Williston Park bans sale of recreational marijuana

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From left, Williston Park Deputy Mayor Kevin Rynne, Mayor Paul Ehrbar and Trustee Matthew Uttaro. (Photo by Jed Hendrixson)

The Williston Park board voted unanimously to approve a ban on the sale of recreational marijuana should it be legalized in the state later this year.

Dozens of Williston Park residents voiced support for the board’s decision at a public hearing Monday night.

Village Mayor Paul Ehrbar said the legalization of recreational marijuana appeared “inevitable” and the ban was a pre-emptive measure.

The village’s new local law bans the sale and distribution of recreational marijuana and marijuana-related products for consumption. The law does not restrict medical marijuana facilities.

Among many reasons residents cited in support of the ban were an impact on the quality of life, an expected rise in the cost of policing that would fall to residents and an overall sentiment that the sale of the marijuana in a recreational setting does not align with the village’s values.

Resident Pamela Carter said that because the village is so small, without any pre-emptive regulations in place like the ban, Williston Park could be subject to several storefronts opening uncontested.

Ehrbar explained that the ban was the best measure the board could present, citing the actions taken by other villages.

In Mineola, New Hyde Park and Floral Park, the village boards approved local laws restricting potential marijuana dispensaries to adult-use and industrial zones, away from residential areas.

Though not an official ban, Floral Park Mayor Dominick Longobardi previously said the zoning efforts effectively dissuade dispensaries from opening in the villages by restricting where they can operate.

Williston Park does not have industrial or adult-use zones similar to those larger villages, Ehrbar said, limiting what effective zoning actions can be taken. The ban is the only way the village can “reclaim home rule,” he added.

Only counties will have the option to opt-out of the potential legal sale of recreational marijuana, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Resident and Williston Park Civic Association member Umberto Magnardi expressed a lack of faith in the county opting out.

“Unfortunately, County Executive Curran has appointed a 24-year-old legislator to head the task force,” Magnardi said, referring to District 18 Legislator Joshua Lafazan, the co-chair of the counties task force. He added that in addition to having to wait for the task force’s findings, he believes Cuomo is holding his cards to see how municipalities are reacting to potential legalization before putting a bill before the state Senate.

Ehrbar said even though the village may be a little early with the ban and any state proposal could possibly override it, it is an important step to take now before legalization.

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