The Riverhead Community Awareness Program is not recommending that Riverhead Town opt-out of allowing retail marijuana sales and on-premises consumption.
A new state law legalizing adult-use marijuana gives local municipalities the ability to opt-out of allowing retail sales and on-premises consumption within their borders. If town officials decide to opt-out, they must pass a local law that’s subject to a referendum by petition. Because of the operation of various deadlines, the town would have to act on a local law very quickly.
Riverhead CAP representatives didn’t make a recommendation either way on the opt-out question when they met with the town board yesterday. Instead, CAP’s executive director and one of its community prevention specialists outlined steps the town should take to prevent and reduce youth access to marijuana.
The town should focus on consensus-building in the community, Riverhead CAP executive director Felicia Scocozza told town board members.
“We need to approach this from a place of opportunity, which is how can we build community consensus to ensure the safety of our youth, make Riverhead a family- and youth-friendly community, carve out youth- and family-friendly areas and continue to improve the aesthetics of downtown,” Scocozza said.
The state law allows municipalities to pass local laws and regulations “governing the time, place and manner of the operation of licensed adult-use cannabis retail dispensaries and/or on-site consumption site.” But local rules cannot make the operation of state-licensed retail dispensaries and on-site consumption sites “unreasonably impracticable,” according to the statute. The state cannabis control board will decide whether local rules have that effect.
The town should formulate its regulations through a community consensus-building process, Scocozza said. CAP can assist the town with consensus-building among community groups, she said. It’s a process CAP has used to “bring the community together on things we can agree on.”
Then the town can “enforce consistent policies that don’t interfere with people’s ability to enjoy adult use cannabis,” she said. “And we can still have youth and family gathering places that are family-friendly and alcohol- tobacco- and marijuana-free.”
Through community consensus-building, the town can determine the appropriate locations for the retail sale and on-premises consumption of marijuana, Scocozza said, and establish outlet density regulations town-wide by determining the number of retail and on-site locations and the minimum proximity to one another.
CAP community prevention specialist Kelly Miloski said the town should consider limiting advertising and storefront signage for alcohol, tobacco, vape and marijuana products.
“When there is substance-use advertising in the storefront, it’s normalizing that behavior. And it’s making it seem like it’s a normal behavior that youth can participate in,” Miloski said.
Signs and advertising that targets youth should be prohibited, Miloski said, stressing that this is needed for tobacco, vape and alcohol products, as well as for marijuana.
The new marijuana law addresses some of these things. No signs of any type can be posted inside or outside a marijuana dispensary or on-site consumption location without the approval of the state cannabis control board.
The law also requires the cannabis control board to promulgate regulations governing advertising and marketing, including explicit rules prohibiting advertising and marketing “designed in any way to appeal to children or other minors.” It also requires the regulations to ban advertising within or readily visible within 500 feet of the perimeter of school property, playgrounds, child care providers, public parks, or libraries. Marijuana advertising also cannot be displayed in public transit vehicles or stations, or on any publicly owned or operated property.
CAP advocates requiring training for clerks who staff the marijuana dispensaries and on-site consumption locations — similar to the TIPS training it has done for people selling alcohol at various festivals.
“The key components of training are effective ID checking and the confidence to be able to assert yourself and do ID checking and an understanding of local and state marijuana laws,” Scocozza said.
“We want to suggest that we apply the same enforcement to alcohol, marijuana, smoke- and vape-free areas at parks and beaches,” Scocozza said.
Miloski said the town should revise town policies for public events and festivals, which now control where alcohol can be consumed, to include marijuana.
“We really feel like the town board has the power to find consensus in the community and put into effect some best practices,” Scocozza said.
Supervisor Yvette Aguiar asked the CAP representatives if they would participate in a committee she is forming to deal specifically with code revision and enforcement issues pertaining to marijuana sales and on-premises consumption sites.
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