Legal cannabis in Jersey City proves to be a boon for charities

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Audubon Park seems like a weird place for kids to get a haircut, but the children’s ministry of deliverance doesn’t have much of a choice — the nonprofit group doesn’t have its own space.

But that won’t stop the group from hosting their “School Prep Extravanganza” this weekend, including haircuts and school supplies for Jersey City students returning to class on Sept. 8.

“I don’t want to just hand out backpacks,” said Monica Shaw, executive director and president of the organization. “Kids also need to look fresh.”

Deliverance Children’s Ministry (DCM) may soon be saying goodbye to places like the park and the Mary McLeod Bethune Life Center, thanks to a Jersey City requirement that the city’s cannabis dispensaries give back to the community.

The community impact plans required for dispensary approval summarize “how the applicant intends to positively impact Jersey City, which must include an economic impact plan and a description of the activities of awareness,” according to the Jersey City ordinance.

While no cannabis dispensaries have yet opened, application materials show donations will come in a variety of forms, from cash donations to job training.

Deliverance Children’s Ministry benefactor, Strictly CBD (which will be located at 394 Communipaw Ave.), has pledged to donate at least $10,000 annually to DCM and a few other organizations. Shaw says the funding will be used to find a home. “Without the support of Strictly CBD and others, the funding wouldn’t be there,” she said.

The dispensary property also donated school supplies to a back-to-school giveaway at the Triangle Park Community Center, where Shaw is the president.

Some of the proposed community partners are government agencies like the Jersey City Employment Training Program or the Hudson County Department of Housing and Community Reintegration.

Others have big names behind them, like AngelaCARES, founded by State Assemblyman Angela McKnight, or Project IMPACT, a career-training program run by District 2 County Commissioner Bill O’Dea.

And others are iconic community organizations like VFW Posts or the Jersey City Police Athletic League.

As part of the partnership between The Cannabis Place 420 Corp. at 1544 Kennedy Blvd. and Project IMPACT, the objective is to use the donations to finance professional training.

A collaboration between Commissioner O’Dea and Pat Kelleher, President of the Hudson County Building and Construction Trades Council, the IMPACT project helps women and minorities break into the construction industry for eight years, O’Dea explained.

The organization pays various construction union registration fees that can reach $700 and present a significant barrier to entry into these careers, O’Dea said. It also pays tutors to prepare candidates for the math and reading proficiency tests required by construction jobs. It’s a countywide program, O’Dea said, but about 80% of the participants are from Jersey City.

The dispensary approached Project IMPACT with an offer to partner – O’Dea believes this was based on Project IMPACT’s reputation for helping people. Details are still being worked out, he said, but it will likely be a donation of tens of thousands of dollars to support project operations.

WR Wellness, at 150 Bay St., offers community impact in the form of job training with the Hudson County Department of Housing and Rehabilitation.

The dispensary approached the department with an offer of free training for jobs in the cannabis industry, department manager Frank Mazza said, and it saw a deal on training for skills in a growing industry.

Training for employment in the cannabis industry is necessary to become familiar with the range of skills needed to compete for employment, Mazza said. “It’s not just about selling the product. There is a lot more to this industry than just sales,” he added.

Mazza said he sees a way to tie the growth of the cannabis industry in Jersey City and the rest of the county to the success of people using his department’s services.

“This is an in-demand area that provides jobs for county residents,” Mazza said, “and what my department is interested in is a formal agreement where we can make people who receive government assistance are considered a very real path to employment.”

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