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Jun 26, 2012 11:38 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Pepper Spray Hits Shelves At Sag Harbor Pharmacy

Jun 26, 2012 6:15 PM

Purse-sized canisters of Mace brand pepper spray have now popped up for sale in one of the oldest neighborhood pharmacies on the East End—for those times when one might want to try to outfox a fox or needs to ward off an attacker of the more human variety.

“I can tell you, it flies out of here, to my surprise,” Barry Marcus, who co-owns the Sag Harbor Pharmacy with Stan Weiss, said of the defense spray agent, which is derived from the oil of cayenne peppers and causes temporary blindness and difficulty breathing in those who have been sprayed. “I’ve only been carrying it for three weeks, but I’ve already reordered twice.”

The spray canisters are carried in a small blue cardboard display in the back of the pharmacy next to the hearing aid batteries. The top of the box states “Protect Yourself” in capital lettering.

Mr. Marcus, a bespectacled East Hampton resident who has been at the pharmacy for about 11 and a half years, said that, locally, attacks could come from raccoons or red foxes in the woods. Joggers and mail carriers could use it to fend off stray dogs, he said.

But it is not the local residents who are suddenly stocking up on the small spray cans, he has noticed—it is tourists and visitors from the city, as well as those in the transit trades who are shelling out the $21.95 for each canister. Women buy it more than men, he added.

“One of the reasons why we’re carrying it is not for the general local population, but because we get such transient traffic in the summertime,” he said. “The city people are the ones who are really buying it. We don’t find our regular customers buying it.”

The Sag Harbor Pharmacy now sells about one canister per day, according to Mr. Marcus. The spray joined his stock after a solicitation by the company, he said, adding that only licensed pharmacies can sell the product.

“It happens to be an item we took a chance on,” he said. “The only reason why we did it is because we’re the only ones that are able to sell it.”

In addition, buyers must be 18 years or older, show picture identification, and are limited to two canisters each, he said. In addition, customers must sign before buying the self-defense spray, and their signature verifies that they have never been convicted of a felony or an assault in any state.

Early Monday evening, near the store’s closing time of 6:30 p.m., there were three pressurized pepper spray canisters available for sale in a pink version. Of those, two were of the “Covert Defense” design, a container resembling a lipstick case, and one was the “Flip & Grip” style, a “fumble-free safety design” that is intended to prevent accidental discharge. There were also four black ones available in the “Flip & Grip” design. Mr. Marcus said none had been sold that day.

Adva Zingher, a 21-year-old college student from Westborough, Massachusetts, who is staying in Sag Harbor with her grandmother this summer, was in the pharmacy at that time. She was not buying the spray, but said she might consider it. “I’ve had pepper spray before,” she noted.

Larry Fleischman, a pharmacist at the Sag Harbor Pharmacy and an East Hampton resident, emerged from behind a counter to say he had just bought one—a “Flip & Grip” canister for his 18-year-old daughter, Kori, who just graduated from high school in New Jersey and is bound for Rutgers University, that state’s largest institution of higher learning. “It’s just good to have,” he said, “in case of an emergency.” He mentioned late nights on campus.

Mr. Fleischman had considered getting the “Covert Defense” model—“that looks a little prettier in her purse”—but ultimately settled on the “Flip & Grip,” style, he said, because he felt it would be less likely to open accidently.

His colleague, Mr. Marcus, said that he does not own any of the spray himself. “I live out on the East End. I don’t need it,” Mr. Marcus explained. But he had considered buying some for his daughter, Lesley, 45, who lives in Roslyn. “What you read in the newspapers these days …” he commented. “It’s a dangerous world out there.”

In keeping with its summertime clientele, the spray is expected to be cleared off the shelves come fall, Mr. Marcus said.

Outside the pharmacy on Monday, just after closing, a Water Mill woman, Pat Franzino, strolled past the pharmacy, a pair of sunglasses atop her red hair. “I can’t imagine why anyone out here would need that,” she said. “Maybe that’s being naive.”

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I thought it was illegal to sell this stuff in New York State ?
By Bill in Riverhead (190), Riverhead on Jun 26, 12 4:39 PM
So did I. Has the law changed?
By bb (852), Hampton Bays on Jun 26, 12 5:14 PM
The new normal.
By Samuel Walsh (17), Southampton on Jun 26, 12 7:49 PM
Pepper spray should be legal. Anyone who wants it should carry it. Prevent a terrible crime
By TianaBob (256), S.Jamesport on Jun 26, 12 9:55 PM
2 members liked this comment
You realize of course that now a criminal can simply pepper spray a victim and then rob them much easier ?
By Bill in Riverhead (190), Riverhead on Jun 27, 12 7:42 AM
Very true. We'd better make pepper spray illegal for self defense so no one will get hurt as the robber beats his victim with a (legal) lead pipe.
By RealityFirst (597), Bridgehampton on Jun 27, 12 1:47 PM
Apparently a licensed pharmacist can be an authorized dealer in NY State. Last I new Mace was illegal to posess in NY. Maybe the law changed.
By BruceB (142), Sag Harbor on Jun 27, 12 12:29 PM
Pepper spray has never been illegal in New York. It's astonishing how many people "know" so much that isn't true.
By RealityFirst (597), Bridgehampton on Jun 27, 12 1:49 PM
Odd, I wonder why the town police arrested someone I know on a "B" misdemeanor when they found mace in his possession on a traffic stop, under section, Unlawful Possession of Noxious Material, New York Penal Law 270.05 PL. You saying it was a bad call by PD?

In otherwords, if I carry a jar of urine, a noxious material, around with me with intent to throw it in soneone's face if the bother me, then it's legal to do so?
Jun 27, 12 5:02 PM appended by BruceB
Mace is legal in NY State ONLY if you meet the criteria under section 265.20 paragraph 14 of the NY State Penal Law.
By BruceB (142), Sag Harbor on Jun 27, 12 5:02 PM
It's hard to understand why anyone in Sag Harbor would need a can of mace. It's disappointing to think that it's a product for sale in our unique little community.
By peacemaker (22), Sag Harbor on Jun 29, 12 1:09 AM
Pepper spray is not mace.
By splashdown (21), sag harbor on Jun 30, 12 9:48 PM
All of the photos and signs in the pharmacy say "Mace" for sale, not pepper spray. What's the difference?
By peacemaker (22), Sag Harbor on Jul 1, 12 10:40 PM
Why anybody would still buy anything from Sag Harbor Pharmacy is beyond me, Read this article and thought they got the pepper spray for their customers, well thats just my opinion of a store that needs to change its policies on customer service.
By blast blogger (1), sag harbor on Jun 11, 14 12:39 PM