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Top Stories 2015: Medical marijuana is coming to town


The year 2015 saw giant leaps locally in the world of medical marijuana. Dispensaries went from an idea to a firm concept to something that will soon be a reality in Riverhead.

In 2014, New York became the 23rd state in the country to approve the sale of medical marijuana. This year, applications from companies wanting to grow and sell the product here were reviewed and approved. By July, five manufacturers had been picked, each of which will operate four dispensaries throughout the state. A maximum of one dispensary is permitted per county.

The state OK’d Columbia Care, which currently operates in five states and Washington, D.C., to run Suffolk County’s dispensary. While the company originally suggested locating a facility on Route 58, the project’s future hit a couple of stumbling blocks at the local level: a reluctant Town Board (which had already refused to support a local farmer’s application to grow the crop) and an anti-drug group that opposed the location, which was near two local high schools. Both hoped to study the issue more before picking an exact location.

The result was a proposed moratorium that a majority of Town Board members initially backed, but eventually strayed from after scores showed up at a public meeting opposing that idea. With election season around the corner, the moratorium was scrapped and the location changed to an existing medical facility on East Main Street.

Though residents living near the new location opposed it, citing a history of drug use in the neighborhood, the dispensary appears set to open soon. In fact, the company is currently hiring.

How much this all affects the community remains to be seen.