Columbia Care’s medical marijuana dispensary will open by the end of the month on East Main Street, following months of controversy over the location of Suffolk County’s only dispensary.
The dispensary was originally proposed for the former Blockbuster location on Route 58, but the site’s proximity to Riverhead High School drew protest from local residents and even led the town board to consider temporarily blocking a medical marijuana dispensary from opening in Riverhead altogether.
But the dispensary has signed a lease on a new location where it plans to open by the end of the month: 1333 East Main Street, an East Main Street medical office building near the western intersection of Route 58 and Route 25.
A prominent Riverhead oncologist also has a practice at the location.
“It seemed like a logical choice, since so many of the people who are prescribed medical marijuana are cancer patients,” said Andrew Mitchell, CEO of Peconic Bay Medical Center, who helped Columbia Care find the location.
The drug will be grown in a Rochester facility and manufactured there for medicinal sale. As per state law, it will only be sold in non-smokable forms, such as pills, liquids or vapors.
The dispensary is aiming for an opening date of January 17, according to Ike Israel from Richmond Realty, the property’s owner. “We should be ready within two weeks,” he said. “Maybe even sooner.”
That’s more than two weeks later than planned by the state health department, which had aimed to make medical marijuana available to patients in New York by January 1.
Riverhead’s dispensary is not the only one that has had trouble opening by the January 1 deadline. Out of the five companies that were awarded medical marijuana licenses last year, only two will have all their dispensaries open on time, according to a report by POLITICO New York.
Finding a suitable location has been an issue for other companies as well. Long Island’s only other medical marijuana dispensary, which is slated to open in North Hempstead in Nassau County, also met with pushback from the local community for being too close to a school. The opening of that dispensary has also been delayed until later this month, according to POLITICO.
But for local patients who qualify for medical marijuana treatment, a delay of any kind prevents access to a drug that could significantly improve their quality of life.
Medical marijuana will only be prescribed to patients with a select few conditions, like cancer, fibromyalgia, HIV/AIDS and Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS).
When the Riverhead Town Board was considering a one-year ban on a dispensary last September, dozens of protesters at a public hearing shared emotional, personal stories about their experiences with these medical conditions and their need for convenient access to a local dispensary.
The town board eventually decided not to impose the moratorium, but they asked Columbia Care to find an alternate location.
Columbia Care representatives have previously emphasized the aggressive security measures it will take to protect the dispensary, including 24-hour monitored cameras and lighting around the property.
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