North Hempstead seeks to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries in zoning code

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Town of North Hempstead Councilwoman Dina De Giorgio represents Port Washington. (Photo courtesy of YouTube)

The Town of North Hempstead has begun efforts to create zoning regulations for medical marijuana facilities, according to a town spokeswoman.

The legislation would likely define medical marijuana dispensaries and prohibit them within a certain distance of particular properties and institutions, such as schools, places of worship or homes, said Councilwoman Dina De Giorgio. She has provided research on similar codes in other jurisdictions across the country to the town attorney, who will draft the legislation, she said.

De Giorgio hopes that the board will hold a public hearing about the efforts in November, she said. The legislation is a bipartisan effort within the Town Board, said Carole Trottere, the town’s director of communications.

MedMen, a company registered to sell medical marijuana in New York, is in the process of moving its dispensary in North New Hyde Park to Northern Boulevard in Manhasset.

Vocal critics in Manhasset have said that it is too close to schools and homes, particularly if recreational marijuana is legalized in New York and the facility converts into a more general dispensary.

De Giorgio said she has been researching how other jurisdictions in the country have been addressing marijuana in their local codes for several weeks. In a memorandum to the Town Board, she wrote that codes typically prohibit dispensaries within a radius of 1,000 feet from “any residences, places of worship, schools, day care facilities and playgrounds.”

“In the last six to eight months there were a lot of smaller governments across the country that are doing it,” she said in an interview.

In addition to hearing about local concerns through a petition and protest, De Giorgio said that Munsey Park Mayor Frank DeMento and Plandome Manor Mayor Barbara Donno reached out to her with concerns.

She also met with a concerned resident, De Giorgio said. A public hearing will provide the community an opportunity to contribute a variety of perspectives on the issue, she said.

Though it is partly in response to MedMen’s building application, new legislation may or may not affect it since the code was not in place when the application was submitted, De Giorgio said.

The location at 1575 Northern Blvd. is about half a mile from Munsey Park Elementary School. There are neighborhood homes behind it.

“I’m very encouraged by the town’s positive signals that timely action is going to be taken on that legislation,” said Council of Greater Manhasset Civics Association President Richard Bentley, whose organization has been in contact with both MedMen and the town for weeks with concerns about the company’s planned move. “It appears to have unanimous if not full majority support, and we’re hoping that it gets approved as quickly as physically possible.”

De Giorgio said she is fine with marijuana used for medicinal purposes but is against the legalization of recreational marijuana. She sees MedMen, which is currently located in a North New Hyde Park office building, as seeking a prime retail location that would benefit it should recreational marijuana be legalized.

“They’re promoting the use of marijuana, so that’s the issue,” De Giorgio said. “I think that suburban communities don’t want these retailers in their neighborhoods and they certainly don’t want them near residencies, churches, schools.”

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