Lawsuit Alleges New Jersey City Officials Violated Ethics Rules in Licensing

The lawsuit asserts that both the mayor and a municipal clerk had conflicts of interest.

Hopewell Borough in central New Jersey is the latest target of a lawsuit alleging corruption by local officials in a competitive marijuana licensing process, with losing applicant Sourland Provisions claiming that the mayor of the town and several other officials wrongly aided a winning license holder, Evolve Sky.

Sourland Provisions tried to win a retail cannabis permit in the town, but was rejected reportedly due to a late fee payment, NJ Advance Media reported.

In its lawsuit against the town, the company alleged that Mayor Paul Anzano acted as a legal advisor to Evolve Sky prior to Hopewell Borough formally opting in to recreational cannabis sales. The suit also asserts that the city’s former municipal clerk was involved, and that both Anzano and the clerk had conflicts of interest.

“Mayor Anzano began aiding Evolve Sky’s efforts to establish operations in the borough, referring to himself as Evolve’s ‘advisor’ with respect to its plans to obtain municipal approval for several types of adult-use cannabis businesses,” the lawsuit claims.

Anzano rejected allegations he was guilty of any wrongdoing and said he tried to help Sourland Provisions win a permit as well.

“I find it very unfortunate for them — because if it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t have made the progress that we made,” Anzano told NJ Advance Media. “I was hoping that they would be successful.”

Evolve Sky’s retail license is now pending before the state Cannabis Regulatory Commission, and a spokesman for the state agency said that “anything untoward in applications is investigated.”

Sourland’s lawsuit also claims that some of the owners of Evolve Sky had previously tried and failed to obtain a medical marijuana business license in Hopewell Borough with the company Turning Leaf Centers, but were stymied. Turning Leaf Centers has a cannabis industry footprint in Massachusetts, and some of the same executives with that business were also connected to Evolve Sky, according to the lawsuit.

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