NEPTUNE – Two locally-owned cannabis businesses received the greenlight from Township Committee this week to begin operating in the township.
The committee unanimously approved two licenses, one for a cannabis distributor and the other for a cannabis manufacturer.
GDBS Distributors LLC, headed by Neptune resident Jay Smith, is now in line to become the first certified minority-owned company in the state to take the step from having a conditional license to a standard license.
Smith, an engineer and CEO of GDBS Distributors LLC, praised the township’s vision after the Nov. 28 vote.
“I am excited by the opportunity the State of New Jersey has afforded me. My passion for the science of the cannabis industry is what has driven me to follow this path. It not only opens a gateway for success of a minority-owned company, but a value to the communities of color. Neptune’s vision to have local participation in the cannabis industry is why this is happening,” Smith said.
GDBS operates a Class-II manufacturing facility.
Jersey Shore Ventures Group, LLC also won approval for a cannabis manufacturing business.
The firm is a Class-I cultivator owned by Neptune resident Virginia Papa-Horning, who operates the business with her son Chris Horning.
“Jay (Smith) is a Black minority and I am a female minority. So both of the operations are minority owned,” Papa-Horning said.
Horning credited the township for approving locally-owned businesses.
“They are listening to the people because this is what the people wanted,” Papa-Horning said. “But they are also working for and helping their people.”
Horning said he expects to be operational in March.
“We are simply putting a seed in the dirt with the light on it and we are growing it, and we cut it down, dry it, package and then we sell to dispensaries, or we can sell to distributor but not directly to the customer,” Horning said.
Mayor Nicholas Williams said residents voted “overwhelmingly” to bring cannabis into Neptune Township.
“First thing we did was bring in a company called Zen Leaf to actually do the selling of cannabis here in Neptune, but we always stuck to the plan,” Williams said. “And I am proud to say tonight we actually stuck to the plan.”
“One is a distributor; one is a manufacturer. They have warehouse space. They will not be visible to anybody. They will be doing different types of cannabis and they are not going to be selling it such as Zen Leaf,” Williams said.
Both companies will operate from a warehouse on Heck Avenue.
Williams added that “we are taking care of Neptune residents” and praised the two cannabis businesses as “stand out companies” that will do very well in Neptune.
“We could’ve went out and got Big Pharma. We could’ve went out and got big companies, people that were very established. But again, we wanted to keep local people that were interested in doing the business, and conducting business here in Neptune,” Williams said.
Committeeman Dr. Michael Brantley said he was happy to vote “yes” and welcome the new businesses to Neptune.
Charles Daye is the metro reporter for Asbury Park and Neptune, with a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion. Contact him: CDaye@gannettnj.com @CharlesDayeAPP