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The Riverhead Town advisory committee focused on the implementation of legal recreational marijuana products will hold its first meeting tomorrow.

The meeting will be focused on identifying locations where the town wants marijuana businesses prohibited, including near schools, churches, parks and town facilities, according to Councilman Ken Rothwell, who Supervisor Yvette Aguiar named to lead the advisory committee.

The Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act was signed into law earlier this year to legalize adult-use cannabis in New York State. The regulations currently outlined in the original text of the law prohibit licensing a marijuana retail store or on-site consumption location within 500 feet of school grounds and within 200 feet of a house of worship. 

Advertising and marketing for adult-use products cannot be displayed within 500 feet of school grounds, playgrounds, child day care providers, public parks, libraries, or on publicly owned or operated property.

Rothwell said he expects a lot of work to be done during the meeting, which starts at 6 p.m. at Riverhead Town Hall. an

Rothwell said the committee, dubbed the “Marijuana/Cannabis Retail and On-Site Consumption Cafes/Lounges Advisory Committee”  is made up of Police Chief David Hegermiller, Chamber of Commerce president and Councilman-elect Bob Kern, Riverhead CAP Community Prevention Specialist Kelly Miloski, Business Improvement District Management Association President Steven Shauger, Wading Riverhead Civic Association President Sid Bail, Aquebogue resident and retired police officer James Flood, Senior Building Inspector Andreas Sofoklis, Deputy Town Attorney Annemarie Prudenti and Riverhead resident Steven Kramer. Representatives of the Riverhead Central School District and the Calverton Civic Association have been invited, but not yet identified, Rothwell said.

The advisory group members will help identify locations in their communities where they believe marijuana stores and consumption sites should not be located, Rothwell said.

In terms of participation from the broader community, Rothwell said that he will welcome attendees on Tuesday, but there might not be a lot of time to address their concerns. More meetings will be scheduled going forward where members of the public will have an opportunity to give their input, he said.

“I would certainly be willing to listen to questions and concerns and allow people to come be vocal,” Rothwell said. “I didn’t post something [to the town website] because I’m afraid of being initially overwhelmed. I think we’ve still got a lot of homework to do.”

He said a draft of the map coming out of the meeting will be posted on the town’s website for public comment. He said the meeting will also determine how frequently the committee will meet going forwards.

A local law to opt out of retail sales and onsite consumption in Riverhead failed to pass the town board in a 2-3 vote in July, with Rothwell and Supervisor Yvette Aguiar dissenting. During a public hearing in June, residents’ opinions were split on whether to opt out. The town previously conducted an anonymous online survey, which showed 73% of the 1,408 respondents supported retail sales and 61% supported cafes or lounges for on-premises use.

Correction: This article originally identified Steven Kramer as a representative of the Greater Jamesport Civic Association, as per information provided by Councilman Ken Rothwell. Kramer is on the committee but not a representative of the Jamesport civic group. The president of that organization said he welcomes the opportunity to have a representative on the advisory committee and will discuss it with his members at the civic’s next monthly meeting.

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Alek Lewis is a lifelong Riverhead resident and a 2021 graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism. Previously, he served as news editor of Stony Brook’s student newspaper, The Statesman, and was a member of the campus’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Email: [email protected]