No Toking Over The Town Line


North Hempstead mulls ban on pot use

Paul Ladopoulus of Manhasset formerly headed the substance abuse program at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He was suspicious of literature from a medical marijuana purveyor in the town that indicated that the firm was looking forward to selling recreational marijuana. He noted that in Colorado, the first state to legalize pot, vehicle accidents have risen significantly—and he had no doubt that there was a direct connection. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

The Town of North Hempstead is exploring the possibility of banning the sale of recreational marijuana within its jurisdiction.

Smoking weed is not yet legal in New York (which does allow medical marijuana), but Governor Andrew Cuomo seems to be pointing the state in that direction.

Such was the sentiment of most speakers at the Oct. 25 town board meeting,
What started as a public hearing to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries took an unexpected direction in the course of the evening. The town board unanimously approved resolutions to hold public hearings on Nov. 20, on two zoning changes. One would prohibit medical marijuana facilities from selling recreational pot should legalization come to pass. The other would restrict where such medical dispensaries could be located.

Supervisor Judi Bosworth said regulating these pseudo-pharmacies was necessary to keep them away from residences, schools, place of worship, day care centers, playgrounds and the like.

“This is bipartisan legislation,” the supervisor said. “This is something that will be offered by every one of the councilmembers and myself.”

Bosworth wondered why her town, with just 17 percent of Nassau’s 1.3 million residents, should be home to one existing and one proposed medical marijuana outlets. The active dispensary is located in a medical office building on Marcus Avenue in Lake Success, near the Long Island Jewish Hospital complex. It is operated by MedMen, whose flagship store on Fifth Avenue in NYC, one speaker noted, already has taken on the lineaments of a glossy retail outlet.

The firm Curaleaf is readying a facility on Old Country Road in Carle Place, for which no opening date has been set.

Medical To Legal

Councilwoman Dina De Giorgio said she has studied what other municipalities in states where marijuana is legal have done, and concluded, “They were amending their zoning codes in the same way we’re doing tonight.”

De Giorgio went on to say: “The reality is, MedMen and its competitors don’t really care about medical marijuana (applause)…medical marijuana is a smokescreen to be able to able to sell marijuana for recreational use.”

She said what other speakers would echo that evening: MedMen wanted to secure itself a “prime” retail location. Thus, the firm had applied to move to a freestanding store in Manhasset’s shopping district.

After noting that “legalization is on the horizon,” De Giorgio expressed her strong opposition, and asserted, “I think we should completely ban the sale of recreational marijuana.”

When the applause had died down, De Giorgio added, “I think we can do it. It’s illegal under federal law. And I think it’s perfectly permissible for local municipalities to say, ‘We don’t want you to sell recreational marijuana anywhere in our community.’ ”

She noted that the state legislature begins its session in January, and the town should move quickly before legalization was passed. The councilwoman envisioned a retail landscape in which convenience and gas station stores and other outlets might clamor and win the right to sell marijuana.

Later, after Plandome resident Sarah Adams expressed skepticism about the entire board’s commitment to the idea of a ban, Bosworth pushed back, and assured her, “I have asked the town attorney to draft legislation that would in fact make it impossible for recreation marijuana to be sold in the Town of North Hempstead.”

Adams replied, “You should have done this before letting MedMen come into the community.”

Bosworth heatedly replied: “I didn’t let MedMen come into the community. This is what’s frustrating. This is a state law that [allows] medical marijuana in a community. We didn’t pick the location. We didn’t pick the company. The state did that.”

Consumer Friendly?

MedMen wants to move to 1575 Northern Blvd. in Manhasset, currently occupied by Sleep Number. A rep for the custom bedding retailer told Anton Media Group that the store’s lease will be up at the end of March, and it will close then.

The supervisor contacted the New York State Department of Health (DOH), which chooses and licenses legal marijuana firms. Her letter to Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker asked why her town was attracting such businesses.

Bosworth’s missive drew a response in the form of a conference phone call from DOH reps.

It was during this phone call that she learned of MedMen’s proposal to change locations. As she related to the audience, the existing facility had opened within the year, had ample parking, access to highways and was close to medical offices, including the sort whose patients might seek the relief only the pills and gels containing compounds derived from cannabis might offer.

DOH reps told Bosworth, “They [MedMen] need better access.”

She went on to describe a frustrating conversation with officials who were pleading MedMen’s case, including a parking lot that was too big (forcing some patients to walk farther than they were able to) and the need to use an elevator. Bosworth pointed out to them that there was free valet parking on site, and the building was ADA complaint, so the elevator could accommodate wheelchairs.

“I finally hit the roof,” Bosworth admitted, “and said, ‘I just don’t understand why you are permitting a facility that has just opened, that fits all the requirements for a medical marijuana facility office—which is how it was explained to us—why would you allow them to close, [only] to open on Northern Boulevard, in a storefront?’ ”

The supervisor also informed the DOH that the proposed freestanding store eyed by MedMen would lack the necessary parking spaces for a medical facility, and there was no guarantee that the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) would grant the necessary variances. Bosworth reiterated—for those who believed the town board had powers over the ZBA—that the latter, by state law, operated independently.

“There’s something really wrong with this,” Bosworth told the DOH reps, who promised to discuss the matter internally and get back to her. Bosworth said that three follow up calls to the DOH were not yet returned.

The supervisor emphasized that, “I support the use of medical marijuana, especially for those suffering from serious medical conditions.”

De Giorgio and Councilwoman Anna Kaplan also strongly support the medicinal use of cannabis-derived products.

“We heard the concerns of the community, and we stand with the residents on this issue,” Bosworth said.

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Frank Rizzo is a journalist at Anton Media Group. With decades of experience in the industry, he is exceptionally equipped to cover local politics, business and other topics that matter to readers. PHONE:516-403-5154


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