When New Jersey approved legal recreational marijuana in 2020, more than 70% of borough voters cast ballots in favor of the idea.
Now they’re getting their wish as the first medicinal marijuana shop has opened in town just days after state officials approved what will be the borough’s first recreational, or adult use, dispensary.
“The people of the community voted overwhelmingly for the sale of recreational marijuana, we are only following the will of the people,” said Borough Administrator Steve Gallo. “These are tightly controlled businesses, serious regulations and we don’t anticipate any problems.”
NJ Leaf, which opened March 15 at 546 Park Ave., is licensed as a medicinal marijuana location. But Gallo expects the owners to seek a broader, retail license.
“We are proud to be able to provide safe, legal access to medical cannabis for those in need. This project is very close to my heart – a lot of sacrifice went into this,” NJ Leaf CEO Ritesh Shah said at the recent opening. “I promise we won’t let you down and we will prove with our work that you have chosen a responsible partner.”
That opening occurred just a week after the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission granted state approval to Goldfinch Retail LLC, which is planning to open a recreational dispensary less than a block away at 620 Park Ave.
“The borough is awesome, it is small, it has incredible diversity and we could build something that is a beacon and we could set a different precedent,” said Christopher Sojka, co-owner of Goldfinch Retail, which plans to open before Christmas 2023. “We could have a destination store that could help reverse the stigma and bring people to the borough.”
Both outlets are the exception rather than the rule in Monmouth County, which has just two other recreational outlets currently operating — in Neptune and Eatontown. Most nearby communities have barred such outlets from opening despite most of their residents voting in favor of the dispensaries.
“We’re excited about having these weed manufacturers and retailers in the borough,” said council member Annette Jordan. “We got applications from the cream of the crop and dedicated to the community. The people are so well-trained and know exactly what is needed for any kind of ailment and it is a welcomed addition to our community.”’
Statewide only 35 dispensaries exist, with 10 providing medicinal-only sales so far.
Freehold Borough has been at the forefront of legalized cannabis sales since the first legislation approved such dispensaries.
Borough council members in recent years have approved up to eight different potential cannabis outlets, voting to allow two retail outlets, two medicinal outlets, two cultivation facilities, and two wholesalers.
So far, only NJ Leaf and Goldfinch have received state approval as retail outlets, while CSDE Manufacturing LLC has state approval for a cultivating business.
The local licenses run between $5,000 and $10,000 depending on the specific type of permit and they do not guarantee a state license will be granted.
The borough receives 2.5% of all revenue collected at each site, said Gallo, who estimated “it could be several hundred thousand dollars per year.” (Full Story)