RED BANK — More than a decade ago, Caryn Cohen was among the first wave of patients allowed access to medical marijuana.
“I was one of the few six conditions that the state said you could be a patient for,” said Cohen, who has ulcerative colitis.
“I was approved early in the program, so I really saw the change.”
Cohen said she remembers the lack of supplies when dispensaries first started to open. And then a number of Canadian companies started to take over the local market.
Now that New Jersey is legalizing cannabis for recreational use, Cohen and her husband Andy Zeitlin hope to open a cannabis store with two other couples at 9 West Street next to Red Bank Liquors.
They are one of four companies that have asked the borough council to pass resolutions declaring that their potential cannabis retail business would be permitted by local laws.
Cohen and Zeitlin formed Canopy Crossroad LLC. The other three companies include RBFC LLC, The Next Chapter Market LLC and the Scarlet Reserve Room, which is already based at 3 East Front St. offering cigars and CBD products, or cannabidiol, a chemical found in marijuana that does not not contain the psychoactive ingredient that produces a high.
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While some municipalities have limited the number of retail establishments they allow, Red Bank has not. Instead, in the two-square-mile city, they’ve restricted where businesses can operate. The city has excluded areas within a 1,000 foot buffer including schools, parks, housing authority properties, public or private youth centers and swimming pools.
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Zeitlin, who has a background in chemistry and was a founding member of pharmaceutical company Celgene Corp., described the current moment in the state’s cannabis history as “a time of dramatic change.”
He pointed to the fact that banks are not allowed to lend to cannabis businesses because marijuana is still mostly illegal at the federal level.
“In general, it’s a bit difficult,” Zeitlin said. “It’s mostly private money. There are credit institutions which are not banks and which mainly grant loans to businesses. So it’s a work in progress.
Cohen said Canopy Crossroad was launched with its own money before it could attract investors.
Cohen said she has worked in marketing for 26 years and moved to Red Bank in 1999. She married Zeitlin in 2019 and they live directly across the Navesink River in Middletown.
They said they’re concerned that smaller, newer, more local cannabis companies won’t be able to compete with larger multistate operators (MSOs) who have more experience in the nascent cannabis industry. legal.
“It’s a market reality,” Zeitlin said. “That’s true in every new state. … (The) industry must be built. … MSOs are going to go wherever the market is and without some protections for local industry to grow, they would basically dominate.
Zeitlin, who previously tried to start a medical marijuana business in 2018 when he lived in Maplewood, said his new venture was looking to apply as a microbusiness to the state. Applying as a microbusiness means the state cannabis retail license would cost $1,000 instead of $10,000.
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He said Canopy Crossroad is locally owned and they intend to employ less than 10 people. The store, which they leased in late 2021, is under 2,500 square feet.
“There were a few things that New Jersey law chilled, which was social equity, social justice,” Cohen said. “So it was minority ownership, women ownership, impact areas and one of the (other things) they did that was unique was this micro business. … We are local people, we have partners who are local, we have investors who are local. So we’re not a big MSO.
Zeitlin pointed out: “A city cannot exclude an MSO. All the city can do is create opportunities for small businesses.
In addition to obtaining a state cannabis license, businesses must apply for a municipal license.
Zeitlin had previously addressed the borough council, arguing that Red Bank’s municipal license fee of $10,000 was steep for companies applying for the state microenterprise.
At previous borough council meetings, Red Bank councilor Kate Triggiano and borough government lawyer Gregory Cannon expressed concern that the municipal license fee was too high.
In a March 23 meeting, Cannon said, “One of the concerns about the underlying legislation was that who in New Jersey was going to be able to compete with the equivalent of Kraft Foods that comes here from California.”
According to Shawna Ebanks, director of community development, in a meeting on Dec. 1, 2021, the municipal cannabis license fee of $10,000 came from the search to nearby Tinton Falls and Eatontown, both of which have cannabis licensing fees. $10,000 fixed license, according to Community Development Manager Shawna Ebanks.
Looking at other towns in Monmouth County that have allowed recreational marijuana sales, Keyport has a flat license fee of $5,000, while Freehold Borough has a $10,000 license fee for growers. and cannabis manufacturers and a license fee of $5,000 for cannabis wholesalers, distributors and retailers.
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Red Bank Mayor Pat Menna said the borough council was considering creating a tiered system that would take micro businesses into account.
“It’s a process where you have to get a lot of ducks in a row,” Zeitlin said. Since deciding to start a cannabis business, Zeitlin and its partners have simultaneously secured a site that would be legally allowed to operate at Red Bank while determining and completing all the necessary paperwork to obtain licenses.
Cohen said, “Our mission is simply to educate and in some cases re-educate the local community. (To) remove the taboo.
She said: “Because I love my city, because I love the concept of local ownership, I’m all for it.”
Olivia Liu is a journalist covering transport, Red Bank and West Monmouth County. She can be contacted at [email protected]