Manhasset residents can rest easy.
That is, those opposed to the idea of a medical marijuana dispensary on a prominent retail stretch. And a stone’s throw from residences.
MedMen has reportedly withdrawn a controversial application to move its dispensary from Lake Success to Manhasset.
That bit of news was revealed by Supervisor Judi Bosworth at the Dec. 18 Town of North Hempstead Town Board meeting.
Applause greeted Bosworth’s announcement.
Daniel Yi, senior vice president of corporate communications for MedMen, said in an emailed statement: “We are disappointed about the decision by the Town of North Hempstead. The decision runs contrary to the growing consensus across the country around the benefits of legalizing and regulating cannabis. We are fully confident that we are on the right side of history on this issue. Nonetheless, operating in a regulated environment means respecting the process and the decisions of local jurisdictions so we have decided to no longer pursue our relocation.”
Had it not withdrawn the application, MedMen would have come into conflict with a modification of the zoning regulations passed by the town board that evening. It will prohibit establishments that sell medical marijuana “from being within 1,000 feet of a school, parks, child care center or house of worship; restrict them from being within 500 feet of a town residential district; and limit the number of dispensaries in the town to two.”
In addition, it would limit them to zoning districts mainly labeled industrial. Finally, the dispensary may be located only in a building having at least one medical office.
This follows a zoning code revision on Nov. 20, when the town board amended the law prohibiting any facility approved or used as a medical marijuana dispensary to be used as a marijuana retail store.
Pro & Contra
Two compelling personal testimonies highlighted the public comment session.
Doretta Goldberg of Port Washington, a 50-year resident of the town, said that the medicinal benefits of cannabis have enabled her to palliate the effects of breast cancer surgery.
Goldberg lamented that medical marijuana was not legal in New York State in 2013, when her daughter was also battling cancer.
“I have always thought of this as an educated, open-minded community,” Goldberg began. “But today, I think we’re on the wrong track.”
Putting restrictions on companies selling both medical and medicinal marijuana would “have a chilling effect on the number willing to operate in the town.”
Goldberg would have preferred to see “carefully drafted legislation” to control undesirable behaviors “without prohibiting activity that is beneficial to our community.”
Limiting where dispensaries could be placed, she went on, “would discriminate against and stigmatize patients, many of whom are severely ill and don’t travel easily. Marijuana patients are entitled to get their medicines as easily and with the same respect as any other patient.”
Goldberg was skeptical of board members’ professions of support for medical marijuana, asserting that the law being considered “practically shouted NIMBY (not in my backyard). Historically, initiatives with this motivation have been the result of prejudice and baseless fears, and this does not seem any different.”
She wanted to disabuse people of the image of a pot user as a Grateful Dead follower, and thus told her own tale of how she came to appreciate cannabis.
“The current approach is reactive, not proactive,” Goldberg concluded. “Sending patients to industrial parks for their medication is insulting. It’s unnecessary. It’s discriminatory. And as a result, it’s probably illegal. Above all, it is insensitive and unkind.”
Goldberg urged the board to vote down proposed legislation.
“You spoke eloquently,” someone told Goldberg later, after the vote went against her wishes.
“A lot of good it did,” she replied.
Taking the opposite stand was John Dell’Aquila of Munsey Park. Five years ago, when he and his wife Michelle were looking for community to raise a family, the Manhasset area fit the bill.
But lately, he asserted, he had seen “signs of deterioration,” and having a potential retail marijuana store was yet another sign of decline.
He was suspicious of MedMen’s labeling any future retail establishment as “the Apple store of pot” and noted the firm wanted to establish a retail beachhead where the demographics were favorable.
Regarding his initial visit, Dell’Aquila reflected, “Had we pulled up and there was an ‘Apple store for pot,’ and homeless people sleeping in the Long Island Rail Road ticket house at Manhasset station, and vagrants walking down Plandome Road cursing at children, we would not have moved here.”
He called the retail marijuana threat “the most obvious issue that we have” and pledged to grow a petition—now at about 3,500 names—“by multiples.” What those who signed all have in common was what he called “family values requirements.”
Dell’Aquila noted that the state was “machine gunning” legalization of marijuana (in the legislative session beginning in January) and “we don’t believe this is over by a long shot.”
After the vote, Councilman Angelo Ferrara said he recognized how important medical marijuana was to some residents. He suggested that they start petitions to get it nationally legalized.
If this were to happen, he went on, “then it could be sold in pharmacies. And you don’t have to worry about companies like MedMen or anybody else trying to move into the community.”
Ferrara concluded, “It’s absolutely critical for the health and welfare of the people who need it, that you make it as available as possible. And I think the best way to do that is nationally, to allow it to be sold in pharmacies, so people aren’t taken advantage of.”
Bosworth discussed how the town came to take actions to protect itself from being Long Island’s center of marijuana dispensaries.
She reiterated that all the trustees supported medical marijuana.
“There are people throughout the island who have this need, so it was felt it was important that [dispensaries] be distributed fairly so that all people who need it have that opportunity,” she said. “This law is about where [dispensaries] will be zoned. It wasn’t meant to be prejudicial. It was done in a way that is equitable and responsible.”