SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

November 9, 2012

Peabody council looks to zone marijuana shops

By Alan Burke Staff writer
The Salem News

---- — PEABODY — Not in my backyard.

That might be the attitude in Peabody following the passage in Tuesday’s election of an initiative allowing the distribution of medical marijuana.

City Councilor Dave Gamache raised concerns during last night’s meeting, asking whether a shop dispensing marijuana might be located in the city and, if so, where.

He asked for a change in city zoning to keep it away from areas like the downtown and from children, churches and schools “so they don’t just pop up on the corner.” He noted that the city has already designated an area for “adult” activities on Route 1.

Along with passage of the law have come worries over its possible abuse. Moreover, the discussion reflected some of the confusion that’s followed, as well.

“I just assumed it would be (dispensed) at a pharmacy,” Councilor Arthur Athas said. “No?”

Others pointed out that the number of dispensaries was limited in the law to 35 “treatment centers.” But Gamache warned that such a restriction could be changed, the number increased. “I’m just throwing out that we look at the potential of keeping it away from certain areas. I’d rather be prepared.”

Gamache, who explained that he got the idea after reading about a Quincy councilor with similar worries, made a motion for putting the question to the council’s zoning subcommittee. There, a change in zoning, one restricting where marijuana is dispensed, could be written prior to a vote by the full committee.

Council President Jim Liacos noted that his son lives in Boulder, and he’s seen firsthand the impact of Colorado’s marijuana law.

“Every corner was a pot shop,” he said. “Every corner.”

Another member noted that California has seen a similar situation. Liacos added wryly that he has another son there.

“I make a little fun of it,” he said with a nod to Gamache, “but I think it’s a good motion.”

It was agreed to send the idea to the zoning subcommittee.

Speaking after the meeting, Gamache said he voted in favor of the law and has no prejudice against it. He believes some people, unable to take potentially addictive pills for pain, are better off using marijuana instead.

But Gamache worried that Peabody is a likely spot for one of the shops dispensing the drug.

“We could get stuck with it. ... They probably won’t put it in Boxford or Byfield or Georgetown or Groveland.”