SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

November 28, 2012

Council endorses proposal to ban pot shops

PEABODY — Answering an appeal from Mayor Ted Bettencourt, the City Council overwhelmingly approved a measure last night that begins the process of forbidding any marijuana dispensaries or growing facilities in this city.

The meeting reflected a great deal of frustration and doubt by councilors regarding the recent passage of an initiative petition allowing the sale of the drug when prescribed by a physician.

No one spoke in support of locating marijuana facilities in Peabody, but some worried that banning them outright, rather than restricting them to the adult zone, might open the door to lawsuits. Legal action, they fear, could eventually allow the pot shops in places like the downtown by judicial fiat.

For that matter, Councilor Barry Sinewitz worried about the impact of placing them on Route 1, the adult zone, which he complained already contains strip clubs, X-rated bookstores, a methadone clinic and a pool hall.

“It’s almost becoming a Disneyland for all sorts of degenerate behavior,” he said.

Bettencourt presented his plan for banning the facilities before the council’s Legal Affairs Subcommittee at a meeting that attracted nearly all the councilors, as well as New England Cable News. He complained that passage of the referendum left too many unanswered questions.

“Who is going to write the rules?” he asked. “Who is going to enforce the rules?” Will there be background checks? What role do doctors play? “These unanswered questions and concerns to me are a public safety issue.”

He told them that City Solicitor Michael Smerczynski is confident that the city has the legal right to issue a blanket restriction preventing the location of marijuana facilities in the city.

The new law allows the placement of 35 facilities statewide. Councilor Dave Gamache worried aloud about a “mad rush” to locate them come Jan. 1. Several councilors mentioned being approached prior to the meeting by people eager to set up pot shops in Peabody. One, Sinewitz said, had assured him of 7,900 customers already awaiting the opening.

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