Guest Column: What’s so wrong with a marijuana moratorium?


I am writing this letter in response to the editorial entitled “Medical marijuana moratorium is misguided,” which ran Aug. 27.

I am proud that the Riverhead Town Board has decided to do research before welcoming a marijuana dispensary to our town. In the past few years, I have noticed they have reached out to study successful waterfront communities such as Sayville, Port Jefferson, Greenport and presently Patchogue. Hopefully, we learn from their mistakes and can improve our community with the knowledge of what succeeds and implement those ideas.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, between 2005 and 2011, teens stating that they have used marijuana in the last 30 days increased by 33 percent in medical marijuana states, but by only 6 percent in the rest of the country. A recent report from the Colorado Department of Education showed that the percentage of expulsions for drug violations exploded from 25.6 percent to 41.9 percent between 2008 and 2014. In Kent, Wash., there have been several cases of students being caught in school with medical marijuana that was prescribed for their parents. While the New York law covers a lot, more details about how documentation for those receiving and picking up the drug need to be explored before this opens in Riverhead.

So why Riverhead? Columbia Care told Sean Walter we can expect about 10 people a day at this facility. Really? What business would open knowing that it will have 10 customers daily? One can guess they are coming to Riverhead because they believe there will be no opposition. Is it because we have a lot of land and they intend to start growing here as well? Project 10 years into the future, if and when marijuana becomes fully legal. Riverhead will be the land of pies, pumpkins and pot. This dispensary will be in close proximity to two high schools in a highly visible shopping area. Our students frequent that shopping center during their lunch breaks. Is that why they are pushing so hard to get it through so quickly? It will send a mixed message to kids and normalizes marijuana use.

We are finishing up a battle started in the fifties of the normalization of tobacco. People were encouraged to smoke, cigarettes were kept in a dish on the coffee table, like candy. Anyone who grew up during that time remembers when it was cool to smoke. Virginia Slims targeted the girls and Joe Camel began to hook them younger and younger. Today, we are a generation that has 443,000 Americans dying each year from tobacco-related illnesses — all because it was accepted and normalized. Now, to see someone on TV, such as Lucille Ball, inhaling deeply, we recoil with the knowledge of all the facts. We need more facts and control over marijuana before this becomes a reality in our town.

I could agree with having our pharmacies selling the product. However, they are selling medications that have gone through clinical trials and are FDA-approved. Medical marijuana does not meet this criteria. On the federal level, medical marijuana is still against the law, therefore the banking industry is reluctant to get involved, thereby making payment processing difficult. No one is disputing the New York State legislation or that people who suffer from serious illnesses report symptom relief from its use. However, it is not a cure. Crying out to garner support from those with the diseases and their families without learning the facts is a disservice to our town. That said, the location is troubling because Riverhead Town is being asked to bear the responsibility for housing the only dispensary in Suffolk County without receiving any additional resources.

The law specifically says that no additional resources will be allocated to towns. All sales tax revenue will go only to Suffolk County and New York State — not Riverhead. Anyone who thinks there will be any financial gain to us is mistaken. It will only drain our limited resources in terms of policing, traffic and emergency medical services. Consider lengthier waits for ambulances and emergency room services if all of these seriously ill people come to Riverhead and have medical emergencies. Wouldn’t it be better and more humane in the Stony Brook/Port Jefferson area with three hospitals nearby? Why would they not want it there? Certainly those locations are closer to more other services patients might need and it is much more centrally located than Riverhead!

As our local newspaper, it is your responsibility to send all the facts out and not make light of those who have done the research on why this would not be a positive step in Riverhead’s road to recovery as the gateway to the East End. I have been a resident for over 40 years and as a child, for me, Riverhead was the place to shop, to visit and to enjoy. For years, I’ve supported any programs that help the hurting, the homeless and the youth. This will not be one that helps anyone.

Louise Wilkinson is a longtime Riverhead resident. She has served as secretary with the Kiwanis Club and as the organization’s adviser to its high school affiliate, the Key Club. She has also served as the adviser to the Leo Club, the high school affiliate to the Lions Club. She also serves on the town’s Anti-Bias Task Force.