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Participants in Riverhead Town’s Marijuana Advisory Forum came to a consensus on the time restrictions for marijuana retail stores and lounges during its meeting Wednesday night.

Deputy Town Attorney Anne Marie Prudenti recommended the town’s retail stores and on-site consumption locations operate on a similar schedule to liquor and wine stores in Suffolk County. Because the county does not define the operations of those establishments on Saturday, Prudenti recommended the establishments will be the same on Saturday as Friday.

Under Prudenti’s recommendations, retail locations would operate from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday through Thursday, from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and on Sunday from 12 to 9 p.m.. On-site consumption stores would be allowed to operate two hours later than retail stores — from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. — Monday through Saturday and from 12 to 9 p.m. on Sunday.

Recommendations agreed on during the forums will go for a vote before the members of the marijuana committee, and then sent to the town board for their consideration, said Councilman Ken Rothwell, the town board member tasked with organizing the committee and forums. The town wants a draft of proposed marijuana restrictions ready by the middle of 2022 in preparation for the Cannabis Control Board’s restrictions and proposal for marijuana businesses. 

When prompted by a comment on whether the town could allow an on-site consumption establishment to remain open after the time allowed by the town’s regulation, Rothwell said he would be in favor of allowing an establishment to stay open for people to “wind down.” 

“It’s almost a similar concept that if you go to a bar and you have two drinks and people sit there after and they have some water for a while just engaging in conversation, simply to make certain that they’re safe to drive,” Rothwell said.

Municipalities are given the power to regulate the “time, place and manner” of marijuana businesses under the Marihuana Regulation and Taxation Act. Municipalities had the opportunity to opt-out of the law in their area, but the board rejected the opt-out law in a 3-2 vote July 7, with Aguiar and Rothwell in support of opting out.

The nearly two-hour meeting was full of conversation between interested residents, community stakeholders, potential business stakeholders and town employees about the restrictions. The forum was a follow up to one held in December, which mostly surrounded discussions of possible locations of marijuana businesses.

That conversation continued Wednesday, with maps drawn that showed certain places where the town is restricted to put businesses or advertising by law — including near schools and houses of worship — and where the town might consider implementing local regulations in proximity to other locations — such as family tourist centers like Splish Splash and the Long Island Aquarium.

Prudenti said that during the next forum meeting, which is yet to be scheduled, the committee will wrap up the conversations surrounding the maps and make determinations surrounding those locations that are not addressed in the law, but that may be in the interest of the town to regulate. 

Updated maps will be sent out via email, Prudenti said. To be added to the forum’s mailing list, contact the town board coordinator at tbc@townofriverheadny.gov.

The meeting also addressed whether the town would want to impose other restrictions, like security requirements, into the town code while awaiting further guidance from New York State’s Cannabis Control Board, the governing body created to make regulations and grant permits for cannabis use.

The Cannabis Control Board has done little in setting regulations for adult-use since it started meeting in October. David Falkowski, an East End marijuana cultivator and the chair of the Long Island Regional Committee for the New York Cannabis Growers and Processor Association, said he is hearing within the marijuana business community that the control board will start introducing regulations soon, including for security. 

Prudenti said discussions around possible security requirements were on the agenda because she found in her research that the legislation of municipalities in other states around the country lay out those requirements in their codes.

Rothwell said he would rather have the town draw regulations now, than wait for the state to regulate in case the Cannabis Control Board doesn’t act.

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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: alek@riverheadlocal.com