a glass enclosed dumbwaiter,” Heinrich said.

The pair is excited to showcase what makes Jersey City unique. “We will hire local artists to do murals inside the lounge and dispensary. We want to incorporate local artists,” Heinrich said. “The lounge will be different, we will have digital art on display. We will have online artists, graphic designers, and other kinds of digital artists’ work on display.”

AJ is involved in the Whole Spectrum Autism Foundation, a Jersey City-based non-profit, and the Historic Downtown Jersey City Special Improvement District.

Decades Dispensary | 404 Central Avenue

The team did not respond to requests to participate in this story. 

Garden Greenz | 190 Newark Avenue

The team did not respond to requests to participate in this story. 

Cannaboutique by Greenhouse | 125 Columbus Drive

Cannaboutique by Greenhouse owner Julissa Bonilla is a Jersey City BNR. “My dad’s side of the family came here in the 1950’s from Puerto Rico and my mom came in the 1980’s from the Dominican Republic,” she said. “I was raised in the Lafayette neighborhood. I’m a Jersey girl through and through!”

Julissa went to college in Philadelphia and studied art, which led her to a career in marketing. She has worked in the marketing department of several large financial services companies, most recently working as the VP of Marketing for Modern Bank.

As the conversation around legalizing cannabis took place around her, Julissa always knew that there would be a chance to get involved. “Even growing up, being exposed to cannabis, we knew that it was slowly becoming legalized in places like Amsterdam and California,” she said. “It was just a matter of time before it came to New Jersey.” At the end of 2021, after the NJ CREAMM Act was passed, Julissa thought the time was right to take the leap. She started working on her business plan and eventually left her corporate job in February 2022.

Cannaboutique by Greenhouse

Julissa’s marketing and design background has been instrumental in designing the store. “We got a great location a half-block from the Grove Street PATH station,” she said. “We have to do an extensive renovation. The finished product will be light and airy.” For now, Julissa is focused on getting the store’s dispensary applications and renovation permits moved through, while she has plans to add on a consumption lounge to the space in the future. “It’s going to be a beautiful experience for everyone who comes in,” she said. “No matter how much time they spend in the store, if it’s just picking up their items and leaving, or eventually enjoying the consumption lounge, it will be modern and chic.”

The Greenhouse is classified as a micro-dispensary, which limits the size of the space. That fits in perfectly with Julissa’s plans to approach the luxury market. “Everything we offer will be the best of the best,” she said. In keeping with the hometown approach, Julissa has retained full ownership of the store. “That’s important to me as a Latina woman to keep the equity,” she said. “I am the sole owner.”

The Golden Door | 638 Newark Avenue

Jersey City resident Brett D’alessandro views cannabis as another resource in his journey to help veterans transition successfully back into civilian life. Brett and his fiancee, Alexa Modera, are the team behind Backpacks For Life, a Jersey City-based non-profit with the goal of supporting homeless and at-risk veterans through coaching, mentoring, and connecting them with supportive resources. Brett describes the organization’s approach as having two phases: “Phase 1 is we get them the backpack, connect the vets to resources, get them connected with what they need. Phase 2 is more holistic, it’s mentoring, thinking about the bigger picture.” He views the use of cannabis as part of the holistic approach toward helping veterans.

Logo - The Golden Door Dispensary

The Golden Door is a micro-dispensary that will be located at 638 Newark Avenue. Brett was connected with the concept of medical cannabis in 2019 when working with some buddies while developing backpacks. “I tried to start a medical dispensary in 2019 and wasn’t approved,” he said. “I didn’t get it, but I learned a lot. I’ve been preparing to get a retail dispensary since then.”

Brett himself used cannabis to get off of several prescriptions when he returned from his deployment. He thinks there is a huge opportunity to help veterans learn more about medical marijuana. “I want to partner with a CBD company to help offer products for vets who can’t afford them.” Brett said. “I want to help individuals with the expungement process, eventually being able to broaden that and help civilians as well. Right now, we focus on veterans, and we want to expand to more audiences through Golden Door.”

Brett D'alessandro

Brett and Alexa are on the Veterans Justice Task Force for the New Jersey Reentry Corporation. Something they’re passionate about is helping veterans who have lost access to benefits such as V.A. medical care because of an ‘other than honorable’ discharge. The program helps NJ veterans get access to mental health benefits, connects them with housing resources such as HUD benefits, and offers resources on the expungement process.

While putting together plans for The Golden Door, Brett has been fortunate enough to connect with a team of Jersey City professionals. “Everything about this cannabis business has been self-created. Through our own network, using our own connections,” Brett said. “Friends and family helped out.” The lawyer, architect, and security officer for The Golden Door are each a Jersey City-based business that came through their network. Brett says his goals for The Golden Door are to create a place of healing, and to run a fun, successful business.

“I want to be able to get people access to medications without using pharmaceuticals,” he said. In addition, Brett plans to have at least 10% of the store’s workforce be formerly incarcerated people. “We have a memorandum of understanding with the New Jersey Reentry Corporation.”

Idyllx | 171 Newark Avenue (Currently a small smoke shop but wants to expand into cannabis)

The team did not respond to requests to participate in this story. 

Jersey Leaf | 554 West Side Avenue

William Pena, half of the team behind Jersey Leaf, is as BNR Jersey City as a person can get. He is a graduate of Hudson Catholic, where he met his now-business partner, George Margetis. George’s family owns the Miss America Diner, located at 322 West Side Avenue in Jersey City. William and George’s commitment to the West Side is part of the inspiration for their venture, Jersey Leaf. “We think the West Side is the next big thing, and we want to be a part of the change, part of the community, to help rebrand West Side Avenue,” William said. “We want to bring small businesses back to life, and encourage foot traffic. All the small businesses on the street will benefit from that.”

Jersey Leaf logo

Jersey Leaf is a micro dispensary, and is 850 square feet. “This is an expensive market to get in, and the micro license makes it a lot easier for people to get in,” William said. Micro dispensaries are limited in the number of staff, quantity and type of products that can be sold, and the total square footage of the store, but also pay lower application fees. They hope to open Jersey Leaf in early 2023.

Kushmart Jersey | 1521 John F. Kennedy Boulevard

The Kushmart team declined to be interviewed for this story.

Local Modiv | 155 Newark Avenue

Local Modiv Co-Founder and CEO Chelsea S. Duffy began working in the cannabis industry in 2015, shortly before moving to Jersey City in 2016. At the time, Chelsea was working in marketing and corporate sports and starting to explore the possibilities of the business of legalized cannabis. She has her own history with cannabis: as an endometriosis sufferer, she has been a longtime user of cannabis and CBD for pain relief.

Chelsea Duffy Headshot

Chelsea said the timing was right to start thinking about a cannabis business, since then-gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy was talking about legalizing cannabis on the campaign trail. “I spent a lot of time getting to know people in Jersey City, learning about the possibilities of a cannabis industry,” she said. “I went to events, political forums, and connected with like-minded people.”

Over time, Chelsea became known as a thought leader in cannabis, hosting networking events and participating in industry panels. She also became active in community events, such as coaching youth basketball, supporting re-entry organizations, and other social justice efforts.

Through this networking and education, Chelsea met the people who would end up becoming her business partners, all fellow Jersey City residents: Matt Cimiluca; Radcliffe Bennett; and Nicole Colon. CFO Nicole is a co-founder of Inspired Vision Accounting, a Jersey-City based accounting firm. In 2022, Chelsea was named to the newly-formed Jersey City Women’s Advisory Board, a two-year appointment to the body, which serves in a community advisory capacity.

In 2018, medical marijuana was legalized in New Jersey and things started to get real for Chelsea and her business plans. The team applied for a medical dispensary license in 2019 and was denied. “It was a blessing in disguise because we learned so much through the process,” Chelsea said. The team regrouped, and applied again for a retail dispensary license once the 2021 CREAMM Act was passed. Local Modiv is in the unique position of having its initial application approved, but then denied, by the Jersey City Cannabis Review Board.

While the Local Modiv team works through the application process at both the state and city level, the goal remains the same: to provide high-quality products in a fun and safe environment. Chelsea says that part of the team’s goals are to keep it local, both in terms of the store’s inventory and supporting the community. “We will continue to support the community organizations that we have in the past,” she said.

The Leaf Joint | 391 Central Avenue

Like many in the cannabis industry, Jersey City native David Jefferson wants to use his business to make an impact. “For a long time I have observed that cannabis has been criminalized in a way that unfairly harms minorities. When I learned that the Governor was making changes to legalize the cannabis business, I saw an opportunity.” he said. “Once the laws were changed, I knew I had to be a part of this. I wanted to make sure that the minority community gets its fair shake and can participate in it, from both an ownership standpoint and the job-creating market. If I’m involved I’ll be able to control whatever small part I play in that, making sure that minorities can get access to the jobs and opportunities. that was the reason for me really getting involved in it.”

The Leaf Joint_Logo
David is a BNR Jersey City resident who is a retired New Jersey State Correctional Officer. He co-owns several businesses in Jersey City along with his sister, Charmaine DeJesus. The Leaf Joint is a solo effort. In preparation to open the store, David went to legal dispensaries in different states throughout the US. “I’ve shopped at many throughout the US, and what I’ve found is that micro businesses have a more comfortable feeling, ” he said. “You can have some light conversation with the person behind the counter. Other dispensaries it feels like you’re grabbing medication and leaving.”

David Jefferson_The Leaf Joint
Once The Leaf Joint starts selling cannabis, David says that his goal is to have a welcoming, casual environment where he can build one-on-one relationships with customers. “The micro dispensary means that it’s a smaller space, but it means that there’s more of a personal touch. Associates learn customers’ names and can give customers more attention,” he said.

Since opening the store on Central Avenue, David says he’s gotten to know customers and neighbors, and he looks forward to continuing that effort. “Part of the challenge of cannabis is there’s a lot of stigma about it, so we want to do more to educate the community and make it easier to talk and learn more about it,” he said. “We’re already on a first-name basis with many customers and neighbors.”

Currently, The Leaf Joint offers tobacco and CBD products plus accessories and paraphernalia. David says that opening the store in late 2021 was part of the first steps toward opening the dispensary.  “The license we have is for a micro dispensary, so this store will work for that,” he said. “The store is already built out so it would be a merchandising thing.” At the same time that David was getting The Leaf Joint up and running, he was working with his advisory team and attorneys to work on the cannabis retailer application.

As far as transitioning from CDB to cannabis, or selling cannabis alongside the existing CDB products, David says that he and his team have asked the state for more guidance. “We have asked for guidance about what is allowed from CDB to cannabis sales,” he said. “Our mindset is that we have to make adjustments. Maybe that looks like shifting products, or changing the way things are displayed in the store. We’re just not sure what the state will allow.”

Medicine Woman | 660 Tonnelle Avenue

The team did not respond to requests to participate in this story. 

Medusa NJ | 759 Bergen Avenue

Haytham Elgawly is a longtime resident of Jersey City who sees nothing but opportunity in the new cannabis market. Haytham grew up in JC and currently owns The Clearport, an airport-themed clothing and accessories store in the same space where Medusa will operate. He is also a local party promoter, known in particular for bar openings and activations, and for throwing an annual 4,000-person Halloween party at Liberty State Park called Terminal of Terror.

Haytham_Medusa

Through The Clearport, he has become active in supporting the McGinley Square community around the store. “For the past six years since opening Clearport, I’ve hosted Thanksgiving turkey giveaways and giveaways for school supplies for back to school,” he said. The idea of a place to gather community is what inspired him to develop plans for Medusa, which will be both a dispensary and a lounge. “Jersey City is one of the few cities in New Jersey that will allow consumption spaces,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to have a bar or other space to gather people, so when I read about [legalization] I thought this could work. That’s why I want to build a bigger platform, to keep doing what I’m doing, with more. “

The Medusa space is about 900 square feet on street level, and about 1200 square feet on ground level. The street level will be retail and ground level will be a consumption space. In terms of being part of something so new, Haytham says it’s a great chance to lead conversations on what cannabis really is. “I want people to know how incredibly regulated this market is,” he said. “It’s something new. People don’t know what to expect. We’re trying to change the narrative on marijuana and trying to re-educate people.”

MMD NJ | 665 Newark Avenue

The team did not respond to requests to participate in this story. 

Oceanfront Holdings | 141 Newark Avenue

Amanda Handy has first-hand experience with what cannabis can do to improve the quality of life of someone suffering. Amanda is a cancer survivor who turned to cannabis for relief during chemo treatments. She has been working since 2018 to start a medical marijuana business in New Jersey. “I started with medical marijuana to offer people a better quality of life,” she said. “I’ve been a part of the medical marijuana industry in New Jersey for several years.”

Amanda’s path to opening up her Jersey City shop started in 2018, when she applied for a vertical license but was denied. She applied again for a medical license in Jersey City in 2019 and was successful. Then, because of the pandemic and the new recreational laws for marijuana in New Jersey, she worked to expand her license to include personal adult use in 2021.

For now, Amanda’s main focus is on the medical market. The recreational permit applications for Oceanfront are underway, so while the shop is anticipated to open before the end of 2022 to sell medical products, Amanda doesn’t expect to sell recreational products until the first quarter of 2023.

As for the shop itself, Amanda says that it will be a boutique experience with exceptional customer service. “We want to wow people when they come in, and make it a really great experience,” she said.

See More: Where to Buy Recreational Marijuana in New Jersey

The Other Side | 36 Congress Street

Arriving at the idea to open up a cannabis dispensary and lounge was the result of a long journey for Hudson County entrepreneur Alyza Brevard-Rodriguez, co-owner and founder of SW3AT Studios. Then-gubernatorial-candidate Phil Murphy talked about legalizing cannabis and making a pathway for businesses to be formed around that market in 2016. While she had always wanted to own her own business, many people in her community were facing legal trouble because of their involvement with cannabis, so it was hard for her to take the rhetoric seriously. Alyza served more time overseas with the Navy and between the pandemic, the birth of her daughter, and a career-ending injury, she started looking at the cannabis industry again in early 2022.

Alyza BR

Alyza had suffered an injury during her final tour with the Navy and turned to cannabis to help her manage the physical and emotional injuries she suffered. “I was on all these pills that were prescribed to me by the V.A. and having all kinds of side effects,” she said. “It was cannabis that really helped my symptoms without the side effects. I realized that all veterans need access to this product in a way that won’t harm or punish them within the military.”

Both current and former military members can lose access to benefits and other services if they are caught using cannabis under many of the current laws. “Hudson County is home, and JC is the most diverse city in the nation.” Alyza said. “There is no better place for me to put something down that is going to really amplify the voices of those that have been underserved.”

Alyza thought that not only was the new cannabis industry a great business opportunity, it was also an incredible chance for advocacy. “For me to be successful means I can help others be successful in this space as well as point out flaws in the system so it improves in the future,” she said. “So many things need to be put together for Black and brown people to succeed. I’ve been fortunate, I have had more education. I need to help others develop leadership skills.”

Alyza has a clear vision for what the space will look like and what guests’ experiences will be once The Other Side opens for business. The location at 38 Congress Street is one block away from the Ninth Street Light Rail station, and has two stories. “The first floor is a dispensary area with a small space for a lounge,” she said. “The entire second floor is the lounge.” The lounge is on track to be the first on-site consumption lounge in Hudson County, and among the first in New Jersey.

Logo - The Other Side

The design and aesthetic of the space will help further the conversations that Alyza says are necessary to change the common attitudes toward cannabis. “The space is going to be light and airy, and filled with greenery,” she said. “It will be very inviting, not the typical back-alley vibe from many other places affiliated with cannabis.”

She wants anyone and everyone to feel welcome and comfortable in the space. “When you walk in, you’ll see Jersey City. You’ll see all kinds of people enjoying the products and the space,” she said. “We want people to see it for themselves. People are going to come and see how beautiful it is. They will want to come and hang out even if they’re not a smoker. We will have TVs for sports, coworking space, and other amenities. There will be no club vibes.”

Strictly CBD | 394 Communipaw Avenue – Operates as a CBD store but wants to expand into cannabis

Longtime Jersey City residents Jeffrey Devine and Venus Smith are the duo behind Strictly CDB, which opened in 2018. Jeffrey and Venus met in the NYC restaurant scene and bonded over a shared interest in cannabis. Their mission in opening Strictly CDB is to serve the community, Jeffrey said.

“The whole intention from was to create a cannabis biz to serve the community, bring quality product and education. We had to educate a lot of people about CDB when he first opened especially about how to use all of the benefits of the plant.”

strictly cbd

In fact, Strictly CDB was the first store of its kind in Jersey City.”We were the first to open specifically as a CDB space. We had to do a lot, it uphill battle to educate people, including councilmembers, the health department, neighbors, anyone,” Jeffrey said. “We felt that if we’re going to do this, let’s do it the right way. We’re not going to hide anything or do anything on the side. This is legal per federal law, so let’s provide education and a quality product.”

Since the shop opened its doors, Jeffrey and Venus have gotten to know the community and regularly participate in local events such as health fairs, cannabis education events, minority cannabis education events, neighborhood events, and more. The store also has CDB products for animals, making it a popular spot for pet parents.

That same focus on education paired with a high-quality product is exactly what Jeffrey and Venus envision for Strictly CDB’s next chapter as a cannabis retailer. “There are so many parallels between the two, retail cannabis, and CDB,” Jeffrey said. “We are learning how to navigate new policies, and we’re not entirely sure how things will work in reality. The first round through is always the most difficult. Rules can change, different things are in flux. There are a lot of challenges and small businesses have to be responsive.”

In terms of becoming a cannabis retailer, Jeffrey said that he looks forward to more clarity on the rules, especially as it pertains to selling CDB alongside cannabis. “Since we’re a microdispensary, we have only a limited amount of space,” he said. “Right now the policies don’t make sense so it will be a challenge to be compliant.”

Uforia | 138 Griffith Street

The team did not respond to requests to participate in this story. 

WR Wellness | 150 Bay Street

The team did not respond to requests to participate in this story. 

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