This could soon be the first legal cannabis store in the city of NJ. Its owners have big dreams.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: NJ Cannabis Insider is hosting a one-day conference and networking event on September 15 at the Crowne Plaza Princeton, featuring many of the state’s influencers. Tickets are limited.

Manuel “Manny” Caban is exactly the kind of person New Jersey’s year-and-a-half-old cannabis law is designed to help.

The law aims to give people with previous marijuana convictions a first step in the licensing process to open an outlet.

Not only does Caban have beliefs in his past, but the Camden native was raised and still lives in an impact zone, defined by the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission as an economically disadvantaged area, marked by a high unemployment and poverty, and disproportionately affected by the nation’s War on Drugs.

Caban and his business partner, Aaron Streater, are co-owners of Loud House LLC, which aims to be Camden’s first adult recreational cannabis dispensary, located in the heart of the city’s business district.

Loud House received its conditional license from CRC in June and is currently working with the city on municipal approvals, including for their site plan at 112 N. 3rd Street to sell mature weed. Caban, 39, said he likes the intent of the new cannabis law.

“I think it’s great because it gives us another chance to do something that’s not harmful, and it’s good for some people’s pockets,” Caban recently told Loud House. “So now why not let us profit after going through what we’ve been through just to create a market for it? It’s like, ‘Don’t leave us out.’

According to Wesley McWhite 3d, Director of Diversity and Inclusion at CRC, last Friday a third of the 313 conditional licenses granted by CRC as of August 10 are majority-owned by people with qualified criminal histories with offenses related to the marijuana or hashish. board meeting.

Born and raised in Camden, Caban said he wanted to give back to the community to legitimize the illicit weed trade he was once part of.

At 23, Caban went to jail at the Garden State Youth Correctional Facility in Yardville for a year for a pair of marijuana selling offenses.

After his release from prison, Caban underwent nearly two years of a state-run Intense Surveillance Program (ISP) to reintegrate into society. Caban returned to Camden to live with an uncle. He had a nightly curfew, wrote in a newspaper, paid his fines, earned his high school diploma and driver’s license, and did 16 hours of community service each month.

Caban said he discovered his passion for cooking in 2015 after FAI ended. He now owns a catering business.

Loud House is now trying to convince the municipal authorities of its potential. Camden City Council chairman Angel Fuentes said the town welcomes adult cannabis stores.

Fuentes said 80% of Camden residents voted in favor of the November 2020 ballot question to legalize recreational marijuana for ages 21 and older in New Jersey.

Camden passed an ordinance last year allowing up to 20 cannabis licenses, half of which are restricted to residents and businesses in the city.

“I always believe in second chances,” Fuentes told NJ Advance Media of contestants with previous marijuana convictions. “The cannabis industry will bring new businesses to Camden.”

Loud House hosted a free radiation clinic a week and a half ago with pro bono attorney Michael Hoffman as an example of how it was giving back to the community even before opening as an adult weed store. Caban hopes community outreach will help their candidacy to the city and show their commitment.

Streater envisions Loud House generating tax revenue for the town and hopes to employ 80% of its workforce from those living in and around Camden.

“The game plan is to let everyone know Loud House is coming to town,” said Streater, 44, who has volunteered to coach youth baseball and basketball for the past 15 last years with the young people of the city.

Streater, like Caban, bleeds from Camden, being born and raised here. He is now a landlord who rents out several properties he owns.

Unlike Caban, Streater hasn’t had marijuana convictions in his past, but several of his relatives do.

“Some of my family members have been convicted of marijuana charges,” he said. “I have uncles and cousins ​​who have been locked up.

“I don’t tend to go that route,” Streater said. “That’s why I try to reach out to kids and tell them it’s not the right way. It’s the right way.”

Camden City Hall is located at the back of the dispensary about a block away, the Philadelphia Sixers practice facility is a few doors down, and around the corner at 231 Market Street is the Fifth Legislative District office. of State Senator Nilsa Cruz-Perez. and Assemblymen William Moen Jr. and William Spearman, all D-Camden.

“Our goal is to establish ourselves in Camden where we come from,” Caban said. “We deployed a lot of community services here to do something for our town and actually help the town. We also want to help other non-profit associations.

“Our ultimate goal is to remove these shackles and make real progress,” he added, alluding to the lingering effects of marijuana arrests in the war on drugs. “It’s a beautiful trip.”

When asked if he saw any irony in opening the first adult recreational cannabis store in Camden, where he sold it on the illicit market, Caban said he and his hometown were coming full circle. with the legalization of marijuana in New Jersey.

“To be here and see how it was, I think (city officials) should embrace this stuff because it actually takes them off the streets and puts them in a safer environment,” said Caban.

“Being the first (to open an adult cannabis store) would be great. But it’s not a competition to be first, but to help the next one get established and try to help them get to where we are at. are,” he said. “That would be a blessing.”

Nichelle Pace chaired Camden’s Ad Hoc Cannabis Committee which provided recommendations to City Council last year. She facilitated contact between Loud House, CRC and Camden officials.

“They (Caban and Streater) basically followed all the guidelines that we set out,” said Pace, vice-chairman of the Camden Business Association board. “They’re really the model of how a legacy entrepreneur, if they can afford it, can actually get into the business.”

The partners attempt to prepare their site plan for the city, put together a few letters of commitment, and complete an application with the city that comes with an annual fee of $2,500.

Fuentes, the city council president, estimates the process could take three to four months.

This means Loud House, which spans 1,520 square feet including 540 square feet of retail space, can open by the end of this year if all city approvals are met.

” Why not us ? We are from Camden, born and bred,” Streater said proudly.

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Suzette Parmley can be attached to sparmley@njadvancemedia.com or follow her on Twitter: @SuzParmley

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