NISKAYUNA — A CBD oil, gel and balm store — selling products derived from hemp — is coming to Niskayuna.
And it's coming close to Niskayuna High School.
In a 4-3 vote, the town's Planning Board and Zoning Commission on Monday granted site plan approval for a “Your CBD Store” that will open soon in ShopRite Plaza, in the former Tropics tanning salon near the ShopRite supermarket.
The store will sell health products that contain CBD (cannabidiol), a compound found in the cannabis plant. “Your CBD” products, according to the company Website, use hemp organically grown in Colorado.
Health officials say there is some confusion over hemp and marijuana. Although taxonomically speaking the same plant, officials say, they are different names for the same genus (Cannabis) and species.
Hemp and marijuana look and smell the same, Cooperative Extension agents say, adding that the difference is hemp plants contain no more than 0.3 percent (by dry weight) of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive substance found in marijuana.
By comparison, officials say, marijuana typically contains 5 to 20 percent THC.
Jeanne Sosnow, speaking as president of the Niskayuna Community Action Program (N-CAP), voiced concerns over the store during the privilege-of-the-floor session of the meeting. Sosnow described N-CAP as a group of volunteers who organize community events but also work to prevent youth substance misuse.
Sosnow said CBD has quickly entered the mainstream and long-term effects of the product are not yet known.
“Without the maturity to make safe decisions, young people quickly pick up on new products, as we've seen with the vaping crisis,” Sosnow said. “So I have concerns about keeping our kids protected from self medicating and misuse in the face of marketing CBD as such a wonderful and diverse product. And it's going to be located right here in the center of town, near the high school.”
Sosnow asked if store owners and management would ensure the enforcement of age requirements on the purchase of CBD products.
“Will this lead to any smoke shop or vaping paraphernalia?” Sosnow also asked. “Is there a plan for educating the public on the safe and appropriate uses of CBD?”
Store owner John Convertino told the board he will sell only to people who are over age 21. He said there will be no smoking or vaping products sold at the store. He will post a sign that proclaims managers will check identifications.
Board member Genghis Khan expressed concern over the store's location.
“I've got zero issues and concerns with the business,” Khan said. “I've got a lot of issues and concerns with the location, within a thousand feet of the high school, which has very mobile, easy access, high school-age students, young adults.
“The Planning Board is in full understanding how code enforcement works,” Khan added. “This is a little bit more of a policing action than a code enforcement action … there are other properties in Niskayuna that are available for a business like this. My question is, isn't there a more suitable location for this business?”
Convertino said he liked the ShopRite location for the traffic it will generate. And as identifications will be checked, he does not believe the proximity to the high school will be an issue.
“Anybody coming in to buy something, it's $50 to $100 per thing you get,” Convertino said.
“Niskayuna is a wealthy community,” Khan responded. “Kids have a lot of access to disposable income.”
Board member Morris Auster said he believed there were many questions about the proposal. He moved to table the resolution until December; the measure failed, 4-3.
Convertino, as he was leaving the meeting, said he believes some people still need to be educated about CBD.
“Some people see it as marijuana, some people just see the vape products with all that's going on out there with vaping, that's why I definitely didn't want anything to do with vaping in our store,” he said.
Convertino said CBD oils, creams, water-solubles and other products help with ailments.
“I take it myself for anxiety,” he said. “I use the cream on my hands because I have really bad arthritis from doing construction. I'll put it on my hands and they don't hurt for the rest of the day.”
Convertino hopes to open before January.
Deputy Town Attorney Alexis Kim said CBD products are a legal use. “It's not prohibited under town code or state law,” she said.
CBD products were featured during the town's summer farmers markets held at the Niskayuna Co-op food market. Upstate CBD, which offers hemp buds, topicals and other products, opened last spring on Union Street.
In other business, the board approved site plan approval for a JP Morgan Chase bank. The new bank will be built in Mohawk Commons off Balltown Road.
Chase has received permission to demolish the vacant Ruby Tuesday's restaurant for the 3,400 square-foot bank. Construction is expected to begin in late spring or early summer and will include a drive-through banking window.
Ruby Tuesday in Mohawk Commons closed Aug. 15, 2016, one of about 100 locations nationwide the company decided to shut down because they were performing below expectations.
“I think we've got a good plan,” said Board Member Patrick McPartlon. “We've had several rounds of review. All in all, I think this is going to be a great improvement.”
Richard A. Dordas, Chase's marketing director for construction in the Northeast, said company marketing research has determined need for a Chase bank in the area. He also said three new Chase facilities recently have been built in Albany County; three more are planned for the Capital Region.