Jersey City Cannabis Council Endorses Powerhouse Arts District Nominee

The Jersey City Cannabis Control Board heard from applicants to WR Wellness. Photo by Mark Koosau.

The Jersey City Cannabis Review Board has approved a recreational cannabis applicant, bringing it closer to sale in the city.

The plaintiffs, WR Wellness, want to establish a recreational dispensary at 150 Bay Street, located in the downtown Powerhouse Arts District. The three directors of WR Wellness are Wendy Topkis and Rachel Katz, who are from Manhattan, and Leany Pichardo from Newark.

Topkis is a former real estate attorney who helped open a medical cannabis dispensary in Pennsylvania as the principal owner around 2018, something she’s looking to do again in Jersey City for recreational purposes this time around.

“I love the challenge of being part of a team and the process of finding locations, hiring staff and creating opportunities for other people,” she said at the meeting. of May 23. part of something new is exciting. I’m proud to be part of an organization that will bring jobs, income and fun to Jersey City.

Katz is a former pro bono lawyer in New York for the nonprofit Door Legal Services Center and serves on the board of Jewish Community Project Downtown. Pichardo works at Mercury Public Affairs and has worked with the Newark government to alleviate the city’s water crisis and their lead pipe problem.

The company will have 29 full-time and 24 part-time jobs, most of them in purchasing and retail positions. Michael Gagnon, the plaintiff’s security consultant at Smart Security Partners, also said that all employees will be trained in security awareness, policies, procedures and emergency management.

Local radiation

A few council commissioners were concerned for candidates about the local reach of their business, particularly in terms of recruiting and contributions.

Commissioner Stacey Flanagan, who is also the city’s director of health and human services, noted that none of the directors are from Jersey City and also asked why applicants had not contacted the employment program. and Jersey City Training when they said they were speaking with the Hudson County Workforce Development Board about hiring.

“I think for us it’s really important that the majority of the staff who work in your area, if not the management, are residents of this city,” she said (Flanagan is also a board member of the Workforce Development Board).

Katz then explained that she would oversee community outreach and employee recruitment efforts, noting that they had worked with Councilman James Solomon to meet with the Powerhouse Arts District Neighborhood Association on the proposed location.

Wendy Topkis, Rachel Katz and Leany Pichardo are the directors of WR Wellness. Photo by Mark Koosau.

Pichardo also said they are committed to hiring a diverse and local workforce, and that she will also work with Katz on community impact and other programs, including the county’s community reintegration program. of Hudson for incarcerated women, and will explore the option of an education and scholarship program with Hudson County Community College.

“Recruiting through local hiring programs will necessarily provide a diverse pool of candidates,” Pichardo said. “Rather, as a business model, a diverse workforce simply makes more sense because it attracts locals and increases our presence in the community and social justice, which is a deep personal commitment of my share, as well as the company.”

Board attorney Rob Mondello suggested to Topkis that maybe they could find a “really good” general manager in Jersey City, to which Topkis replied that would be “optimal”, but plan to throw away a wide net to find someone they see as the most qualified, regardless of where they live.

“It’s more about helping not the community itself, but the city of Jersey City,” Commissioner Jeffrey Kaplowitz said of the council’s criticism. “Your community is an extremely wealthy neighborhood in Jersey City. It doesn’t really reflect the rest of Jersey City, and what we’re here to do is try to even that out.

Neighborhood endorsements

The petitioners had the support of the neighborhood association, claiming that a dispensary would benefit the community.

“I have removed the other members of our community group, and pretty much everyone is certainly very supportive,” said Anne Viller, the association’s president. “I don’t participate; many of our members will not participate either; but they don’t see this as a disability for people who want to participate.

Association members also said they weren’t fans of the former 150 Bay Street location, a nightclub, and that WR Wellness had cooperated with the community on their plans.

“This is just the beginning of the process, but this location, I believe, is going to be big enough to be able to serve the neighborhood, as well as the rest of Jersey City,” said fellow association member Katherine Moore. .

President Brittani Bunney later apologized on behalf of the board to the association for suggesting they discount the Powerhouse area as part of the city. “I think what Commissioner Kaplowitz was trying to suggest is that we’re looking for benefits for those who have suffered from previous cannabis convictions and young people,” she said.

The board voted 3-1 to approve the nominees, with Commissioner Glenda Salley the only dissenting vote and Commissioner Courtney Solane absent. They also recommended the terms that they extend their employment and fundraising efforts to other nonprofits in the city, and keep a record of the job fairs they attend.

WR Wellness joins Blossom Dispensary and MMD NJ to receive approval from the Cannabis Control Board as well as the Planning Board. They will now have to get city council approval before seeking state approval.

Another candidate, Amdedo, was postponed to the next meeting.

For updates on this story and others, check out and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Mark Koosau can be reached at [email protected] or on his Twitter @snivyTsutarja.

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