Riverhead Town Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said the setbacks for recreational marijuana...

Riverhead Town Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said the setbacks for recreational marijuana outlets in the state office’s guidelines for schools — only 500 feet — and houses of worship — about 200 feet — were “very minimal” compared to the town’s setbacks. Credit: Randee Daddona

The Riverhead Town Board voted 4-1 Tuesday to adopt regulations on recreational marijuana sales and consumption, but the measure passed without Supervisor Yvette Aguiar’s stamp of approval.

Aguiar cast the dissenting vote, telling Newsday after the meeting that she did so because the town’s guidelines conflict with regulations released Friday by the New York State Office of Cannabis Management.

“There is a lot of uncertainty at the moment,” Aguiar said. “I will request another meeting with the state, who has been open to our discussions in the past,” Aguiar said.

Deputy Town Attorney Anne Marie Prudenti advised the board Tuesday to approve the regulations so the town can contest any future issues that arise related to cannabis retail.

“I think this original version [of the regulations] can be amended in the future...but I really think the town board should get something on the books,” Prudenti said. “If legally we have to battle [for] our municipal home rule rights and our zoning rights, we’ll do that, and perhaps we’ll join with the other municipalities because there is no way we jointly...misinterpreted the clear language in the state statute regarding our ability for time, place, manner and saturation.” 

Under the town’s new regulations, cannabis retail dispensaries and on-site consumption sites can operate only in certain sections of town, including Riverhead’s Business Center, shopping centers, destination retail centers, rural corridors, the village center, downtown centers, the Peconic River Community and other business districts.

Additionally, retail or on-site consumption establishments cannot be within 1,000 feet of the property lines of any school, library or day care facility. Such sites also cannot be within 500 feet of any town beach, playground or community center, house of worship or childrens’ amusement center.

Aguiar said the setbacks for such outlets in the state office’s guidelines for schools — only 500 feet — and houses of worship — about 200 feet — were “very minimal” compared to the town’s setbacks. She also disagreed with state guidelines allowing cannabis sales up to midnight. Riverhead’s regulations state the latest that retail establishments can sell cannabis products is 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday for sales at on-site consumption sites.

Riverhead is one of four towns, all in Suffolk County, that opted into marijuana sales. Babylon Town approved marijuana zoning regulations at its last meeting on Oct. 12. In August 2021, Brookhaven amended its zoning code to restrict pot retail sales to properties in industrial zones. Southampton Town has not yet approved its regulations. 

During public comments, Paul Carr, a former law enforcement official who worked in the Narcotics Division of the New York City Police Department, said he still opposes allowing cannabis sales in town.

“We need to protect children and residents from this harmful drug,” Carr, a Riverhead resident, told the board. “I don’t want our town to be known as marijuana capital of the world.”

Mike Foley, of Reeves Park, said while he didn’t want to see such storefronts all over town, cannabis is not harmful and allowing its sale in Riverhead would generate new revenue for the town.

“Look at money that is going to come into this town that, if we can target it for security and to making extracurricular school functions for our children…I think you will see the benefit of it,” Foley said.

CORRECTION: A headline on an earlier version of this story misstated that the Riverhead Town Board approved cannabis sales.

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