Parents aren’t backing away from sharing their thoughts about New York State’s plan to open the first legal recreational weed dispensary in Staten Island soon. From community meetings to social media, Staten Island parents are either supporting the decision or calling it a detriment to the community.
About the Dispensary
The dispensary will be located on the South Shore at 3022 Veterans Rd. West and is set to open within the coming months. Mohamed Elgaly, who received a Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) License from the NYS Office of Cannabis Management, and his partner Shlomo Weinstock are the owners. CAURD licenses are given to individuals with prior pot-related criminal offenses who have prior experience in owning a business.
Elgaly presented at a Community Board 3 meeting on Thursday to discuss his business, which will sell pre-rolled joints, edibles, flowers (the smokable part of a cannabis plant) and vape products. Elgaly said customers must be 21 to enter, and staff will check ID. He added that children will not be allowed inside, even if they’re with someone who’s of legal age.
The First Legal Recreational Weed Dispensary in Staten Island: What are Parents Saying?
Per NYS law, all retail weed dispensaries must be at least 200 feet from a house of worship and at least 500 feet from a school or playground. Elgaly’s dispensary fits that criteria, but parents and residents still have many concerns. Among them is the location of the dispensary. It will be located within walking distance to a popular supermarket and other stores frequented by families.
“Oh, it’ll be next to ShopRite? That’s great,” one father said with sarcastic anger at the community board meeting. “I’m totally against this. There’s zero reason to bring marijuana to Staten Island.”
Other parents expressed concerns about kids using fake IDs to enter and people using marijuana while driving. Several asked how police will handle drivers who are under the influence of pot. Currently, there is no test available for police officers to detect marijuana in drivers as they can do with alcohol.
When Elgaly was asked why he chose the South Shore for his shop, he said “because I’m from here.”
Staten Island parents and residents are also taking to social media to express their concerns.
“I don’t like the fact that by legalizing it, teens don’t see the problem with smoking weed all the time,” Rachel Cugini, a Bay Terrace resident and local real estate agent, said online. “They are in the car driving while their friends are smoking. They’re in the streets smoking while walking, and it smells like weed everywhere now. I would not want younger children exposed to that, either. It turned smoking weed from once in a while when you go out, to smoking all the time.”
Saul Cohen, a father from Staten Island, reluctantly accepts the drug’s legality.
“Unfortunately it’s legal. Just like anything else, teach your child, and hopefully they’ll succeed in life,” he said.
Some parents and residents feel pot isn’t the most pressing issue when it comes to kids and drug use.
“Fact is, alcohol, vaping and nicotine are all by far more of an issue for children than weed is,” another person said.
Illegal Weed Shops in NYC
As shops owned by CAURD licensees continue to open, illegal cannabis shops can still be found throughout the city.
“I think legal is better than all these illegal shops which sell it like candy,” one person said on social media. “At least it will be regulated and hopefully less accidental ingestions will happen.”
Since New York State legalized recreational cannabis in March 2021, there’s been a lot of confusion among consumers about what’s legal and what’s not when it comes to marijuana. And some local retailers seem to be capitalizing on that confusion. Many are guising themselves as convenience stores selling candy and Gatorade, when really they’re selling illicit drugs.
With the exception of three licensed cannabis shops in Manhattan and a pop-up shop called Good Grades opening soon in Queens, none of these NYC “weed bodegas” that sell pre-rolled joints, CBD candy or THC products are legal.
“With the opening of Good Grades in Queens, we’re continuing to build on our progress to create a safe, regulated cannabis industry in New York,” Governor Kathy Hochul said in a recent press release. “New York is working to support entrepreneurs and ensure that consumers can purchase safe, legal products while supporting their communities.”
But as the first legal recreational weed dispensary in Staten Island and others open, and a culture change around marijuana continues, many experts feel there’s not enough public information about the adverse effects of the drug. Information about the dangers of CBD and THC seemed to have taken a back seat.
Bridget Cole Williams, M.D., is a board-certified family physician and CEO of Green Harvest Health. She’s also a cannabis educator and life coach. She explained that there’s sometimes a mentality among parents that pot is harmless. They might think, ‘Well I had my first joint at age 12, and I turned out fine,’ Williams explained.
“Sometimes people are not aware of how early exposure to THC can have issues on brain development. We need to have public service announcements because no one wants stupid kids,” she added.
Teen Marijuana Use: What Parents Need to Know
As medical experts and therapists attest, the teen brain is in the process of maturing. And kids at this age who experiment with drugs or other substances put their health and safety at risk.
“Children’s brains are in the process of changing in density from grey matter to highly connected neural networks that make up a mature brain,” Catherine Schneider, a licensed clinical social worker in Bellport Village, NY, explained. “A brain can be considered mature at around 25 years old. THC and other mind-altering substances introduced to the brain prior to 25 increase the vulnerability of the growing neurons and neurotransmitters.”
Simply put, if an anxious, depressed or traumatized child’s brain is introduced to THC and finds it soothing, the child’s brain will not be able to conquer its own mental health trials without repeated introduction of THC.
A legal weed dispensary in Staten Island opens, illegal shops pop up, and discussions and disagreements about pot continue. This is a lot for many kids to understand, and they can feel confused about all of it. But parents don’t have to feel helpless.
Talking to your kids about the dangers of marijuana and all substance use is important. Here are some tips from the Mayo Clinic that you can use when discussing substance use—including pot and alcohol—with your kids:
- Talking early with your child about the risks of substance use and continuing this discussion over time may prevent the first use and protect your child’s brain and day-to-day functionality.
- Ask your teen’s views. Avoid lectures. Listen to their opinions and questions about drugs. Parents can assure teens that they can be honest and have a discussion without getting in trouble.
- Discuss reasons not to use drugs. Avoid scare tactics. Emphasize how drug use can affect the things that are important to your teen. Some examples might be sports performance, driving, health or appearance.
- Consider media messages. Social media, television programs, movies and songs can make drug use seem normal or glamorous. Talk about what your teen sees and hears.
- Discuss ways to resist peer pressure. Brainstorm with your teen about how to turn down offers of drugs.
- Be ready to discuss your own drug use. Think about how you’ll respond if your teen asks about your own drug use, including alcohol. If you chose not to use drugs, explain why. If you did use drugs, share what the experience taught you.
Parents can learn more about marijuana policies in NYC and NYS and teen substance abuse through several resources, including:
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