The Village of Mineola Board of Trustees voted unanimously in favor of amendments to local law in anticipation of the legalization of recreational marijuana.
Mayor Scott Strauss and the trustees ensured those who attended the public hearing Wednesday night that the decision was not a moral judgement on the potential legalization of marijuana, but a pre-emptive measure assuring that there is an appropriate place in the village for marijuana-related business.
“We’re not banning it,” Strauss said. “We’re just simply saying if you want to sell it in the Village of Mineola, by all means you’re welcome.”
In his State of the State address Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo called for the establishment of an adult-use cannabis program in the state, but did not include a timeframe for any legislation.
The code changes included zoning limitations for both medical and potential recreational marijuana dispensaries.
Banning the substance in a medical capacity would be foolish, Strauss said.
“If someone needs medical marijuana because of their condition, whether they’re an adult or a child, they should get it, they should have access to it,” Strauss said.
Potential dispensaries will only be allowed to open and operate in the village’s light manufacturing and industrial zone flanking the Long Island Rail Road main line.
The code change forbids operation of a dispensary within 500 feet of a school, park or religious building and 200 feet of a residence.
The Town of North Hempstead has already passed a trio of local laws to control sales at medical and potential recreational marijuana stores.
The first, barring medical dispensaries from operating as retail stores, passed in November. Town officials said that they were not against medical marijuana, understand the need for it and that this action will not ban it.
Town officials passed a second law Dec. 18, which caps the number of medical marijuana dispensaries allowed in the town to two and limits where they can operate. According to the legislation, dispensaries can only be located in industrial districts or hospital zones and must not be within 1,000 feet of schools, day care centers and places of worship or within 500 feet of a residential district.
The third law, banning the sale of recreational marijuana in the town, passed earlier this month.
As a result of the first two laws and protests by opponents, MedMen, a cannabis company operating a dispensary in Lake Success, dropped plans to relocate to a storefront on Northern Boulevard in Manhasset.
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran also recently announced the establishment of a marijuana task force co-chaired by county Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder and county Legislator Josh Lafazan (D-Syosset).
The town’s ban does not bar the sale of marijuana or operation of dispensaries in the village, according to village officials.
Deputy Mayor Paul Pereira took issue with the term “recreational” as it relates to marijuana use.
The term is a misnomer, according to Pereira, incorrectly paired with the drug, which he associated with alcohol, tobacco and opiates.
The hearing just happened to fall on the same day as the ratification of the 18th Amendment to United States Constitution, also known as the Volstead Act, which banned the manufacturing and distribution of alcohol nationwide.
Locust Valley resident Jay Eric reminded the board of the eventual outcome of that ban.
The conversation always boils to the fate and safety of children in areas where recreational marijuana has been legalized, according to Eric, and he said that data has shown there is no direct correlation between increased use by minors and recreational legalization.
Currently, all 10 states and the District of Columbia have a minimum age requirement of 21 years to purchase recreational marijuana.
Strauss assured Eric that the board did not think the “sky would fall” if marijuana were legalized, and also posed that the zoning amendments may help future marijuana businesses decide whether or not to open in Mineola, as the pre-emptive amendments will have given them a designated region to move into.
Village resident Joe Grilo thanked the board for preparing for the potential legalization, calling the amendments “fantastic.”
The Village of New Hyde Park, Mineola’s neighbor, will hold a public hearing Feb. 5 to vote on similar zoning regulations.