By John Nugent
Local residents and political leaders gathered at Mary Jane Davies Green in Manhasset on Sunday to protest the planned opening of a medical marijuana dispensary on the Miracle Mile at 1575 Northern Blvd.
MedMen, a cannabis company, is seeking to relocate its current store from North New Hyde Park to the Manhasset site among high-end stores with heavier retail traffic.
Protesters at the rally called for rejection of MedMen’s application on the grounds that the location is too close to several schools and nearby houses. Organizers claim that large numbers of students and teenagers in the area will be targeted and said they think that the layout of the MedMen stores, very similar to the Apple store model, is deceptive and designed to lure young people as customers.
Speakers at the gathering included state Sen. Elaine Phillips; Assemblyman Anthony D’Urso; the president of the Greater Manhasset Civic Associations, Richard Bentley; the commander of American Legion Post 304, Matt Falcon; state Assembly candidate Byron Divins; CASA Executive Director Jennifer DeSena; Manhasset crew coach Steve Panzik; Northwell Health psychiatrist Dr. Jianping Zhang, and Manhasset resident Tara Kirkwood.
Phillips issued a statement calling for the state Department of Health to convene a public hearing on the issue.
“Upon learning about the proposed relocation to a residential area in Manhasset, I immediately contacted the state Health Commissioner to demand a public hearing,” she said. “Neighbors and residents have raised legitimate concerns and they need answers. I will continue to follow this matter closely and urge an open dialogue with local officials and residents.”
Zhang, in addressing the protesters, spoke of very serious health risks associated with smoking marijuana.
Interviewed later, he said “marijuana is bad for children and can have very negative effects on brain function up to the age of 25.”
Several other speakers said they were not against the use of medicinal or recreational marijuana. Their concerns are focused on the issues of the location near the schools, potential increased traffic and safety.
An online petition against the proposed dispensary has elicited 1,500 signatures. The goal is a total of 3,000.
It requests amendments to the town code requiring that marijuana dispensaries be “at least 1,000 feet from any residential property” and a mile from schools, houses of worship or public parks.