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Riverhead town board concerned about location of marijuana dispensary

Manhattan-based Columbia Care NY LLC plans to open

Manhattan-based Columbia Care NY LLC plans to open Suffolk's first marijuana dispensary in January, at 1107 Rte. 58 in Riverhead. Credit: AP

Riverhead officials, faced with the arrival of Suffolk County's first medical marijuana dispensary in January, are weighing a one-year moratorium on facilities that offer the drug.

Riverhead Town Councilman John Dunleavy said Thursday that the town board is planning a Sept. 16 public hearing on the proposed moratorium, which he said would give officials time to study potential traffic and tax impacts.

"I'm not against medical marijuana," Dunleavy said. "I think it's a great idea, but it should be in the proper place."

A moratorium would snarl plans by Manhattan-based Columbia Care NY LLC to open Suffolk's first marijuana dispensary in January, at 1107 Rte. 58 in Riverhead, a vacant building that previously housed a Blockbuster video store. It's one of two marijuana dispensaries state officials approved for Long Island in late July.

Dunleavy said he was concerned about the location's proximity to Riverhead High School, and the possibilities of added traffic and costs associated with police protection.

"We only found out about this two weeks ago," he said. "How many customers are they going to have from the west end" of Suffolk?

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said Thursday she was in favor of medical marijuana but shared Dunleavy's concerns. "We need some time to think about this and go through the state regulations and find out what liability or what responsibility Riverhead has by having this facility here."

Columbia Care NY officials said in a statement Thursday that the Riverhead site "will be staffed by highly trained, state-licensed pharmacists and will provide quality medical services in a comfortable, secure environment."

"We'd be honored to serve qualifying patients in Suffolk County and look forward to becoming a productive member of this community," company officials added.

Columbia Care NY was one of five companies licensed by state officials last month to manufacture and distribute marijuana under the Compassionate Care Act passed by the State Legislature in June 2014. Columbia Care NY is permitted to manufacture the drug upstate and open four dispensaries, including the one in Riverhead.

Bloomfield Industries Inc., based on Staten Island, was selected to run the only other dispensary planned for Long Island, in Nassau.

State health officials have approved the use of marijuana liquids or capsules to treat a variety of conditions, including AIDS, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy, but have not approved edible forms of the drug. Liquid marijuana may be vaporized or applied under the tongue. State law does not permit smoking marijuana.

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