A dispensary could be coming to 201 Wright Street in Newark. Courtesy of Guzzo Architects.

The best word to describe the retail cannabis industry in Newark is “unpredictable.” While some dispensaries have opened without so much as a murmur, others came up against considerable opposition. In the case of Raekwon’s Hashtoria lounge that will soon be coming to Broad and Market Street, churchgoers at a nearby house of worship raised hell before the project finally got the go-ahead.

When plans for a new dispensary called The Station near Lincoln Park came before Newark’s Planning Board last week, there was no way to predict how neighbors near its proposed address, 201 Wright Street, would react. In the end, only one resident voiced concern, not about the location of the shop, but about the lack of street parking, which in fairness, is the same concern Newarkers have whenever any new business opens.

The owners of The Station will be renovating an old industrial building. Courtesy of Guzzo Architects.

Instead, the Wright Street resident praised the owner for renovating a run-down historic industrial building.

“We’re looking to put a new storefront here, paint the existing brick, open up some former windows that were blocked up on the second floor and convert this first floor into the micro-cannabis site that you see here,” said Anthony Guzzo, principal at Guzzo Architects, the firm designing the project.

The welcoming attitude the Wright Street resident had toward a new dispensary could indicate that the initial hysteria surrounding legal marijuana sales could be dying down.

“Before legalization happened in New Jersey, people thought it was going to be complete anarchy,” said Robert DiPisa, a cannabis consultant for the Hackensack firm Cole Shotz. “And now dispensaries are opening and they’re seeing how clean and secure these places are – and that the world didn’t turn upside down.”

Nevertheless, the retail cannabis industry is still moving through uncharted waters. While some dispensaries have flourished, others have shuttered, like Montclair’s Ascend. The perplexing thing about the case of Ascend, which is moving to Wharton, is that it had the prime location in the township’s downtown that other dispensaries wish they had, and yet they couldn’t make it work. The owners cited to the Montclair Local a lack of parking and too much competition, which is also odd considering it was located near three parking garages within 800 feet and the nearest dispensary was a mile and a half away in Bloomfield.

The great unknown in the industry is how cannabis-delivery services, which is something the owner of The Station said he wants to offer when it finally comes on line in New Jersey, will affect the retail experience and whether customers will still visit dispensaries in person when they can simply order it at home from their smartphones.

DiPisa believes that if home deliveries put a significant dent in retail foot traffic, existing dispensaries could be converted into other uses like consumption lounges. “In order to get people off their couch and come to their location, they’re going to have to offer them some kind of experience,” he said.

However, the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission only began offering direct-delivery licenses recently – the reasoning being that they wanted to see the cultivation side of the industry up and running to ensure an adequate supply for the demand. Dispensaries have to have a contractual relationship with a cultivator, but the construction of cannabis farms hasn’t kept pace with dispensaries within the state.

In the meantime, DiPisa warns consumers to be wary of businesses currently offering cannabis-delivery services because they’re “likely operating without a license.”

“A lot of these operators are taking packaging from well-known brands and filling it with products that are completely different,” he alleges.”You don’t know where it comes from, if it’s been tested or what contaminants are in it and you’re putting it in your body.”

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