MedMen, a medical marijuana company which was seeking to relocate a dispensary to Manhasset, is reviewing its options, a representative for the company said at a contentious and crowded North Hempstead Town Board meeting last Thursday night.
“Thank you to everybody,” Landon Dais, a former political affairs manager representing the company, told board members and meeting attendees. “And I will say, based on community feedback, we are revisiting plans and reviewing our options.”
In an interview, Dais and Daniel Yi, MedMen’s senior vice president of corporate communications and investor relations, said that they are happy that the community is having a dialogue about marijuana but that there is a lack of education about it.
“It’s the responsible thing to do to weigh out the options because we want to be good neighbors,” Yi said. “At the end of the day we want to be respectful of the residents’ issues. Having said that, what’s apparent to us is there is a lot of education that still needs to happen within the Manhasset community.”
Residents flooded the boardroom and hall immediately outside it as the town prepared to set a public hearing date of Nov. 20 for two laws seeking to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries.
The two proposed amendments to the zoning code would restrict a medical marijuana dispensary from operating in a retail environment, town officials said, while restricting dispensaries from opening in close proximity to schools, houses of worship and residential areas.
“We’re really going to see everything we can do,” Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth told a room full of residents. And if officials “face a lawsuit,” Bosworth continued, “bring it on.”
The proposals came in response to MedMen’s seeking to relocate a medical marijuana dispensary from North New Hyde Park to what is now a Sleep Number mattress store at 1575 Northern Blvd. in Manhasset. MedMen currently has four facilities in New York, including one on Fifth Avenue in New York City.
This facility in Manhasset would be in addition to a medical marijuana dispensary in Carle Place, bringing the total to two in Nassau County – both of which are in the Town of North Hempstead.
“To prevent our town from becoming Nassau County’s dispensary destination, the board, in a bipartisan agreement, proposes amendments to the town zoning code that addresses residents’ concerns,” Town Councilwoman Anna Kaplan, who represents parts of Great Neck and Manhasset, said at the meeting.
While both town officials and residents said they support medical marijuana, they said the main concerns are the dispensaries’ locations, how MedMen and its competitors might market them and what will happen if recreational marijuana is legalized.
David Chiang, the president of the Chinese American Association of North Hempstead, who said he had a petition from more than 3,200 people against having a retail-style medical marijuana facility, was among the many who spoke.
Chiang referred to the MedMen store on Fifth Avenue, where the company has sold T-shirts, hats and paraphernalia, and said the company wants to use medical marijuana as a foot in the door to eventually sell recreational marijuana to children.
“I don’t want [my children] to grow up in an environment where they think that’s cool, they want to go in and check it out,” Chiang said. “I think that they [MedMen] basically want this location for the publicity and they’re just waiting for the opportunity once January comes or whenever it’s legalized.”
Dais said the conversation seemed to be putting “a scarlet letter” on people seeking help and marijuana has been tied to zero overdoses.
This is while pharmacies and other facilities sell opioids, which he said an average of four people in New York overdose from per day, Dais said.
“The outcry is on one end and not the other,” Dais said. “That seems kind of off balance because I do realize in today’s world, in today’s political climate we no longer go by science or facts, we go by fear – we don’t go by understanding.”
Board members and residents took issue with the argument’s framing, including Councilman Angelo Ferrara.
“I guess what you’re saying then is that we should put your business out of business and let CVS sell it,” Ferrara said to applause. “The concern is not the medical marijuana and saying that it’s a hardship to put it where we’ve located it, that’s where our hospitals are, so it’s equally a hardship for our medical patients to get there.”
Bosworth said the state Department of Health chose the Marcus Avenue site, which nobody expressed concerns about, and said the question is why MedMen is moving into a retail area after having just moved into its Lake Success location.
“It wasn’t chosen for second-class citizens, it was chosen because it was the right place for a medical marijuana facility,” Bosworth said.
Dais said the majority of its North Shore patients come from Great Neck and Manhasset, which drew groans and a “We don’t need it” from the crowd, and part of the reason for the move is to be “more convenient and treat it as any pharmacy.”
Dais also said more people in New York are consuming marijuana in general than in any other state, and MedMen is looking at the issue from a “public health standpoint,” saying the company can keep it from being contaminated.
“So from a public health standpoint, we can look at an opportunity to make it safer,” Dais said.
Bosworth reiterated, “We are here to discuss the relocation of the facility from Lake Success” and how it’s “just not understandable” why it would move.
Some Town Board members also signaled support for potentially banning the sale of recreational marijuana throughout the town, even if New York legalizes it, including Dina De Giorgio, who represents Port Washington.
“I think that the reality is MedMen and its competitors don’t really care about medicinal marijuana,” De Giorgio said. “The medicinal marijuana is a smokescreen to eventually be able to sell marijuana for recreational use because the state has strongly signaled, especially in the last week, that legalization is on the horizon.”
Richard Bentley, the president of the Council of Greater Manhasset Civic Associations, said the Town Board has gone beyond what they hoped for and described Thursday’s developments as a victory for residents.
“The town has done a great job at making sure the Miracle Mile doesn’t turn into the boulevard of broken dreams,” Bentley said on Friday.
Teri West contributed reporting.