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Massapequa Park bans dispensaries, hookah lounges in village

Trustees in the Village of Massapequa Park voted unanimously Monday night to ban marijuana dispensaries and hookah lounges.

The change to the zoning code was crafted in response to the openings last month — in Riverhead and Lake Success — of the first dispensaries on Long Island, Mayor Jeffrey Pravato said.

“Massapequa Park is not the place where we want to see any marijuana dispensaries or hookah lounges,” Pravato said. “We’re a family-oriented town, and that’s the way we like to keep it here.”

The vote was 5-0. Pravato said the village has not had any proposals for either dispensaries or hookah lounges, but that the board and residents wanted to pre-empt any such businesses from opening up.

Massapequa Park resident and retired police officer David Gjodesen, 42, was one of two people who spoke in favor of the ban. He likened the dispensaries to a “bait and switch” that would lead to weaker drug laws in the future and dubious diagnoses for a drug that is illegal under federal law.

“I’m here to strengthen the community, not weaken it by allowing such a facility to open,” Gjodesen said after the vote.

Last year, Islandia banned sales of medical marijuana in the village. The Village of Hempstead this year imposed restrictions on where dispensaries could be located, preventing them from being close to schools, parks and residential areas or from being close to one another.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation legalizing medical marijuana in 2014. The measure allows five companies to operate up to four dispensaries each, for a total of 20 in the state. All five companies have either announced or opened their locations and no additional ones are planned for Long Island, according to the state Health Department website.

The drug can be sold in a liquid or pill form to patients diagnosed with certain diseases that include cancer, AIDS, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.

Kassandra Frederique, state director of the New York chapter of the Drug Policy Alliance, said local restrictions on dispensaries are a step in the wrong direction.

“This is about giving people tools and access to medicine,” Frederique said. “We need to increase access to people and not ban it.”

In adopting the ban on hookah lounges, Massapequa Park joins a growing list of Long Island municipalities that have banned or restricted those businesses from opening. Glen Cove, the villages of Great Neck, Great Neck Plaza and Great Neck Estates, as well as Port Jefferson ban or restrict hookah bars. Massapequa Park’s ban does not affect cigar stores and cigar lounges, Pravato said.


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