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Queens residents ‘in shock’ to learn medical marijuana dispensary is opening nearby

FOREST HILLS, Queens — When it opens, the newest New York City facility designed to distribute legal medical marijuana to thousands of patients will be in Forest Hills.

That fact is not satisfying its new neighbors, however. Most of whom say that they were never informed that a marijuana dispensary was set to open in the heart of their neighborhood.

"I was in shock," said a woman who lives in the condominium next door to where the dispensary is under construction on 70th Road between Queens Boulevard and Austin Street. "I'm a medical professional, but we don't know the things that are going to happen here."

The woman, who did not want to give her name, said that she's a pharmacist who sits on the board of directors for the nextdoor condominium. She said that she understands the need for medical marijuana use.

"I'd just like to know and question how that got through without the community even knowing about it," she said.

Resident Valerie Sharinn reacted with disbelief.

"In Forest Hills?" she asked upon hearing the news about the facility opening.

She said that dispensing marijuana, even for medicinal purposes, is not a good thing overall.

"It comes with ups and downs," she said about marijuana use. "I've seen it firsthand."

Businesses nearby, almost all of them restaurants, told PIX11 News they'd had no idea about the dispensary going in either.

In response, Becky DeKeuster, the director of patient outreach of Curaleaf, the company operating the dispensary, said that the company was planning on "doing some pre-opening open houses, where we will invite our neighbors, both residential and business, to come in, see the business, [and] meet the staff."

Curaleaf has obtained permits from the state of New York to operate.

DeKeuster told PIX11 News that her company followed all required state and city procedures in order to do business at the 70th Road location.

When the business does open, as it's expected to do before the summer is over, DeKeuster said it will be a tasteful and responsible addition to the community.

"People cannot just come in off the street and enter that way," she said. "You have to be a patient. You'll have to go through two separate security checkpoints. We want to blend in, without being an obtrusive presence."

Her company already operates two other dispensaries in New York state, as well others in a handful of other states. Curaleaf also has state permission to open a fourth dispensary in New York, in Carle Place on Long Island, later this year.