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By Kimberly Redmond
Wu-Tang Clan rapper Raekwon The Chef’s plans to open a cannabis dispensary and on-site consumption lounge are moving forward.
After the Newark Central Planning Board failed to endorse an application filed earlier this year by Hashstoria – an Oregon-based cannabis franchise backed by the rapper looking to make its Garden State debut in the city’s Four Corners Historic District – officials have reversed course. During the board’s July 24 meeting, members voted to grant conditional use approval for Hashstoria to operate a Class 5 cannabis retail facility at 799-805 Broad St.
The venture’s application for a cannabis lounge and proposed architectural design for the circa-1900s building, which includes a fresh brick face and new windows to display community artwork, was presented to the city’s landmark and historic preservation commission by Rachael Grochowski, principal at Montclair-based RHG Architecture+Design and approved Feb. 2.
Following last week’s planning board vote, Grochowski said, “We are thrilled about this project, and it represents an exciting opportunity to merge history, community, and innovation.”
“Our partnership with Hashstoria, founded by a collaboration of iconic rapper Raekwon of the Wu-Tang Clan, the passionate civil rights attorney Bakari Sellers and radio, tv personality and mental health advocate Charlamagne tha God, and others, is an intentional effort to bring forth a cannabis retail dispensary and consumption lounge that not only respects Newark’s heritage but also reflects a commitment to social justice, expungement, mental health, and creativity,” she said.
Grochowski went on, “Design plays a crucial role in elevating the overall cannabis experience, and we are committed to creating an environment that offers a sophisticated, inclusive, and enjoyable experience. The cannabis industry is undergoing a remarkable transformation, driven by the vision and creativity of innovative designers and creatives, leaders from across the industry who are revolutionizing cannabis consumption. We are so excited to craft a space that harmonizes aesthetics, functionality, and sensory engagement, ultimately enhancing the journey of both seasoned cannabis enthusiasts and the cannabis-curious alike.”
Next, the business must seek the final OK from the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission before it can open.
At the time of the planning board’s initial denial in March, community members, including those from nearby Old First Presbyterian Church, said that while they support bringing business to the city, they didn’t think Hashstoria picked an appropriate location.
In response, Hashstoria tried to reassure board members and the public that it would not be a disturbance to the neighborhood and would comply with all regulations set by the CRC.
After the rejection, Kelley Carey, a lawyer representing Hashstoria, said the company expected to pursue legal action.
Carey, as well as Calvin Souder, the attorney handling the application before the planning board, could not immediately be reached for comment by NJBIZ Thursday afternoon.
Although the CRC approved a proposed framework in December 2022 that would allow medical dispensaries and recreational-use retailers to operate consumption lounges, the regulations still need to be finalized and the state must issue licenses before such areas can become operational.