After Cannique misses deadline, Pennington gives all three prospective cannabis retailers a new shot

After issuing a single, conditional letter of support to Cannique for Pennington’s only Class 5 Retail Cannabis License, Pennington Borough Council was back May 2, re-reviewing the merits of the three original applications, since Cannique failed to meet the condition required.

Had Cannique applied to the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission by May 2, they would have attained the right to be Pennington’s only retailer. However, since they missed the deadline, the Council opened the process up again and heard final application details from Cannique, Fine Fettle, and Jersey Meds.

In addition to failing to meet the date requirement, Cannique came to the Council with a proposed new location, 10 Route 31 North, close to the Wells Fargo Bank. Jersey Meds, who had originally proposed a cannabis retail site next door to Villa Francesco, requested reconsideration of their application, also with a move to a new location. Council extended the opportunity for reconsideration to Fine Fettle, who propose a retail establishment in the former TD Bank at 5 Rt 31 North. All three entrepreneurs appeared in order to answer seven questions posed by the Council.

The Council required each business to provide a series of confirmations related to leased locations, zoning rules, distance to schools, and design compatibility with the surrounding area.

Cannique presented first with a team that included Janice Mintz, Rachel Donington, and Dr. Jill Farmer. 

Janice Mintz stated that she “believes our position in terms of suitability location and compatibility with our community to be even stronger now than when we last appeared before Council.”

Rachel Donington described the decision to change locations. “We heard your concerns about timing to be fully operational, and we took those concerns to heart. We believe our new site is more suitable and requires very minimal build-out.” However, Donington noted that Cannique was not interested in competing for the spot.

“If Council goes down the road of issuing multiple resolutions of support, we will have to withdraw,” Donington stated.

The Cannique applicants noted their distance from local schools at Mayor Davy’s request. The new location at 10 Route 31North is 169 feet, property line to property line from the nearest school, Hopewell Valley Central High School (HVCHS). However, they noted that the second-floor location is a more secure placement for a retail cannabis location.

According to the New Jersey League of Municipalities, distributing marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school, while now legal under State law, remains a federal crime.

Fine Fettle presented next with Ben Zacks, CEO of Fine Fettle, describing their application as unchanged from their last presentation. Zacks conducted a quick review of the plan for the property, including the security plan, signage information, and proposed interior layout information.

Ryan Kennedy, land-use attorney for Fine Fettle, expressed his concerns to the Council about the way the process of applications is being handled by the Borough. He stated during the presentation that “the Appellate Division is striking down the way the State initially handed out licenses and made it very clear that your standard government procurement contract rules [should] apply here. [Yet], you are allowing applicants to cure a material defect once bids have been opened.”

Kennedy continued, “once things are open, you are not supposed to allow material changes to bid specifications or open them to negotiations with the bidders afterward.”

Kennedy shared the distance of Fine Fettle from each nearby school, noting its lot line distance to HVCHS of 918 feet, to The Pennington School 479 feet, and to The Cambridge School 918 feet.

The Fine Fettle presentation prompted the Council to consider the question of the process of awarding a resolution of support and whether their method was a violation. Borough Attorney Walter Bliss assured the members that Council was in the right on the way the process is proceeding.

Councilmember Nadine Stern asked the Fine Fettle group if they would stay in the process if three resolutions were issued, presumably in response to Cannique’s assertion that they would not remain as a candidate. Fine Fettle replied that they certainly would continue their pursuit of the single available Pennington Borough license.

Jersey Meds Management was last to present, led by their attorney Sheila Mintz. She revealed that Jersey Meds had already applied to the CRC for a conditional license and hoped to convert to a permanent license if granted the resolution of support. The proposed location of their retail cannabis business is now 7 Route 31 North, close to Pru Thai. 

After some discussion, the attorney could not specify the distances from the local schools.

Sheila Mintz stated that the main advantage of the location is its ease of access and stated, “the location we have is particularly suitable because of the multiple ways of ingress and egress from the building. There won’t be any issue with traffic. People will be able to move freely in and out of the location.”

Council voted on each application separately and approved three letters of resolution for all three proposed businesses. The Council unanimously approved the Cannique application, with Katie Angerone, Kit Chandler, Deborah Gnatt, Ken Gross, Charles Marciante, and Nadine Stern all voting in favor. Fine Fettle was approved with one vote against by Gross. The Jersey Meds application was also approved, with Gross voting against.

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