Prayers for Texas shooting victims, cannabis license for Massachusetts vendor, at Morristown council

POTpourri: The Morristown council has approved a recreational cannabis dispensary for this former auto repair shop on Ridgedale Avenue, May 24, 2022. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
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A Massachusetts vendor has been chosen to open Morristown’s first cannabis dispensary.

Uma Flowers, started last December by sisters-in-law Priyanka and Tejal Patel in Pepperell, Mass., edged out five other applicants to secure the license from the Morristown council.

It was approved Tuesday by a 6-0 vote — Council President Stefan Armington abstained without explanation — at a hybrid meeting that began with a prayer for 19 children and two adults gunned down at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

Councilman David Silva, a church pastor, prayed for God to “eradicate violence.” Later, in a gesture planned days ago, Mayor Tim Dougherty read a proclamation for next week’s National Gun Violence Awareness Day.

The Uvalde massacre, just 10 days after a mass shooting in a Buffalo supermarket, is “beyond comprehension,” and yet another example of “an unnecessary evil pervading our country,” said Councilwoman Sandi Mayer, who had pushed for the proclamation.

Wearing orange on June 3 won’t be enough to stop this “incredible stupidity,” Mayer said.

“You need to vote for people that have logic. We do not need 400 million weapons in this country,” the councilwoman said.

Americans have added 100 million firearms since the 2018 slaughter of 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Fla.; weapons now outnumber citizens in the United States, she said.

New Jersey Acting Attorney General Matt Platkin directed authorities to beef up security at schools across the state in the wake of Tuesday’s tragedy in Texas.

The hybrid session, plagued by technical problems that prevented video from being livestreamed, included the hiring of a firm to oversee Morristown’s affordable housing programs. Residents also sounded off about “stacking” — overcrowded houses–in the Third Ward.

CANNABIS

A subsidiary of Uma Flowers established in February in Marlton, NJ, plans to lease a former Budget car rental agency and auto repair shop on 102 Ridgedale Ave. for its Morristown dispensary.

Morris County records show the property was purchased last year for $1 million by an entity affiliated with Morris Brick and Stone, which operates next door.

Priyanka Patel was a pharmacist for a decade, and Tajel Patel, who has a master’s degree in public health, spent five years in the health sector before they opened their recreational cannabis shop.

“I felt like there were a lot of similarities in operating a pharmacy and a dispensary and that’s really what motivated me to move on and join this new industry…I felt this would be something where I can do what I like doing but also help people,” Priyanka Patel told The Sun newspaper when the Pepperell shop opened.

The Patels also seek approvals for a medical/recreational dispensary in their hometown of Waltham, Mass., according to their website.

Uma Flowers narrowly beat The Summit, a Bridgewater applicant that pitched a dispensary for 65-66 Market St. in Morristown, said Councilman Robert Iannaccone, who served on an advisory panel that vetted applications submitted in April.

“It was very, very clear that (Uma’s) experience…not just in the industry, but also their professional backgrounds, and also their experience …with operating stores, was a good solid recommendation,” Iannaccone said.

The panel included town Administrator Jillian Barrick, Police Chief Darnell Richardson, town Attorney David Minchello, and town Planner Phil Abramson, said Iannaccone, adding that the applications were so detailed, he needed 24 hours to sift through them.

A scoring system based on criteria in the town’s proposal request produced a tie, Barrick told the council. When the advisory panel met to discuss its rankings, Uma Flowers’ proposed location was the tie-breaker, she said.

The site is on a busy stretch of Ridgedale Avenue, across from a former state motor vehicle inspection station, a bank and a lumberyard, near the Morris Township border.

A maximum of two cannabis licenses were authorized when the council adopted an ordinance last December designating where dispensaries could be situated and under what conditions.

Only one license has been issued, Barrick said, because all six applicants proposed recreational cannabis dispensaries. The ordinance specifies one license should be for medical cannabis, she said.

If the council wants a second retail cannabis vendor, it probably must amend the measure, Barrick said. Either way, a new round of applications would be required, she added, answering a question from Mayer.

It’s wise to wait and see what happens with Uma Flowers, Iannaccone said.

“We’ll learn a lot of lessons for the next store we do,” the councilman said.

Members of the public, including Summit applicant Joe Savino and local business owner and planning board member Marisa Sweeney, inquired about the scoring process and whether they can scrutinize the applications.

The panel’s scoresheets will be available to the public, Barrick said.

Morristown Green filed an Open Public Records Act request in April to see the applications. Twice, town Clerk Margot Kaye has extended the seven-day response deadline, citing a need to redact the documents.

The other applicants and their proposed locations were Tangerine Tree Dispensary LLC, 153 Morris St.; Atta AMFI, 77-79 Market St.; Sweetspot, 64-55 Ridgedale Ave.; and The Banc Street Collective, 51 Bank St.

It’s likely to be awhile until the Patels can dispense their first packet of Jilly Bean in Morristown. The venture still requires state approval.

IN OTHER BUSINESS

By a unanimous vote, the council approved hiring Community, Grants, Planning, and Housing, LLC, as administrative agent for Morristown’s affordable housing services.

Among other duties, the Cranbury business will oversee and ensure the town’s compliance with a 2018 settlement with the state Fair Share Housing Center. The agent’s contract pays a maximum of $34,200.

Resident Carolyn Price and Johnny Jones, a Denville resident with relatives on Grant Street, raised concerns about stacking.

“I mean, this has been going on a really long time, and I don’t see anything being done about it,” said Price, adding that the area near Cleveland Street is teeming with rats, and with cars from out-of-state. (Maryland, in particular.) She has observed babysitters trying to watch up to a dozen kids at once, she said.

“The stacking is so bad there, you won’t believe it,” added Jones. His daughter and son cannot find parking on Grant Street at 4 o’clock in the afternoon, he said.

Dougherty, the mayor, said he’s been going door-to -door with inspectors, looking for violations of housing laws. He advised Price and Jones to file complaints with the town property maintenance officer, either in-person, or online, anonymously.

Police also must find ways to crack down on out-of-state vehicles overstaying their welcome and hogging precious parking, the mayor said.

Barrick asked for residents’ patience as police and the Morristown Parking Authority begin enforcing new parking permit requirements for that neighborhood.

On a brighter note, the New York Jets have donated $15,000 for 25 computers at the Marion Sally Recreation Center in Manahan Village, Silva said.

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7 COMMENTS

  1. At the very least, the age to buy anything other than a hunting rifle/shotgun should be 21 [meaning, handguns and definitely assault rifles]. An 18 year old kid could still be in school and could bring in a gun unimpeded. I’m personally for a complete assault weapons ban – the only purpose of such a weapon is to kill human beings with deadly efficiency, which no one needs. Pistols are perfectly adequate for home security if you believe you need a firearm for your home security – but we need to do something.

  2. No other county has this issue. Why America? Maybe because teenagers have access to weapons of mass destruction. Why does anyone need those guns. The only purpose is to kill as many people as possible. I don’t have an issue with hunting, self protection but this has gotten out of hand. Why only in America?

  3. I’m in Uvalde today doing my Maverick impersonation. Won’t forget to be totally disrespectful and check my watch during prayer service.

  4. I hate to tell you this, but prayers will do nothing.

    This country had $40 BILLION lying around to they sent it to Ukraine, which is in-line with Biden’s “America Last” policy. That money would have gone a long way in shoring up school security and getting armed police at school entrances.

  5. Prayers are needed and necessary.
    I’m not sure I understand why the Police and anyone who is in the military/security/and safety business are comfortable with their neighbor having a weapon that can shoot multiple rounds in seconds, a weapon of mass destruction, a much stronger weapon than what they carry. I get handguns, a hunting riffle, but when a special unit has to be brought in because someone has a gun that the police can’t handle, it doesn’t seem legitimate.

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