North Hempstead will join several other municipalities on Long Island that have banned retail marijuana sales and commercial consumption sites.
The board voted 6-0 Thursday night to opt out of the state marijuana legalization law. Councilmember Mariann Dalimonte, ill from COVID-19, was absent. The board also passed a resolution to prohibit smoking or vaping of tobacco and cannabis on town property, including the dock, beaches and parks.
Towns that opt out can opt in later, but opting in is permanent. Banning retail sales doesn't prohibit residents from consuming or growing pot at home.
Before casting her vote, Councilmember Veronica Lurvey said she needed more guidance from the state to consider supporting retail marijuana in North Hempstead.
"For me most relevant at this time is the fact that we’re still waiting for state level rules and regulations, therefore I will be voting to opt out," Lurvey said. "However, I call upon the town board to reconsider this issue when the state-level rules and regulations have been released."
The majority of public speakers at the meeting supported the opt-out decision. Bill Cutrone, Lakeville Estates Civic Association president, sent a letter to the board asking them to reject retail marijuana sales.
After the board's no vote, Cutrone said he and other opponents were pleased they chose "to go that path. When the state comes up with the guidelines, which was really the concern of most everyone I spoke with, then they can reintroduce this issue and hopefully it will satisfy the needs of this community."
Great Neck resident Nina Gordon, who supported the town allowing retail marijuana sales, said she was disappointed in the board’s decision.
"The loudest voice was the voice of fear and ignorance tonight. It’s really sad," Gordon said. "The only positive I can say is that they do have the option to opt in at a future date. This is not a permanent decision."
In March, former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed the marijuana legalization bill into law. Municipalities have until Dec. 31 to pass legislation stating their intention to either allow the commercial sale of marijuana sales or ban it.
Supervisor Judi Bosworth formed a cannabis Task Force to assist the town board in making a decision regarding the opt-out provision of the New York State Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act. The task force, which was led by Town Clerk Wayne Wink, released a 418 page report. The 14-member task force failed to find a consensus, according to the report, but provided recommendations.
If North Hempstead eventually opts in, the recommendations say, the town should limit retail dispensaries and on-site "consumption facilities" to areas zoned for industrial use, and prohibit facilities within 1,000 feet of schools and 500 feet of parks.
Legal marijuana is expected to generate approximately $350 million statewide in annual sales tax revenue, the governor’s office has estimated.
The towns of East Hampton, Hempstead, Huntington, Islip, Oyster Bay, Shelter Island and Smithtown have already opted out of the legislation. Brookhaven and Babylon towns have both opted in, either by failing to schedule a public hearing or deciding not to take a vote on the matter. Long Beach is scheduled to vote Dec. 21.