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Public hearing on proposed marijuana regulations in Riverhead Town draws mostly praise

Riverhead’s proposed zoning for cannabis sales or on-site consumption drew mostly praise from speakers at a public hearing before the Town Board Tuesday, with some suggesting that Riverhead is ahead of other towns in terms of setting regulations.  

Riverhead, Southampton, Babylon and Brookhaven were the only towns in Suffolk County to opt in on marijuana after the state legislation took effect. Those towns also qualify for part of a 3% sales tax on cannabis.

When the state legalized cannabis last year, it allowed towns that opted in to implement “time, place, manner and saturation” restrictions, as well.

Some speakers said stringent cannabis regulations in Brookhaven Town, which limit cannabis to industrial zones, will drive people to Riverhead.

“Whether you think you’re going to be the cannabis destination or not, I got news for you,” said Brian Pluna of Rocky Point. “You’re it. We’re coming.”

He said this will change the reasons why people travel east.

“I’d like to thank you guys for being forward thinking enough to let this happen,” said Jack Sheehan of East Moriches. “There are not a lot of towns where it did pass it.”

Mr. Sheehan said other towns are watching what Riverhead does.

“I appreciate you not banishing this to the industrial districts,” he said.

Mike Foley of Reeves Park, who said he’s been smoking pot since he was 17, urged the town to use 45% of the sales tax revenue to fund security cameras in town parking lots, 45% for drug education and 10% for drug rehabilitation.

Anthony DeVincenzo, a member of the Cannabis Association of New York, said Riverhead is “a leading light” in cannabis regulations. 

A committee established by the Town Board met three times to establish locations where cannabis can and cannot be used. 

That committee was headed by Councilman Ken Rothwell, who, along with Supervisor Yvette Aguiar, were the only members of the five-member Town Board to vote against allowing cannabis use. 

The proposed areas where cannabis will be permitted include the following zones: business center, shopping center, destination retail center, rural corridor, downtown center 1, 2 and 3, hamlet center, village center, Peconic River community and business F.

That includes all of downtown RIverhead and most of Route 58.

However, no cannabis retail or on-site consumption is permitted within 1,000 feet of any school, library, or day care center, according to the proposal.

In addition, no retail or on-site consumption is permitted within 500 feet of any town beach, playground, community center or children’s amusement.

The proposal also bans retail or on-site consumption within 1,000 feet of an existing residential use. 

Ike Israel, a real estate broker, said in the area from Mill Road to the Long Island Expressway, nearly every parcel has residential uses within 1,000 feet.

Correction: Anthony DeVincenzo is a member of the Cannabis Association of New York, not a lobbyist. He is the secretary of the Long Island Regional Committee.