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Residents Complain About Cookies Harrison Community 420 Backyard BBQ

Apr 29, 2024
Cookies Harrison Cover 420 Barbecue

Emotions of concern were expressed at the Harrison Mayor & Council meeting last Tuesday, April 23, 2024, as residents voiced their grievances against the local Cookies Harrison cannabis store following a controversial 420 Backyard BBQ Party held on Saturday, April 20, 2024. The event, intended as a festive gathering, drew criticism for its exclusive nature and disruptive impact on the residential community.

Located at 331 Cifelli Drive in Harrison, Cookies Harrison organized the event featuring loud music and performances with expletives, causing distress among the residents of the same apartment building where the store is housed. Complaints centered on the excessive noise and the inappropriate content of the music, which was audible within their living spaces.  The complaints were very similar to those of the Cobalt Loft building on the other side of the Redevelopment Zone from outside vendors playing loud music before Red Bull Arena events.

Residents reported that the event effectively took over public spaces such as sidewalks and the street, with access to the event area being restricted to those who purchased in the store. This policy particularly excluded younger residents, as highlighted by a parent at the council meeting: "My child was not old enough to legally purchase items from the Cookies Harrison store. So my child and other children saw the Ice Cream truck but were prohibited from accessing what was a private area created by Cookies Harrison".

Further adding to the discontent, attendees of the event were seen purchasing and consuming cannabis on the sidewalks adjacent to the store, a clear violation of New Jersey law which prohibits public consumption of cannabis.

Legal Boundaries and Community Expectations

The backlash from the event brings to light the broader legal and social responsibilities of cannabis businesses under New Jersey’s Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act. Under this law, the consumption of cannabis is strictly limited to private properties, with public consumption remaining illegal. The Act also outlines that cannabis can only be sold to individuals 21 years of age or older, and public disturbances related to cannabis use are subject to legal action.

Cookies Harrison’s 420 Backyard BBQ Party, while aimed at celebrating cannabis culture, apparently failed to adhere to state regulations that protect community standards and ensure public spaces are respected. This incident not only disrupted residents but also posed legal questions about the enforcement of cannabis consumption laws in public spaces.

The Larger Picture

As cannabis businesses become a more common sight across New Jersey, the incident at Cookies Harrison serves as a reminder of the delicate balance these establishments must maintain. While they bring economic benefits and fulfill the demand for legalized cannabis, they also bear the responsibility to integrate respectfully into their communities and adhere strictly to legal standards.  Cookies Harrison had obtained a Permit from the Harrison Police Department and therefore had the right to hold the event. There were no arrests during the event which ran from 12 noon to 6:30 p.m.  It ran over half an hour from its scheduled end time.

The performers at the event were Bobby Shmurda & Friends and Special Guests Gille Da King & Wallo.

The reaction from Harrison residents underscores a community's expectation that businesses, especially those dealing in controlled substances like cannabis, conduct their operations without encroachment on public comfort and safety. A resident stated "I have no problem with what business Cookies does inside its store.  I have a problem when they do public events that disturb the community."

In response to the incident, local law enforcement authorities and the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission may need to reassess and reinforce the guidelines to ensure that cannabis-related activities do not undermine the quality of life in residential communities. As New Jersey navigates the complexities of its relatively new legal cannabis market, the experiences of communities like Harrison will likely shape policies aimed at harmonizing business interests with community values. 

The guidelines that have been issued by New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin conflict with the public policy embodied in the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act (N.J.S.A. § 24:6I-31 et. seq.) and the regulations issued by the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (N.J.A.C. § 17:30-1.1 et seq.).  Law Enforcement officers' jobs are not made easier with apparent conflicts between what the law states on its face and how Law Enforcement officers are being asked to enforce the law by the New Jersey State Attorney General’s office.

Articles of Interest:

Top 10 Things You Should Know About New Jersey's Cannabis Law

Harrison Residents Air Concerns at Community Policing Meeting


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