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Oyster Bay 6th LI town to opt out of marijuana sales, consumption sites

The Oyster Bay Town Board voted 7-0 on

The Oyster Bay Town Board voted 7-0 on Tuesday to ban cannabis dispensaries and smoking lounges in the unincorporated areas of the town. Credit: Newsday/Ted Phillips

Oyster Bay has opted out of allowing retail marijuana sales and commercial consumption sites in the town following a lengthy hearing Tuesday that brought out supporters and opponents.

The town board voted 7-0 to ban cannabis dispensaries and smoking lounges in the unincorporated areas of the town. Municipalities have until Dec. 31 to opt out or they are automatically opted in. Those that opt out can choose to opt in at a later date. Opting out doesn’t bar residents from consuming or growing pot at their homes.

Thomas Sabellico, a town attorney, explained to the board that the proposed local law would give it time to see how new regulations develop before taking the irreversible step of opting in.

"In essence what the local law before you is, is to put your foot on the brake at this point until you find out what Albany has in mind," Sabellico said at the end of the approximately four-hour hearing. "In the future you can change it."

Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino said during the hearing that the town had "no idea what we’re getting into" if it opted in.

The state Cannabis Control Board last month released regulations, subject to a 60-day public comment period, to establish manufacturing, laboratory testing and packaging rules.

Supporters of opting out said they were concerned about the normalization of marijuana use, users driving while under the influence of marijuana and children getting access to the drug.

Proponents of opting in said allowing dispensaries and onsite consumption sites would be better than having an unregulated black market and that they would generate taxes and add jobs.

In March, the town board adopted zoning regulations that restrict the location of marijuana dispensaries to properties in light-industry zones that are at least 1,000 feet away from residences, schools, parks and houses of worship and to require a special-use permit. It’s unclear how many properties under those rules could have been eligible since most areas zoned for light industry are adjacent to residential neighborhoods.

Hempstead, Smithtown, Islip, East Hampton and Shelter Island towns have also opted out of the legislation.

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