However, Rennard also drafted a zoning change for councilors, if the board decided to specifically identify marijuana dispensaries as medical clinics.
If the zoning change is passed, medical marijuana clinics could apply with the ZBA to locate in any business zone in Salem.
If a center came to Salem, it would have to be one of five — or less — in Essex County.
Councilor Paul Prevey questioned the logistics of how a dispensary would operate and how it would be managed.
Rennard said dispensaries will be overseen by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, which has yet to decide specific regulations.
“I’m not prepared to support this tonight. Maybe at some point down the road,” Carr said.
Councilor Joseph O’Keefe also said he preferred to wait for specifics from the state before changing local zoning laws.
Teri Kalgren, owner of Artemisia Botanicals on Hawthorne Boulevard, said she has many customers dealing with pain from medical issues, such as Parkinson’s disease, who could benefit from medical marijuana.
These are people, many of them senior citizens, who would not be “gatewayed” into other drugs, Kalgren told the council.
“Our main concern should not be the people that are going (to the dispensary),” Kalgren said. “The main thing we should be looking at is the responsibility of the doctors who are giving out prescriptions.”
Medical marijuana was approved by 63 percent of voters in the November election.
Similarly, Salem’s zoning of medical clinics came into play when a methadone clinic was proposed at the former Hillcrest Chevrolet dealership on Highland Avenue in 2010.
The ZBA denied the clinic a permit due to concerns about traffic at peak hours, with the high school and other schools not far from the proposed clinic.
Clinic backers filed suit, but eventually dropped their challenge.
Bethany Bray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.