I first met Joe Castelo a couple of months ago in Hoboken, NJ, and at that time, his company had just opened their gleaming new cannabis dispensary. In a mid-1940s-era imposing edifice of a former office building, located just across the vast expanse from the NJ Transit/Erie Lackawanna railroad and ferry complex, Joe has forged himself a bulwark to his neighborhood. This area is teeming with potential customer-friendly businesses… Namely, banks, bars, restaurants, and commuters. It’s always busy down here for a reason. You are forced by necessity- There is the river on one side, the roadway, and the rails on the other. Thousands of potential customers stream by his front doors hourly on their way to the immense corporate canyons located just across the Hudson River. These potential customers live nearby or further away, but they all share a common task. They walk right by his front doors.
But a dispensary does not make a man, just like a building does not make intellects from mere plaster walls. But fill this building with thinkers and fellow consumers of all types working towards many goals, both creative and practical; then you have a better picture of what Joe represents to me: that’s someone who can teach me something without effort. He took me on a personal tour of his corner location, making sure that I saw the crown on the head of his building. The top floor, with the most commanding view of Manhattan, is located just beyond the river. It’s an impressive space with floor-to-ceiling windows on all the sides that matter; facing the glitter of the City is a good start. It looks like a place where some serious thinking and entertainment go on. The view is that striking.
After a couple of hours of wandering through the building and listening to Joe speak of the myriad of projects he’s contemplating and currently creating- a renaissance man for certain is riding the elevator with me. Made my day for certain.
Humble, kind, and a natural teacher, Joe Castelo wants you to know that he’s from Hoboken. Not a carpetbagger investor from New York. That’s cool, Joe. I, too, was born and raised in New Jersey, maybe not in a vibrant city, but on a farm…. I never thought I’d see that day that cannabis would be in Hoboken. You give me deep hope for change in our state.
Warren Bobrow: Please tell me about yourself. Where are you from? Where are you now? What about your new dispensary? Where is it? Please tell me about it.
Joe Castelo: I am a restaurateur, filmmaker, cannabis entrepreneur, father, and husband who lives in Hoboken, New Jersey. My family has been in business in Hoboken for over 70 years. I truly love this town of firsts (and Hoboken is known as “The City of Firsts!”) —from the people, the Hoboken community, and how the close proximity of family, friends, business, and fun always keeps me in a creative and connected state. Because it is a mile-square city, you are always within walking distance of anything you love, and you are never too far from anyone. And we’re here to serve at The Station (86 River St.), with the best cannabis New Jersey has to offer. Our dispensary sits right outside the storied Lackawanna Train Terminal and NJ PATH station. There is a tremendous amount of foot traffic, so we anticipate being a convenient stop for commuters, Hoboken locals, and those picking up cannabis on their way into the city. Our staff has decades of combined experience in the industry, and they are incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about sharing that knowledge.
WB: Why cannabis? What brought you to the plant? Do you remember the first time you imbibed? Who turned you on to cannabis?
JC: I was brought to cannabis because it has the power to heal and motivate introspection, personal growth, and creativity. It transforms and provides quality of life, not only to individuals but now economic benefit to communities. The first time I imbibed I was amongst friends and the first thing I noticed was just how curious I became about so many subjects—music, art, existence—and how much I laughed…and I love to laugh. And the stigma and fear that was generated around the plant was distorted for so many reasons. I had friends who were persecuted because of their use of cannabis, and I’ve witnessed so much injustice against cannabis users, and none of it made any sense. Who turned me on to cannabis? I suppose it was Donald Sutherland! I somehow managed to watch Animal House as a kid, and Donald Sutherland played a weed-smoking philosophy professor. It was the first time that I’d ever seen anyone smoke cannabis. It seemed like a very pleasant experience, nothing negative about it, and it didn’t seem like the stigmatized experience that everyone else had described it to be. Like other scenes in movies about alternative culture, I knew this probably had to be the truth. I loved independent films, and there was always some aspect of cannabis culture represented in movies; that’s where I think a lot of people were educated over time about the plant. And it was what made it appealing to me.
WB: Please tell me what your six and twelve-month goals are.
JC: In six months’ time, I’d like our dispensary to be a vibrant hub for the community. We are hiring locals and giving a percentage of our sales to charitable organizations in Hoboken, including the Boys & Girls Club, a charity that I am personally very passionate about. If we can also educate about how to implement cannabis into a healthy lifestyle, that would be an excellent outcome in the next six to 12 months. I’ve already done this to great success with a relative of mine who was unable to sleep and was forced to turn to Ambien. She was having a very negative experience with traditional sleeping medicines, and it was adversely affecting her health. Once she switched to a very easy-to-take Indica lozenge, she began sleeping soundly every night. Simply amazing. Beyond the dispensary in the next 12 months? I’d like to find more time to connect with family and nature, hopefully at the same time. And to find more energy! It is out there somewhere…
WB: What is your passion?
JC: My passion is staying connected and growing with the people that I care about and the community I live in, Hoboken. Being useful, being a part of a community of people of character who inspire me to get better every day. I really enjoy working with people who love to collaborate and create and are driven by a common purpose: to build something that will make people’s lives better. With our hospitality group, our members’ workspace, and countless cultural events, I’ve seen the positive benefits of having a place where people can come together, develop friendships and business connections, and generally expand their personal horizons through art, music, food, and communal events. And our dispensary will be part of that experience.
All Photos Courtesy of Joe Castelo/The Station
Essential link: Joe placed it.
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