The East End would be hard-pressed to find a more respected farmer and concerned community member than Jack Van de Wetering to be the face of a possible medical marijuana operation.
His contributions to Riverhead Town alone, where he operates Ivy Acres nurseries, are too numerous to list here. Among them, the longtime board of directors member at Peconic Bay Medical Center has donated plants and flowers to dozens of nonprofits, including the generous donations that helped get the hospital’s immensely popular Garden Festival fundraiser off the ground two decades ago. Years back, he even bankrolled a “town gardener” to help keep downtown Riverhead looking nice.
A former News-Review Person of the Year and Businessperson of the Year who employs 700 people in three states, Mr. Van de Wetering also has the experience and credentials needed to deliver on his promise of sustaining a successful operation and bringing good-paying jobs to Riverhead Town — should his business be one of five growers selected by the state.
The point is, this isn’t some outside company looking to set up shop on the North Fork and tap into its resources only to leave and sell its farmland for a residential subdivision when the business landscape changes. Aside from sales tax revenues to Suffolk County, when Mr. Van de Wetering and his son Kurt say their philanthropic give-back to the region would amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars, they mean it. They’ve proven that time and again.
On the other hand, Riverhead Town Board members shouldn’t be faulted for not throwing their support behind the Van de Weterings’ application with a letter to Albany. Keep in mind they only learned about the application last Thursday and three board members, reluctant to support the project so quickly, said they needed to do more research.
At the paper, we’ve done our research. We’ve reviewed the Van de Weterings’ application, are familiar with the state law and have full confidence that the positives of this operation would far outweigh any negatives. If the Ivy Acres site isn’t chosen, these sales tax revenues and solid careers in horticulture will go elsewhere in New York State — or on Long Island.
Elected leaders in Suffolk County should take time to examine the application, of course, but should support the project based on its merits — not on fears for the future.
Unfounded fears about its dangers are the reason it took the state so long to adopt a medical marijuana law in the first place.