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Medical marijuana bias can be overcome

In this photo on Friday, Nov. 21, 2014,

In this photo on Friday, Nov. 21, 2014, former U.S. Marine Sgt. Ryan Begin rolls a medical marijuana joint at his home in Belfast, Maine. Photo Credit: AP / Robert F. Bukaty

Given the controversy surrounding the legalization of medical marijuana in New York, perhaps it was inevitable that obstacles would arise on the road to its implementation. But we are happy to see that opposition to a dispensary slated for Riverhead, one of two facilities approved for Long Island, is easing.

Officials for Columbia Care NY LLC, the company that will run the Riverhead site, say they are track to meet the state-mandated Jan. 1 launch date. That's good news. Medical marijuana has the potential to help thousands of people suffering from painful and debilitating diseases such as cancer, AIDS, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and inflammatory bowel disease.

Opposition to medical marijuana is often rooted in misperception. It's not recreational marijuana. In New York, it will be available only in liquid, oil or pill form, and getting it requires a doctor's recommendation and state approval. Concerns voiced by the Riverhead Town Board over plans for a dispensary in a former Blockbuster video store on Route 58 near Riverhead High School were eased during a public hearing that featured emotional testimony from potential patients. Support from the Peconic Bay Medical Center, including an offer to help in finding a new location, also was invaluable in turning the tide.

Now Columbia Care is focusing on a building that also houses an oncology practice, a nice bit of symbiosis. And the town board sensibly is backing off a threatened one-year moratorium on the dispensary.

Columbia Care says it faces no opposition to its other three dispensaries in New York State. Another company's Nassau County facility, in a Lake Success office building, also is proceeding smoothly. For many New Yorkers struggling with serious health issues, that is a huge relief.