Top Stories 2016: Medical marijuana facility opens on Main Street


Suffolk County’s only marijuana dispensary opened in Riverhead this year, more than 18 months after New York State legislators approved the use of medical marijuana.

Columbia Care, which operates the dispensary at 1333 East Main St. in Riverhead, had planned to complete construction by mid-December 2015, but encountered roadblocks at the local level when officials suggested enacting a moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries anywhere in town.

The dispensary, which opened Jan. 29, also faced pushback on its original proposed location: the former Blockbuster Video store on Route 58, which is situated between Bishop McGann-Mercy and Riverhead high schools. The idea of a moratorium was considered but dropped as Town Board members announced they were against the plan.

The medical marijuana facility is for patients with serious conditions like AIDS, cancer or Parkinson’s disease who are looking for treatment, Columbia Care CEO Nicholas Vita said, looking to dispel any myths about its purpose. No marijuana is sold for recreational use and only qualifying patients with a referral from a physician are allowed entry.

The facility doesn’t resemble a typical pharmacy and uses an electronic card-verification system, surveillance cameras and multiple locked doors to prevent non-patients from entering the building.

File photo: Columbia Care assistant general manager Christian Shilling demonstrating how a tincture bottle measures a dose of medicine. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)