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Medical Marijuana Plan for South Bronx Sparks Concerns Among Local Leaders

By Eddie Small | August 13, 2015 3:57pm | Updated on August 13, 2015 6:01pm
 A medical marijuana dispensary may be coming to 1280 Oak Point Ave. in Hunts Point, a move that has left Bronxites nervous.
A medical marijuana dispensary may be coming to 1280 Oak Point Ave. in Hunts Point, a move that has left Bronxites nervous.
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DNAinfo/Eddie Small

HUNTS POINT — Plans to open a medical marijuana dispensary in the South Bronx have left community members concerned about the facility's isolated location and a lack of neighborhood input that took place throughout the decision-making process.

State officials announced in late July that four medical marijuana dispensaries and one growing facility were set to open in New York City early next year.

The dispensary in The Bronx would be operated by PharmaCannis and located at 1280 Oak Point Ave. in the industrial section of Hunts Point, a site that Bronxites are not thrilled about.

Rafael Salamanca, district manager of Bronx Community Board 2, said people were “up in arms” about the facility, mainly due to the lack of community input while selecting the location and the fact that it would be in a very secluded part of the neighborhood.

“What can that bring, you know?” Salamanca asked. “Robberies. People selling what they’re getting.”

Community Board 2 Chair Dr. Ian Amritt was upset about the location as well, noting that no one had come to discuss the idea with the group.

“I will oppose this until we are satisfied with the logistics around the operation,” he said.

PharmaCannis did not respond to request for comment.

State Sen. Jeff Klein plans to meet with the group trying to bring the dispensary to Hunts Point in the wake of these concerns.

“Concerns have been raised about security at the new dispensary in Hunts Point, the impact it will have on local business and residents living nearby in the community," he said in a statement Thursday evening. "This meeting is an opportunity to start the dialogue and address those concerns."

The building is currently vacant, although it still bears a sign for King of Clubs NYC, a gentlemen's club that was supposed to open about five years ago but never got off the ground, according to John Rivera, whose father owns the site.

"He put up the sign thinking that it was going to open," Rivera said of the man behind the effort to establish the club, "but it was never able to open."

Rivera stressed that the dispensary's arrival on Oak Point Avenue is still not definite but maintained that, if it did come, it would actually help make the neighborhood a safer place.

"They’ll be bringing a lot more security to the area because there are certain guidelines that they have to meet," he said.

► Your Guide to Buying Medical Marijuana in New York

Bronxite Sarah Delaney, a nurse, described herself as an advocate for medical marijuana but argued that the dispensary would be much more effective for patients if it were in a more mainstream location.

“It would better serve the population if it was in a major thoroughfare instead of way over in the darkness in Hunts Point,” she said.

"If you put it in the outskirt area, what are you doing?" she continued. "You're making your patients... travel long distances to go into dark neighborhoods."

The state Health Department did not respond to a request for comment.

The state has approved two medical marijuana facilities for Manhattan and two for Queens as well.

Rivera said that his family has strong roots in Hunts Point and that the real problem in the neighborhood was illegitimate businesses, not legal ones like the dispensary.

"Can they go after the people dealing drugs on the street corners? Can they go after the prostitutes?" he asked. "Not people that are paying their taxes and trying to make a decent living."