UPDATED: Sometime Thursday afternoon, the Gloucester City Police shut down the West Winds Wellness Store, for allegedly selling marijuana. We have reached out to both the Gloucester City Police and Michael Mahoney, the owner of the business for a response. Once we have more information we will release it. ~CNBNews
William E. Cleary Sr. | CNBNews
GLOUCESTER CITY, NJ -(May 25, 2021)(CNBNews)--West Winds Wellness, a cannabis/apparel store, opened its doors recently at 340 South Broadway. Several nearby residents contacted CNBNews wondering why they were never told that this business was moving into their neighborhood.
They were concerned about the limited parking they have now. "I have a hard time getting a parking space, and this store is not going to help the situation," said one person who wanted to remain anonymous.
CNBNews sat outside of the business for approximately 30 minutes this afternoon. During that time we counted between 40 and 50 people who went in and out of the store. We saw license plates from Delaware and Pennsylvania but most of the people were driving cars with Jersey tags.
We went inside the building and were greeted by two large security guards one carrying a handgun in his holster. We were told we had to wear a mask and that they only accepted cash. We showed our press credentials and asked to speak with the owner, who wasn't there. The walls in that room were lined with retail merchandise such as backpacks, t-shirts, handbags. On another wall were some marijuana accessories such as bongs. To the right of the entrance was a hallway where a man was standing in the doorway. We are assuming that the marijuana was in one of the rooms located off the hallway.
Their website says cannabis is a free gift for buying the apparel they are selling.
Select Your Merchandize and Your Promotional Gift. We deliver only the coolest Merchandise in New Jersey. NONE of our cannabis is for sale. It can be given as a gift at the discretion of our drivers who are independent contractors to any adult 21+ yrs or older with a valid ID.
After you place your order we will contact you (via Whatsapp or Signal) and ask for a selfie holding your 21yrs+ ID to confirm age. We will also require it to be shown at time of delivery. Any Orders placed by 1pm will be fulfilled by end of the next day at the latest. Orders are filled based on first come basis. After the order is processed and age is confirmed a Jelly Service Agent will let you know the approximate delivery time. Our drivers are professional and friendly and will work with you as best as they can to coordinate an exact delivery time once the order is en route.
**Our drivers are Independent Contractors and can gift up to 1 ounce of cannabis as a promotional gift to another adult 21+ yrs or older with valid ID from any state if they choose to do so.
Our drivers never carry more than 1 ounce at any given time. If a Jelly customer chooses to accept the promotional gift we ask that they use it respectfully and legally and under no circumstances drive under the influence.
Their website states that they have three stores, one in Trenton and two others, Gloucester City and Franklin, NJ. Under both the Gloucester City and Franklin stores it states Opening Soon! However, the owner of the businesses, Mike Mahoney, said the Gloucester City store opened two days ago.
During an interview with Mahoney we asked him to tell us about his business and why did he pick Gloucester City to open a store?
"We are good friends with NJ's Weedman and have a store in Trenton too.The state of NJ is going to issue 37 licenses. Just to apply for one of those licenses will cost $500,000 to $1 million. If someone like myself goes to a bank to borrow that kind of money I will be turned down because the federal government still says marijuana is a controlled substance and is illegal even though the state of NJ says otherwise. If you don't get chosen for the license you lose the money you spent on the application process. We still are looking at applying to get one of those 37 licenses and if so we would open it in Camden City."
"So because we are up against corporate America and the government we came up with this idea which is selling retail merchandise and giving the cannabis away as a thank you gift for buying that merchandise. We know we are in a "grey area". But they leave you no choice. We have done the same thing in California and in Colorado."
Asked if he got the required paperwork from the city to open his business here he said, "We are insured for almost $5 million dollars. I have a business license. We sell all this cool apparel. The city approved my license to sell that stuff but they denied my request to sell cannabis so we don't sell it, we give it away.I am allowed to do that. I can give the cannabis away as a bonus to someone as a gift."
"The customers are working-class people who spent 8 hours at their job and now they want to relax with some cannabis. They are not breaking into someone's home to steal a TV to get money to buy drugs. The security guards in Gloucester and in my other stores throughout the state are retired, police officers, all licensed to carry."
Asked how he buys the cannabis he explained, "You can't buy the cannabis to sell, it is illegal. New Jersey though has decriminalized marijuana so how can it be illegal to sell it. But, in the next four months, you will be able to do so. The state can send someone in my store to make a buy but they can't get a search warrant because of marijuana being decimalized. But the state will have to use Consumer Affairs to come in my store and search it. I can give away anything I want. In just a few months, as I said, it will be decimalized in NJ."
"As for the parking problem, we are trying to fix the parking problem. We don't want to upset the neighborhood."
Asked again about where does he buy that amount of cannabis without breaking the law? "How I acquire the product is something I don't discuss with anyone. I can say the product is safe and secured. "
Asked about Curaleaf in Bellmawr, who sells medical marijuana, is their product better? "I don't like criticizing a competitor but our product is the best. It is much fresher. Our customers tell us it is better than any of the strains that others produce."
Ten years or more ago Gloucester City denied a bondman from opening a bail bond office in the City. They also denied two taxi cab businesses who wanted to open offices and they denied a check-cashing business from opening too. The reason they gave was they didn't want to attract the type of people those businesses service. Mahoney was asked if the city licensing departments gave him any trouble with getting the necessary permits.
Mahoney said, "They really denied those businesses from opening?"
"I have people who take care of getting the necessary paperwork for my store. I can't answer your question as I don't know if they had any trouble. The owner of the property who we are renting from was very happy with our plans.The fire department gave us the okay, I have a certificate hanging inside from them. My partner and I are just regular dudes, we are working guys. Besides owning the cannabis businesses we have other ventures as well. "
"The date for legalization of marijuana in New Jersey is August 21. Which is about 90 days away. When that happens my cannabis stores will all close. Because the guy who spent $2 million to open his cannabis business will run to city hall and go nuts telling the powers in charge that he can't compete with people who are giving marijuana away. The legislators will clean up the language in the law that is allowing me to operate presently. And, then it will be over."
"I am going to try to get one of the 37 licenses using my connections. It if happens, it happens. But if not, well there isn't much I can do about it. I wish there was another way that I could operate. I am a "stand-up" businessman. I have five recovery houses to help people who get addicted. For the past 10 years, I have taken people who get addicted off the street to help them. We would like to build a recovery center in Camden City sometime in the near future by the Baptist Church."
"Why did you pick Gloucester City to open this business? Why not Camden City?
"I actually like to put one in Camden, I like it. But Gloucester City was first because someone told me it was an old Irish town, I am Irish and part Italian. I wanted to put the store in a quiet place, Gloucester City fit that criterion. I really didn't expect this store to take off the way it did. It superseded all expectations. The property owner was so cooperative which was another plus."
We had contacted City Administrator/City Police Chief Brian Morrell for a comment but as of the publication of this article, we still are waiting for his response.