Productive Dialog at Dank Poet Dispensary
Washington Borough, NJ, (Oct. 24, 2023) – Dozens turned out Tuesday night for a town hall with NJ’s 23rd Legislative District candidates in the Borough of Washington and got a sneak peak of the Dank Poet Dispensary ahead of its official opening.
The community saw the borough’s first cannabis shop in the final stages of construction: the smell of fresh lumber, the deep purple of the walls, the bright gold of the accents, and an iconic sign outside atop the store.
The transformation of the decades-old former tire shop located along East Washington Avenue both impressed and excited the diverse mix of community members who walked through the doors for the first time.
The dispensary partners delivered opening remarks before the state legislative candidates answered questions from the moderator Stu Zakim, veteran media professional and cannabis expert.
Dank Poet commits to being a place for education and community engagement
“This has been a long time coming. It has been many years of my life,” said Dank Poet CEO Chris Caruso. “The goal is not just to provide cannabis but to become a place for education and community engagement. Tonight gives the population an opportunity to talk with their legislative representatives.”
Dank Poet CFO Sonia Mangalick said it was imperative for them to “open up the space and talk about important” issues facing New Jersey voters in an effort to bolster voter turnout this year.
“This is a sneak preview of what Dank Poet is going to be like. We are going to be a responsible neighbor in the community,” said Deb Snow, COO of the dispensary.
NJ’s 23rd legislative district covers most of Warren, Hunderdon and a portion of Somerset counties and has been a Republican stronghold for more than 40 years
Three incumbent Republicans are seeking re-election in the November 7 race. GOP Sen. Douglas Steinhardt is running against Democrat Denise King. Longtime Republican Assembly incumbents John DiMaio and Erik Peterson are facing Democrats Guy Citron and Tyler Powell.
The GOP candidates were unable to attend due to prior commitments. The three pro-marijuana Democrats who participated in the event addressed a wide array of issues including concerns about the state’s budding cannabis industry.
The candidates fielded questions about women’s reproductive health, renters’ rights and absentee landlords, land use, and the environment, before tackling cannabis-related issues.
Home Grown Weed in NJ
Zakim asked the Dems about their opinions on the pros and cons of homegrown weed.
“We support the cottage industry. If you’re able to grow and consume a tomato in your backyard, you should be allowed to grow and consume cannabis in your backyard,” said Citron, whose response was met with loud applause from the crowd. “This is one of those substances that is not harmful and should be allowed.”
Powell, a previous farmer, now in cybersecurity agreed, though expressed no personal interest in growing himself.
“We are supposed to be the Garden State, let people garden,” Powell said. King told the crowd she was thrilled to be at the dispensary for the town hall.
“I am so pleased we finally legalized marijuana,” King said. “As a child of the ‘70s, I never thought it would happen and it finally did.”
She agreed with her running mates about homegrown cannabis.
“Stay out of people’s backyards,” King said. “If somebody wants a couple plants, I am fine with that.”
How Legislators Can Assist in the Marijuana Business Licensing Process
Asked about their goals to have the state embrace cannabis, King wanted to understand the bureaucratic challenges and how difficult it was from a regulatory standpoint to open a dispensary.
“There were a lot of challenges,” Caruso said. “The hardest part was to find a way to convince people we’re doing something good – creating jobs and bringing commerce.”
Additionally, Chris mentioned difficulties finding a location that met all the criteria with the added burden of mountains of unnecessary paperwork.
Joshua Perez, one of the founders of Deo’s Garden Dispensary in Teaneck, further explained the hurdles for new business owners in the cannabis industry.
“After state regulations rolled out, there were complete inconsistencies in municipalities across the state,” Perez said. “Opening up in Teaneck, we looked at other dispensaries opening in the state. I would go to another town and the regulations would be completely different. It is like a game of thrones.”
Perez highlighted the extremely high interest rates, lack of capital funding, and a need for the state to establish consistency.
Gov. Phil Murphy legalized recreational marijuana on Feb. 22, 2021. Since then, dozens of dispensaries have opened their doors throughout the Garden State.
Dank Poet Dispensary, which will feature 1200 square feet of retail space, is currently in the final stages of meeting all the state regulations and expected to open for business in the next several weeks.
During the town hall with NJ’s 23rd Legislative District, candidates all agreed that the industry regulatory process could be streamlined.
“We would be for deregulation,” Powell said. “New Jersey is a hard enough place to live in.”