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The Riverhead Town Board Tuesday amended the town code to ban marijuana use at or near town parks and buildings, and to extend all smoking bans to include town-approved special events. The code amendment is the first legislative action taken by the board to regulate cannabis since it voted 3-2 against prohibiting adult-use sales in Riverhead last year.

The amendment to Town Code Chapter 271, entitled “Smoking,” adds cannabis to the list of products, like tobacco, that are prohibited to be smoked, vaped or consumed at and within 500-feet of town-owned parks, playgrounds, beaches, recreational areas and buildings on those premises, and at or within 50-feet of town-owned buildings not located at those areas, unless where a “smoking permitted” sign is displayed. 

Use of tobacco and cannabis products are also prohibited at town-sponsored and co-sponsored events, and at special events authorized by the town, including along or within 50-feet of highways, roadways, sidewalks and right of ways made part of a parade route, within 50-feet of a place of assembly, and within 50-feet of an area designated for a special event, except in areas where a town approved “smoking permitted” sign is displayed.

The amended code also raises the fines for a violation of the law from $50-150 to $100-$250.

The board received several letters in support of the law. Paulette Orlando, a community engagement specialist with the Tobacco Action Coalition of Long Island, urged the board to adopt the law during a public hearing on May 18.

The code is being implemented ahead of the start of adult-use cannabis sales in New York state, which are expected to launch later in the year after permits from the state Office of Cannabis management are granted. The office has been granting licenses to cultivators to grow recreational marijuana, including two to growers in Riverhead.

Councilman Ken Rothwell, who hosted the town’s three marijuana forums to hear the community’s input on local adult-use marijuana regulations, said during the previous meeting that the Town Board will be presented with code implementing the recommendations of the marijuana advisory committee at a future work session.

The marijuana advisory committee recommended to the town board that marijuana businesses be integrated into current zoning districts and kept away from certain land uses, including schools, libraries, places of worship, parks and beaches, with 500-foot to 1,000-foot setbacks. 

[See prior coverage: Marijuana advisory group finalizes recommendations for locations of marijuana businesses in Riverhead]

The last marijuana forum was more than two months ago, when residents and the committee met on March 29 to finalize the recommendations. Rothwell said after the meeting that another forum may be held if the town board believes the proposed regulations need more discussion.

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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: