Additional Atlantic City weed businesses get CRDA OK

press of atlantic city
March 26, 2023

ATLANTIC CITY, NJ (More weed stores could be on the way, with approval of three new land use applications for retail cannabis sites approved by the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority on Tuesday.

So far, there are two cannabis sales locations in the city, or at least two legal ones, both serving those with medical marijuana cards.

But there are multiple applications for new retail marijuana locations, including a proposal for a 10,000-square-foot dispensary and consumption lounge in the Claridge Hotel and a planned 125,000-square-foot indoor cultivation site at Atlantic Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

The CRDA has planning authority within the Tourism District in Atlantic City, and hears applications for site plans and variances. Over the past year, cannabis-related applications have made up a significant percentage of those applications, with multiple requests for new businesses.

On Tuesday, the CRDA board granted unanimous approvals to two dispensary proposals near each other on Atlantic Avenue, and gave site plan approval for a new dispensary on St. James Place, relocating the MPX New Jersey Dispensary from its current New York Avenue spot to a new building under construction.

The board also backed a city proposal to expand the Green Zone, an overlay district where cannabis businesses are an approved use.

Approved last year, the zone runs from Boston Avenue to Maryland Avenue, including both sides of Atlantic and Pacific avenues. It also includes the Orange Loop district running from Pacific Avenue to close to the Boardwalk between New York and Tennessee avenues.

The proposal aims to use the newly legal cannabis industry to build Atlantic City’s economy, potentially drawing new visitors, encouraging new businesses and bringing new jobs to the city.

The CRDA on Tuesday endorsed an ordinance that would expand that use to include a property at 1810 Baltic Ave. The CRDA had negotiated to buy that property last year, setting aside more than $3.5 million, to use it as a warehouse and office building. Owner Gary Lowenstein said Wednesday he is in talks with a developer to create a cannabis-related business at the site, but said he could not yet offer details.

A public hearing and final vote on that Green Zone expansion were set for Wednesday evening’s City Council meeting.

The CRDA board also said yes, unanimously, to all three new business proposals, which still need a state license to begin selling cannabis to those over 21.

The MPX proposal includes apartments on the second and third floor of a new building at 121, 122 and 123 St. James Place, on what had been a vacant lot behind the current business. In addition to a minor site plan approval, the board granted a variance for the number of signs planned for the cannabis shop.

The board also approved plans for a retail cannabis dispensary at 1410 Atlantic Ave., from Cannabiz City LLC, and another for 1408 Atlantic Ave., from Honesty Wellness LLC. Both are in non-conforming buildings, but the owners plan to renovate the existing space, Lance Landgraf, the CRDA director of planning and development, told the board at the remotely held meeting Tuesday.

The two properties are set in a block of retail stores on Atlantic Avenue. Neither will have parking available, which also required a variance, but Landgraf said there is parking in the neighborhood as well as public transportation.

There is no plan for residential use on the upper floors at either site, Landgraf said, and no request for on-site consumption.

It’s been almost a year since the CRDA approved its first proposal for a recreational cannabis business, for a vacant storefront at 2415 Pacific Ave. to be called The Healing Side.

The business already had support from City Council, but the city does not have the last word.

License approval falls to the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission, which has been working its way through applications for cannabis cultivators and retail locations.

Last September, the agency approved a conditional license to The Healing Side for an adult use cannabis business.

As of February, the commission had approved more than 1,000 conditional licenses and 39 annual licenses, including 25 retail license applications and six licenses to cultivate cannabis. According to information posted on the commission’s website, 33 of the conditional licenses have so far been converted to full licenses, including 15 cultivation licenses, nine licenses for manufacturing, nine retail licenses and seven licenses for microbusinesses.

Among the most recent batch of approvals was an award to Everest Dispensary LLC, which has CRDA approval for a dispensary at 1226 Atlantic Ave.

Several businesses are still waiting for the OK from the commission, both in Atlantic City and across New Jersey.

Last month, the CRDA received an application from Honeybuzz Farms for a retail cannabis business at 1724 Atlantic Ave., and CRDA also supported a plan for a dispensary and consumption lounge at 3112 Atlantic Ave.

The two largest-scale proposals, at least so far, are for the cannabis grow on Atlantic Avenue, proposed by Starboard Industries, and for the consumption lounge at the Claridge Hotel, an application from High Rollers Dispensary.

State records indicate High Rollers was granted a conditional license in September, a step toward approval of an annual license.

Plans are to have that site open by summer, on what was once the casino floor. State officials are still working out details of the rules for cannabis consumption lounges, but they will be places where customers can smoke or vape their purchases, or eat their cannabis-infused edibles, in a public setting. The owners expect to spend more than $3 million on renovations to the site.

At the same meeting Tuesday, the CRDA board approved a new four-unit row house on Westminster Avenue, what board Chairman Modia Butler described as a break from cannabis.

The application from NYorangedeeds LLC sought approval to build four new attached single-family units, which required several variances. Landgraf told the board Atlantic City’s zoning rules did not envision attached homes, commonly described as row houses, which is why the project required variances for setbacks.

He said the units would be owned individually, and some could be used as seasonal short-term rentals.

By: Bill Barlow