Visitors to Atlantic City could have the convenience of a cannabis dispensary and consumption lounge located just off the famed Boardwalk as soon as this summer under plans being considered for one of the city’s vintage hotels. If approved by regulators, the proposal would add a lounge permitting on-site consumption of cannabis products to a retail marijuana dispensary already planned for the Claridge Hotel, a 1920s-era former casino only steps from the Boardwalk.
New Jersey state regulators are currently in the process of developing the rules to govern cannabis lounges where patrons can legally smoke, vape, or otherwise consume cannabis in a public setting. The eventual approval of the proposed regulations is highly anticipated by the state’s nascent cannabis industry, with entrepreneurs including Raekwon of Wu-Tang Clan fame already announcing plans to open weed lounges.
Dispensary and Lounge Approved by Local Regulators
In Atlantic City, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority last week approved plans to open the High Rollers Dispensary in the former casino area of the Claridge Hotel, which is located just off the Boardwalk between Park Place and Indiana Avenue. Jon Cohn, an owner of the business, told local media that High Rollers is close to finalizing a lease for the Claridge. The plans include a $3.2 million renovation of the property, which would add a new entrance to the building on Pacific Avenue near Indiana Avenue.
The planned dispensary will occupy most of an area that was once an art gallery and is now mostly used for weddings, cocktail parties, and other events. The hotel plans to retain a portion of the space for its popular wedding business. In addition to the new entrance, the dispensary and lounge will also be accessible through the Claridge’s lobby, except when the hotel is hosting weddings at the site.
The High Rollers portion of the space, including a 3,700-square-foot baccarat room on the second floor, will be remodeled into a cannabis dispensary and consumption lounge. Plans for the consumption lounge include a bar for nonalcoholic beverages to comply with New Jersey’s proposed regulations for the businesses, which do not permit alcohol or food to be sold in consumption lounges. Other possible amenities for the site, which could be open as soon as this summer, include live entertainment and opportunities for outside food vendors.
High Rollers has also been awarded a license for a cannabis cultivation facility on a vacant property in Atlantic City on Martin Luther King Boulevard near Arctic Avenue. The company expects to create more than 200 jobs to operate the enterprise, with about 175 positions needed for the cultivation facility and a staff of about 35 to run the cannabis dispensary and cultivation lounge.
“We feel it’s a good fit for the city as a whole, to utilize cannabis for tourism,” said Cohn. “You can’t be on the Boardwalk, but it’s relatively close.”
Atlantic City Has Weed ‘Green Zone’
New Jersey legalized recreational marijuana in 2021, and the state now has 21 dispensaries offering adult-use cannabis to consumers. Last year, Atlantic City established a “green zone” to attract cannabis businesses to the city’s struggling downtown area. The zone includes Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Avenue from Boston Avenue to Maryland Avenue, as well as the Orange Loop District, an area of bars, restaurants, and live entertainment stretching from Tennessee Avenue and New York Avenue from Pacific Avenue to 200 feet from the Boardwalk. Permitted cannabis uses within the zone will include cultivation, manufacturing, wholesaling, distribution, retail, and delivery.
The Atlantic City Boardwalk itself, however, has restrictions against cannabis businesses. The restrictions do not apply to the Claridge Hotel, which is separated from the Boardwalk by Brighton Park and the city’s Korean War Memorial. Atlantic City also has two medical marijuana dispensaries, The Botanist and MPX NJ.