Representatives of a medical marijuana company said Thursday that they will consider alternative sites for Suffolk County's first dispensary of the drug after Riverhead Town officials moved to block a proposed location on Route 58.
Columbia Care NY LLC officials said at a town board work session Thursday that they will present town officials with two or three alternative sites before Sept. 16. Riverhead officials have scheduled a public hearing on that date on a moratorium that would halt for a year the opening of medical marijuana dispensaries in the town.
Town board members last week criticized Columbia Care NY's plan to open in January at a former Blockbuster video store on Route 58. Officials have said a dispensary at that location would be too close to Riverhead High School and could increase traffic on Route 58, a busy commercial strip.
"We're here to sort of say we've heard your concerns," Columbia Care chief executive Nicholas Vita told the town board. "We will do whatever we can to find a location everybody's happy with."
Vita said the Manhattan-based company provides vital relief for patients suffering from cancer, epilepsy and other illnesses.
"Whether you call it a pharmacy or dispensary, the people who use the products at the location are very ill, and they deserve to access it with relative ease," he said.
Three Columbia Care officials and their attorney met for about 90 minutes with the town board Thursday. Columbia Care executive chairman Michael Abbott said company officials considered at least eight locations in Suffolk before settling on the Route 58 site, which he said met state requirements for setbacks and other specifications.
Vita outlined a lengthy process patients must go through before obtaining marijuana, which involves a recommendation from a doctor, an application to the state and the issuance of an identification card by state officials.
Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter and Councilman George Gabrielsen said their objections were rooted in their belief that medical marijuana is a steppingstone to statewide legalization of recreational use of the drug.
"I want you as far away from the schools, I want you as far away from the churches, the synagogues" as possible, Walter told Columbia Care representatives. "Because it's not you. It's not what you represent. It's where the future of this state is going."
Walter said town officials were caught off guard by the plan to place Suffolk's only dispensary in Riverhead. Columbia Care NY was one of five companies licensed last month by state officials to manufacture and distribute marijuana under the Compassionate Care Act passed by the State Legislature in June 2014. Bloomfield Industries Inc., based on Staten Island, was selected to run the only other dispensary planned for Long Island, in Nassau.
Riverhead officials did not agree Thursday on an alternative location. Walter suggested that Columbia Care build a dispensary at Enterprise Park at Calverton, the former Grumman Corp. flight test site. Councilman John Dunleavy suggested a Chase Bank building on Riverhead's Main Street. Other town board members criticized those proposals.