SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

January 11, 2013

Support but no vote yet for pot ban

PEABODY — City councilors still seem determined to pass a zoning bylaw banning medical marijuana dispensaries from Peabody.

But they’re being pretty mellow about it.

The council failed to vote last night due to a technicality caused when the Planning Board failed to formally “present” their vote on the measure — which was unanimously to adopt the ban. The council held a hearing anyway with the understanding that the vote will come quickly at their next meeting.

No one from the public appeared at the hearing to voice support or opposition.

Mayor Ted Bettencourt, who proposed the new zoning bylaw, made a plea for its adoption, stressing the confusion wrought by the passage last November, via a vaguely written referendum, of a bill allowing such facilities across the state.

“Who’s going to write the rules?” Bettencourt asked. “Who’s going to be the enforcer of them? The city or the state?”

He wondered if the Legislature would establish an age limit for the use of the marijuana, which is said to have medicinal value for those suffering some illnesses. Would there be a background check required of the people who opened these dispensaries, which he referred to repeatedly as “pot shops”?

Noting that he’s been approached by people seeking to open such places, Bettencourt worried that they did not have a medical background. Having investigated the matter, he concluded, “What I’ve put together is pretty distressing.”

Expressing sympathy for the sick, the mayor said, “My family has been touched by cancer.” But medicines should be passed out in pharmacies and hospitals, he said.

Asked by Councilor Barry Sinewitz if he’d heard anything regarding clarifications of the law from state officials, Bettencourt answered, “No. I’ve no information about what the state is going to do.”

Only Councilor Bob Driscoll, the longest-serving member, voted against the zoning change when it was brought up for a preliminary vote in December. He argued then that the Legislature should be given time to sort out the problems with the law.

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