At a meeting of the Council of Greater Manhasset Civic Associations, MedMen representatives discussed the benefits of medical marijuana and how tightly they run their business last Wednesday. But the civic leaders remained steadfast in their opposition to the company moving into Manhasset.
MedMen political affairs manager Landon Dais said that the medical marijuana company’s intended move from an office complex in Lake Success to a retail section of Manhasset is to destigmatize the drug and make it more accessible to its Manhasset clientele.
In discussion after the MedMen representatives left, civic association members seemed convinced that the company is using the move to position itself should the drug be legalized for recreational use in New York.
“They’re not going to invest in this pretty fancy store if it has no potential to be converted,” said civic association secretary Sue Auriemma.
When recreational marijuana was legalized in California, MedMen’s Beverly Hills’ store clientele grew from about 75 customers per day to 250, Dais said.
The Town of North Hempstead should ban the sale of recreational marijuana to exempt it from potential state policy, said Jen DeSena of the North Strathmore Civic Association.
Towns in New Jersey have done so in anticipation of their state legalizing the drug, according to NJ.com.
Dais emphasized both the medicinal benefits of marijuana and the societal benefits of legalized recreational marijuana during his presentation.
He also said that MedMen wants to be a good neighbor, sticks tightly to state regulations and provides extra security measures to ensure customer comfort.
MedMen stores have at least two security guards at each store during operating hours, Dais said. Before patients can consult for a purchase, they present their ID and practitioner-approved medical marijuana card and an employee looks them up to verify that they have not exceeded their dosage.
Dais said that the company’s upscale branding fits in with the other retail stores in Manhasset.
The branding is intended to destigmatize medical marijuana, Dais said, considering that the drug has historically been criminalized and is still illegal for medical use in many states.
But later, civic group members said they wondered whether the branding was intended to destigmatize the drug or to glamorize it.
At the end of the meeting, Richard Bentley, president of the Council of Greater Manhasset Civic Associations, presented photographs he was sent of MedMen’s Fifth Avenue store that showed clothing for sale visible through the window that had large images of cannabis leaves.
He and other council members expressed concern that such merchandise indicated a type of branding uncharacteristic of a company offering medicinal products.
Many of the clients of the Lake Success store are middle-aged or elderly, the store’s lead pharmacist, Gagan Puar, said.
Dais suggested that a dispensary is similar to an eyeglass store, which provides health services but is placed among retail stores. Such a mindset can help destigmatize the drug, Dias said, which is one reason to locate it in a retail area.
The Northern Boulevard building has a parking variance that allows retail facilities to operate with its 16 parking spaces, but the town has classified MedMen’s planned store as a medical facility, said lawyer Kathleen Deegan Dickson, who is assisting MedMen with its land use and zoning applications for the new location.
A medical facility would require 11 more parking spaces, Deegan Dickson said. MedMen plans to apply for a parking variance for its medical office and to appeal to the town to be considered a retail site. It has a letter from the state Department of Health supporting that it is retail, she said.
The North New Hyde Park location that it is moving from was classified as medical, she said.
The company wants to be involved with governors’ task forces pursuing legislation to legalize recreational use, said Rob Esparza, MedMen’s director of global security, who serves as a public safety liaison and is based in Los Angeles.
He detailed how the company demonstrated its security practices to New York police officials when it opened its Manhattan location.
“I’m concerned because here you are making an application here in Manhasset and I spoke with the commanding officer of the 3rd Precinct today and he had absolutely no awareness of who MedMen was or what they do,” Bentley said.
Esparza said that he has a contact with the Police Department whom he plans to reach out to.
“I assure you we will have a working relationship with the Nassau County Police Department here and they will understand what we’re all about because we’re going to make the time to go out and see them, introduce ourselves here, let them see our security plans,” he said.
Dais said his mother, who has breast cancer, is an example of someone who has found relief from medical marijuana.
He also emphasized the social benefits of regulating rather than criminalizing marijuana.
Criminalization has not stopped marijuana use, he said, but has instead created unstandardized black market production. When he smoked in college, he never thought about who was growing it or what their process was, Dais said.
“What pesticides did they use on that marijuana?” he said. “I know in our facility in Utica, New York, we’re not allowed to use any pesticides … it’s a process, it’s clean, we know exactly what it is.”
On Thursday, MedMen announced that it has signed an agreement to acquire PharmaCann LLC, according to Business Wire.
The acquisition, valued at $682 million, will make MedMen the largest marijuana company in the country, said CEO Adam Bierman.
PharmaCann has four dispensaries in New York, and the closest to Long Island is in the Bronx.