Ascend in Montclair has started selling recreational pot without a license

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For a few hours on Tuesday, Montclair had a recreational weed dispensary.

Ascend, which has operated a medical marijuana store in town since early 2021, opened for recreational use before all paperwork was completed.

Ascend has been approved by the state to sell recreational marijuana, but still needs township approval.

When authorities discovered that Ascend was selling recreational weed without approval, the township attorney threatened legal action and the sales were stopped.

Caitlin Fleishman of Ascend said the company was told the application form would appear on the city’s website on Monday and therefore planned to start sales on Tuesday morning. When the application form didn’t show up by the close of business, they went ahead with their plans. The form appeared on the site around 7 p.m. Monday.

On Tuesday evening, the application form was returned, completed, to the city, along with a $30,000 fee, Fleishman said.

Fleishman expressed frustration, saying the city has been “dragging its feet” on the request since August 2021, when it passed an ordinance allowing the sale of pot for adult use. Adding recreational to medical use should have been quick and painless, she said, as with Ascend’s Rochelle Park store, which added adult sales on April 21 – the first day they have been authorized by the state.

RISE in nearby Bloomfield also opened for recreational sales on April 21.

The company, which hopes to be able to sell adult-use pot in Montclair this week, instead received a notification on Wednesday about another unexpected step in the approvals process: the company will have to apply to the Planning Board for “conditional use”. permit to convert to recreational use. That could mean another month or two before the business can open for recreational sales, Fleishman said.

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“To be clear, Ascend is not permitted by law to sell cannabis for adult use unless and until its license application is deemed complete and approved and unless and until it receives all required zoning approvals,” the email from city officials read.

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“It’s more important to do things right than to do them quickly,” Councilor Peter Yacobellis said. “We want to set up the app to be successful; ultimately, that will be how we review and decide who gets these very valuable licenses.”

But Fleishman said the city, which was at the forefront of the state’s new medical cannabis industry when the Greenleaf Compassion Center medical dispensary opened in 2012, lost “hundreds of thousands of dollars.” ” in revenue and customer loyalty to neighboring dispensaries. Montclair officials said the delays in creating the app were due to “overwhelming interest” in opening marijuana businesses in Montclair.

“We are excited to supply customers in the township and surrounding areas,” Fleishman said. “But we need local government to be a partner, not an obstacle.”

Writer Rebecca King contributed to this article.

Julia Martin is the 2021 recipient of the David Carr Award from the New Jersey Society for Professional Journalists for her coverage of Montclair for NorthJersey.com.

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Email: jmartin@gannettnj.com

Twitter: @TheWriteJulia

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