Residents mixed on permitting retail cannabis sales in Great Neck Plaza

Residents had mixed opinions about potentially permitting retail cannabis sales in the Village of Great Neck Plaza during a virtual forum last week. (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)

While a handful of Great Neck Plaza residents on a public forum last week expressed their opposition to recreational cannabis, some mentioned ripple effects that permitting retail sales of the drug in the village could bring to its business district.

More than 20 Plaza residents, and those who live throughout the Great Neck peninsula, had a chance to share their views on whether the village should allow the sale of cannabis in the village during a virtual event held by the village on Thursday. 

Jean Celender, the former mayor of the village, said she served on a subcommittee convened by the Nassau County Village Officials Association as a voting member for eight years. Part of her involvement, she said, included filing a report to County Executive Laura Curran in March 2019 advocating for the county to opt out of the initiative.

“The state should not be facilitating the availability and ability to consume a product that has demonstrably been shown to have a negative health and societal costs impacts,” Celender said. “Even if the county is silent on the issue of dispensaries and consumption issues, we should still opt out.”

Under a new state law, consumption and smoking of cannabis is legal throughout the state wherever smoking tobacco is legal, though the Nassau County Legislature recently banned cannabis smoking and vaping on all county-owned property.

Municipalities can opt out of allowing retail sale of cannabis by Dec. 31, but they will not get to share in any generated local tax revenue.

Dennis Grossman, a member of the Village of Great Neck’s Board of Zoning Appeals, also spoke on his prior experience on a marijuana task force for Nassau County but acknowledged that the county and state are in a different situation just a few years later.

Marnie Ives, a longtime resident of the village and the owner of Krön Chocolatier on Middle Neck Road, said she does not permit marijuana in her home but from a merchant perspective appreciates a store that can attract people to the Plaza’s business district with “money in their pocket.”

“If you have a category of businesses that can come in under strict regulation, as New York does with liquor stores … it’s not like every other store will be a dispensary and people will be walking around smoking all over the place.”

Village of Great Neck resident Kate Goldberg, like Ives, noted some of the potential economic benefits permitting retail sales could bring to the village’s and peninsula’s business districts.

“I think nobody’s very happy about it coming here, but we understand the economic necessities,” Goldberg said. “Maybe the village from the beginning could limit the number of potential businesses like this. I think that would increase the acceptance for this idea.”

Grossman said, based on his previous experience and studying data, the amount of revenue the Plaza would receive would be negligible. He also said permitting retail sale could negatively impact nearby real estate.

“The studying of the board that I sat on didn’t show a lot of revenue for anybody,” Grossman said. “I also think that you’re going to have difficulty renting on the properties around it.”

Great Neck resident and Blank Slate Media columnist Karen Rubin said if the village were to allow cannabis sales, the number of stores would multiply quickly. The smell of someone smoking marijuana, she said, is something she has also noticed in areas throughout the peninsula and would only be exacerbated if the village permitted retail sales.

“While I support decriminalizing marijuana for medical purposes, I have never been supportive of unlimited recreation,” Rubin said in the chatroom of the Zoom meeting. “In large gatherings you are forced away because the smell is so sickening. The abuse already in NYC is palpable – you can’t walk down any street without being nauseated by the smell.”

The meeting was the first of two public forums scheduled by the Plaza to get public input before making a decision. The other meeting will be held on Sept. 21 at 7 p.m.

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