Joy of Cannabis
THe Joy of Cannabis

New Jersey Battles Couple Who Sold Weed in Front of Dispensary

Michael Kearney and Krista Winters (left) and The Apothecarium in Phillipsburg, NJ (right, CelebStoner photo)

A New Jersey couple is facing charges of "alleged distribution of unregulated marijuana in Phillipsburg," a city in New Jersey that borders Pennsylvania. On June 30, they were arrested for third-degree distribution of over one ounce of marijuana and third-degree conspiracy to distribute over one ounce of marijuana.

At issue is not so much the selling of unregulated weed, but where Krista Winters and Michael Kearney did it: Right in front of The Apothecarium, a legal pot shop, in Phillipsburg at 55 S. Main St. In May and June, they parked outside the store and sold cannabis on the sidewalk.

"I was protesting about corporations monopolizing the market," Winters tells CelebStoner. "The slightest hint of competition is enough for them to call the cops."

Which is what, she says, The Apothecarium, owned by TerrAscend, did:

"There were sporatic set ups outside the dispensary. We were right out front able to be seen by any marijuana user passing by. We were allegedly selling top-shelf THC outside of the dispensary for an affordable price for customers. No price gouging, no bags of schwag. We allegedly had flower for people and were giving away edibles for free. We saw a need to help people who were being taken advantage of. We're both medical patients and cannot afford the supply from a dispensary. This New Jersey marijuana is a circus and in no way is designed to help the people. They set up undercover buys that were always less than an ounce because we knew better than give anyone more than that."

Krista Winters: "The dispensaries stomped out the free market. It's clear only the rich are getting richer and anyone else should stay in their lane and get crushed."

Legal cannabis sales in New Jersey for adults began in April. Eights sell for $55-$65, twice to three times the price on the unregulated market. 

Why did they target The Apothecarium in particular? "I've been a medical patient since 2018," explains Winters, 38, who lives in nearby Belvidere. "The Apothecarium was the closest dispensary to me in 50 miles. When The Apothecarium opened, I decided to see what they were all about. I could tell right away they didn't care about the patient, just the dollars the patient represented. They were rude to me and ignorant about their products. It gave me a cold and uneasy feeling there, not to mention rape my wallet.

"After talking to many different people in the area - I've lived here for 36 years - I realized there were a lot of people who felt the same way as I did and had no options other than The Apothecarium because the dispensaries stomped out the free market. It's clear only the rich are getting richer and anyone else should stay in their lane and get crushed."

Krista Winters and Michael Kearney prior to their recent arrests (photo courtesy of Krista Winters)

Local, county and state authorities launched an investigation and on June 30 arrested Winters and Kearney after seacrhing their vehicles and seizing seven ounces, $540 and the vehicles. 

"The Phillipsburg police arrested us a few weeks prior to our 'big arrest' on June 30," Winters details. "Michael was arrested for a parking ticket. This was a whole debacle in itself because Michael suffered a panic attack and the police left him on the ground before finally getting an ambulance to transport him. At the police station, they arrested me for disorderly conduct and obstruction of justice."

"We've been persecuted enough even before all this. When is it going to be for the people? Never. Unless people stand up and say we've been here the whole time."

On June 30, Winters notes, "The Apothecarium called the police on us for being parked in a space too long." This was followed by the car searches and cannabis arrests. In New Jersey, it remains illegal to possess more than six ounces for personal use.

"I went to court for my charges," says Winters, who represented herself. "I was clearly guilty to them before I walked in. The judge found me guilty and sentenced me to the highest fine he could give - $1,800. I immediately appealed. They have until December to indict us, which they haven't done yet." The appeal is ongoing.

Kearney pleaded not guilty. He'd been jailed for eight days on the parking ticket charge.

Winters and Kearney are not married, live apart and have a daughter. Before the arrests (Winters also has a 2018 prior for small possession), she was working as a substitute teacher, but has been prevented from returning to the school to work because of "these ridiculous charges."

Winters says she's fighting for a free market: "We've been persecuted enough even before all this. When is it going to be for the people? Never. Unless people stand up and say we 've been here this whole time. Why are we the first being cut out?"

 

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Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of CelebStoner.com, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.