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Long Beach weighing options on retail marijuana sales ahead of Dec. 31 deadline

Long Beach is holding a series of hearings

Long Beach is holding a series of hearings to determine whether it will authorize selling legalized recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Long Beach city officials are weighing whether to opt out of authorizing sales of recreational adult use marijuana ahead of the Dec. 31 deadline.

Long Beach is holding a series of hearings to determine whether it will authorize selling legalized recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older while surrounding communities like the Town of Hempstead, Oyster Bay and Nassau County already have stated their opposition to legalized sales.

Long Beach officials held their first public hearing last week with an additional hearing planned Dec. 7 and a possible vote coming at its Dec. 21 meeting.

The Town of Hempstead also has a hearing Dec. 7 and North Hempstead will consider opting out of marijuana Dec. 16.

Municipalities must opt-out by the state’s Dec. 31 deadline, though it can opt-in at a later date. However, once a municipality opts in the decision is permanent.

City Council members did not take a position on whether they would vote to opt out or authorize sales. Council members listened to residents during the Nov. 17 meeting, where several residents urged the city not to rush into opting into a decision or opening the decision up to a voter referendum.

"Whether we opt out or not, there will be places that have it — mainly in New York City," Long Beach City Council President John Bendo said. "So they can drive over the bridge and get it there. It will still be here because it’s legal."

City officials listened to a series of presentations from marijuana advocates in the cannabis industry and labor unions and opposition from the drug and alcohol prevention group Long Beach Aware.

Long Beach Police Commissioner Ron Walsh said police would not take a position on legalized sales, leaving the decision to the city council and residents.

"If the city chooses to go through the process to bring marijuana and dispensaries, we will be asking for any recourse to mitigate the impact in the city whatever that may be," Walsh said. "If it does not, I will still deal with whatever ramifications we may have with legal marijuana in our city that we’re already dealing with right now."

Advocates have said legalized marijuana can generate 3% sales tax for Long Beach or any local municipality and 1% in sales tax for Nassau County along with 7,000 jobs through the county.

Nikki Kateman, the political and communications director of the retail union Local 338, said she represents cannabis workers and has made presentations in North Hempstead, Islip and Riverhead. She also planned to meet with Huntington and Hempstead. So far, Riverhead is the only Long Island community that has opted in for marijuana sales toward the end of next year.

"The state has given the opportunities for municipalities like yours to opt out," Kateman told Long Beach officials. "If you decide to do so, you’re turning down the opportunity to bring jobs and businesses to the community and new revenue. Cannabis consumption will still be legal regardless."

Long Beach Aware director Judi Vining said the state office of cannabis management does not plan to license any businesses for sale until at the least the end of next year and it may next spring when they are operational.

"We are urging the city to opt out so all this has time to unfold and the city can react to all proposed regulations," Vining said. "Then you can make an informed decision for the health safety and well-being for those living in Long Beach."

Legalized Recreational Marijuana Public Hearings

Long Beach Dec. 7 and a vote Dec. 21

Town of Hempstead Dec. 7

North Hempstead Dec. 16

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