Hoboken Council grapples with recreational marijuana licenses amid some backlash

As the state of New Jersey gets closer to finalizing approvals and regulations for recreational marijuana use, local municipalities are grappling with their own issues in making it happen and keeping everyone happy.
The owners of a space located at 14th and Hudson streets in Hoboken want to turn the location into the city’s first recreational marijuana retail establishment.
The Hoboken Cannabis Review Board just approved the application for Story Dispensary of Hoboken during a hearing that lasted five hours. But there are many hurdles ahead, including neighbors who oppose the plan.
“There’s a lot of families – children – that live above it. A day care center a block away,” says Hoboken resident Roberto Verthelyi.
More than 100 Hoboken residents took part in the virtual hearing. Many who live above or near space – which was a restaurant and bar at one point – says that a recreational marijuana dispensary does not belong in such a residential area. But it leaves many others to ask where else could a dispensary be located in a city so densely populated?
“Hoboken is more complicated. Every block – the commercial and industrial – they all have residential in them,” says Councilwoman Tiffany Fischer. “I think that tension is what we are bumping into right now.”
Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla and members of the City Council admit that it is time to revisit Hoboken’s local rules for retail sales of marijuana. Two more applications for stores on Washington Street will be heard by the board next month, and two medical dispensaries have already been approved and are set to open soon.
Among the amendments Hoboken officials are considering are a limit to the number of dispensaries in town and requiring more of a distance between any location and a school or day care center.
“When you see a use like this coming in to your neighborhood, it’s natural to ask questions,” says Councilman Phil Cohen. “And that’s what people are doing. And hopefully we will have those questions answers in a way people feel comfortable.”
Councilwoman Fischer says they hope to put the new ordinances and amendments on the council agenda at their next meeting.