North Jersey entrepreneur to open weed dispensary at site of longtime funeral home

HALEDON — An entrepreneur from Bergen County is under contract to buy the decades-old funeral home on Belmont Avenue with a plan to open a cannabis dispensary there in a matter of months.

Molly Ann Farms, a name borrowed from the brook flowing south of the 1.1-acre site, near the corner of Henry Street, could begin selling marijuana products as early as June.

It will be the third reincarnation of the property, first occupied by a grocery store.

For the past 45 years, the building at the site and its three viewing parlors have received many thousands of grieving families and friends — initially as Rinaldi Funeral Home, then as Rinaldi-DeLuccia-Vander Plaat Funeral Home and, finally, as DeLuccia-Lozito Funeral Home.

On Wednesday, the agency governing the state’s cannabis industry awarded a license to Molly Ann Farms after an application process that started months ago when the dispensary registered as a limited liability company.

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Gabriella Wilday, its co-founder, said she believes that the overenforcement of cannabis use has led to years of wealth disparity affecting neighborhoods of color.

“Cannabis is a product that any honest doctor will tell you is safer to consume than alcohol,” said Wilday, of Ridgewood. “The fact that it has been illegal for so long, up until now, is a classic case study in opposition politics and racism.”

Wilday, who also established No Fuss Lunch, a healthy lunch program for area schools, owns the dispensary with her brother, Gian Lombardi, and her father, George Lombardi.

Molly Ann Farms is one of two cannabis retailers allowed to operate in the borough.

New Jersey became the 13th state in the nation to legalize marijuana for adult use when Gov. Phil Murphy signed a series of bills in February 2021 — three months after voters overwhelmingly supported that constitutional amendment through a ballot measure.

Voters in the 16 municipalities that make up Passaic County approved the public question by a margin of 27%.

Mayor Michael Johnson said the local dispensary will be an asset to the borough’s downtown. “We welcome any business, especially any small business, because that’s what Haledon thrives on,” he said.

Following the legalization of the drug, the Borough Council in July 2021 adopted an amendment to the zoning code to permit the operation of cannabis retailers. The ordinance also regulates noise, odor and security of such businesses, which are limited to hours of operation between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Molly Ann Farms filed its paperwork with the state Division of Revenue & Enterprise Services in December 2021, before seeking municipal approval two months after that.

In March, the council passed a resolution to support its opening — a vital step toward securing the state’s consent this week.

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There will be no change to the footprint of the 8,883-square-foot funeral home, less than a quarter-mile north of Burhans Avenue and the Paterson border.

The dispensary’s approved site plan calls for 65 parking spots and three driveways: an exit to Morrissee Avenue, and an entrance from and an exit to Belmont Avenue.

The now-defunct Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., better known as A&P, opened a food store at the property a month before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The food store, touted in newspaper ads at the time as the “most modern super market in northern New Jersey,” lasted for a little more than three decades.

Weber’s, a discount chain that sold everything from chicken wire to garden hoses to name-brand shoes opened a store there in June 1974, but it closed after three years when the Rinaldi family moved its business to the site from a property farther north on Belmont Avenue.

Joseph Lozito, the owner of the funeral home, said the business will relocate to Main Street in Lincoln Park, where he has a second funeral home. “It was an honor to serve the people of Haledon and the surrounding area,” he said. “I met a lot of great people, and I hope to continue those relationships.”

Molly Ann Farms was among six cannabis retailers whose applications to convert from conditional licenses to annual licenses came up for approval this week.

The dispensaries will be subject to final inspections before their licenses are issued.

The state Cannabis Regulatory Commission awarded 50 licenses, not including conditional licenses, as of last month. According to its website, there are nine retailers operating in 22 locations.

The only one open in this county is RISE, a dispensary on Third Avenue in Paterson.

Philip DeVencentis is a local reporter for For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.