Despite concerns, Pennington Council is maintaining their support for three cannabis retail establishments in the borough.
Council President Kit Chandler, Councilman Charles Marciante, Councilwoman Kati Angarone, Councilwoman Nadine Stern and Councilman Ken Gross voted “yes” during a meeting on June 6 confirming their initial support of three resolutions for the cannabis retail establishments of Cannique, Fine Fettle and Jersey Meds Management.
The resolutions authorize the zoning officer to issue zoning letters as quickly as possible.
Councilwoman Deborah Gnatt abstained from the vote.
The cannabis topic was raised at the meeting following a letter sent from representatives of Cannique, who asked the council to reconsider the action previously taken in issuing support for all three establishments.
Borough Attorney William Bliss said the letter stated, “Jersey Meds Group did not act in good faith and concealed the fact that it had established a new entity Jersey Meds LLC and had also changed its ownership just before Council acted on the resolution for the three applicants on May 2.”
Bliss further said the letter asked to withdraw the Jersey Meds resolution or Cannique would “have no choice but to withdraw its application from the borough and requests that the application requiring fee in the amount of $2,500 be immediately returned.”
“It is our understanding that Jersey Meds did not just change their name, but changed their legal entity,” said Rachel Donington, chair of Cannique. “We considered the process of a conditional license and understood that requires a different organization setup. We believe Jersey Meds eliminated a principal or two from their original organization to qualify for this conditional filing.”
She noted “the principal of the organization has to make under a certain amount of money annually by their taxes to qualify to be a conditional license applicant.”
“Cannique did not do that because we were not going to change our structure. We were already organized as an LLC (limited liability company) and had an operating agreement,” Donington said. “If I had changed it, I would have changed actually our entire legal entity, which is why we did not do a conditional license.”
Alan Fox, attorney for Jersey Meds at Capehart Scatchard P.A., Trenton, responded “the letters and comments made by Cannique contain inaccurate information.”
“We never intended to make any misrepresentations. Her comment that Jersey Meds Management’s is a new entity is false and misleading,” Fox said. “That entity was created in 2020 and that entity has been operating a business in a neighboring town for two years. Jersey Meds Management is the applicant to the state of New Jersey for the retail business license.”
He added Jersey Meds Management is the tenant of the retail operation at Pennington Square Shopping Center.
“We never made any misrepresentation of who we are and [of] our intentions to be in town. We presented testimony in April and proved to you that we satisfied all of the elements of your statute as to the suitability of the location,” Fox said. “All I hear in the letter from Cannique is … talk about their suitability. Nowhere tonight have they questioned the suitability of our location.”
Following Jersey Meds comments, one of the questions asked by Councilwoman Nadine Stern revolved around comments made by representatives of Jersey Meds at a Hopewell Township meeting in May for a resolution of support.
Hopewell Township officials had asked Jersey Meds if they received letters of support from both Hopewell Township and Pennington.
“The response from someone was that you would commit to Hopewell Township. Is that accurate?,” asked Stern.
Representatives for Jersey Meds said they first came to Pennington Borough.
“We always wanted to come to [Pennington] and at that time Hopewell Township was not ready for giving a resolution for retail,” the representatives said. “As of now, we do not have a resolution from Hopewell Township, and we have a resolution of support from Pennington. We are going to stick to that.”
Ryan Kennedy, attorney for Fine Fettle from Stevens & Lee P.A., Lawrenceville, said his client’s concerns line up with concerns addressed at the meeting.
He said “the appearance and process and a fair even playing field is essential to the public bidders and for Pennington to get essentially what it bargained for.”
Kennedy added that there are two material changes the alleged two entities of Jersey Meds Management has made since initially submitting their applications.
“One is the location. And I want to be very specific in regards to Jersey Meds as to their corporate make up. The application required the name of the entity and more importantly the makeup of the entity,” he said.
“We pulled the corporate records and those two entities do not have the same ownership. In fact, the entity they have asked you to award had its ownership changed on April 22, after having seen the [other] applicants and locations. [They changed] their ownership so they could comply with [a conditional license] process.”