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City Council Joins Mayor on Plan to Ban Marijuana Shops

Peabody is moving ahead with the intent to ban medical marijuana facilities from setting up shop in Peabody.

Mayor Ted Bettencourt is now one step closer to getting medical marijuana facilities banned in Peabody.

City councilors agreed Tuesday night to move forward on a zoning amendment that would prohibit both dispensaries and growing facilities from operating anywhere in the city.

The vote was not unanimous, however; only Ward 4 City Councilor Robert Driscoll opposed pursuing a ban because he feels it would be "premature" without having any details from the state on the governance and operation of these new facilities.

"I don’t think it’s in the best interest of the city of Peabody to have medical marijuana at this time," Bettencourt said, noting the opposition from local health and police officials and listing off a number of concerns they all share.

He said those concerns, which largely deal with the rules and regulations that will govern marijuana facilties, have so far been unanswered by state health officials. He recited a number of questions, such as who will write the rules, how will prescriptions be obtained, what will doctor/patient relationships look like and if there will be criminal background checks on directors and employees.

"Those are questions that are unanswered, and as far as I know, not even discussed [at this time]," Bettencourt said.

He acknowledged in a later interview with reporters that those issues will likely be hashed out by state lawmakers and the Department of Public Health, but with Peabody and many other communities in "uncharted waters," he doesn't want to leave any opportunity for marijuana facilities to open up in the city before then.

Bettencourt said he feels it's an issue of public safety.

"I’m hoping that these restrictions and rules are very tight. At this point in time, I think this is a decision that is in the best interest of the city of Peabody," he said, adding he would consider revisiting the issue in the future when such state guidelines are in place.

Councilors also discussed what might happen if a legal challenge were posed to the city's ban, and the general consensus was that if a judge did side with the plaintiff, the city would then be forced to identify a zone in which to locate a facility and thus still retain some measure of control.

Longtime ward councilor David Gamache said that has been past practice on zoning issues appealed in court.

"This is an issue we should be proactive on rather than reactive," Bettencourt said.

Gamache, who initially referred the issue into committee to look at creating local zoning restrictions for marijuana facilities, said he wanted to act quickly on the issue, in part, to discourage interested parties from locating in Peabody.

He said the state won't have any details settled by Jan. 1, but that won't stop companies or individuals from going town-to-town to open up a facility before then and start selling pot. In fact, a few councilors said Tuesday night they've already been approached.

"What’s going to happen is [they] will come knocking, but if Peabody has a restriction, then they will go elsewhere," he said.

Peabody is not alone in seeking to ban medical marijuana operations -- Wakefield and Reading have both accomplished that via Town Meeting and city officials in Melrose are considering similar action. Zoning amendments have also been proposed in Salem, Woburn and Malden.

Bettencourt did acknowledge that a majority of Peabody voters disagreed with him on the issue at the polls and approved the ballot question, as they did elsewhere in Massachusetts.

"But the citizens of Peabody voted for me to be the mayor and I have to make difficult choices," Bettencourt replied. He said he's going to "stand firm" on his decision.

The matter will now go to the Planning Board for a recommendation on a zoning amendment and then come back to the full City Council for a vote. In the interest of time, the Planning Board and City Council may hold a joint public hearing. If approved there, the restriction would become official once signed by the mayor.

Rob Lyons November 28, 2012 at 01:38 AM
In other news, Bettencourt creates a new position devoted to attracting and maintaining businesses in Peabody.
Ashley November 28, 2012 at 02:23 AM
Why make it so difficult for people who actually need it? Now as sick as they are will have to travel to other citys? Peobody used to have citizens best interest in mind now it seems as if they dont care. Good going.
Bob Croce November 28, 2012 at 03:39 AM
Good move by the city council and the mayor. We already have enough to deal with when it comes to crime and blight along Route 1. http://www.eyeonpeabody.com
Sylvie November 28, 2012 at 08:52 AM
There are 11 liquor stores in Peabody and 9 pharmacies. We are comfortable with these establishments which sell drugs that are much more powerful and dangerous than marijuana. It's time to get over the misplaced hysteria. If it's a medicinal drug, it should be sold at a drug store.
Rob Lyons November 28, 2012 at 10:29 AM
Ya clearly medicinal marijuana turns you into a violent criminal. Have you ever seen a pothead? lol. Voters have spoken and Teddy is trying to overturn us. I'm moving
Jane Smith November 28, 2012 at 10:36 AM
I have to agree with Bob. The law leaves a lot of unanswered loop holes. As a community, we should not have to end up with Route 1 and other areas lined with pot shops and pot growing factories.
Jane Smith November 28, 2012 at 10:54 AM
Other communites, such as Wakefield and Reading, have already banned pot shops and pot factories. Shouldn't those of us in Peabody also have the same opportunity not to have our streets lined with pot shops and pot factories?
Mandy Capone November 28, 2012 at 11:42 AM
this is ridiculous lets make it legal and then not supply it. what else can Peabody try to control. thats why i am moving to Grovland everything is band here its ridiculous. have you ever even seen a pot head they are generally laid back and peaceful. never met a violent pot head
Mandy Capone November 28, 2012 at 11:59 AM
This would be a great way for small business to pop up and grow / it would be a great opportunity to pull it off the street and control it. also they wont have (pot shops) as the uneducated would say ,they have come up with a new machine that could distribute it under control at a cvs or regular drug store that (children) would have know idea what it is. its inconspicuous looks no more atrocious then one of those dog tag machines. no one would even have a clue what it is unless you were looking for it
Saber Walsh November 28, 2012 at 03:18 PM
Mayor Bettencourt has, with one meeting, completely erased the bad memory of him standing up for Tierney. Peabody has struggled to recover from the years of supporting strip clubs on Route 1, and with this very vague, essentially unconstitutional move by the state it only opens the door to more issues. Bettencourt is A #1 in my book for not siding with the populist "free thinkers" on this.
Saber Walsh November 28, 2012 at 03:20 PM
Pharmacies will not be able to dispense it, so CVS and "drug stores" are out (it's a Schedule I controlled substance and would lead to any pharmacist near it to be subject to immediate arrest by the DEA).
Saber Walsh November 28, 2012 at 03:21 PM
Amen... how about cleaning up our downtown and figuring out a way to restore reasonable parking so that we can bring good businesses in? We don't need this...
Saber Walsh November 28, 2012 at 03:22 PM
No can do.
Saber Walsh November 28, 2012 at 03:22 PM
I guess you haven't seen the news reports from the California, New Mexico, and Texas borders.
Christopher Bricklemyer November 28, 2012 at 03:34 PM
The people voted and passed the measure. The people have spoken. I am dismayed that the Councilors and Mayor are not taking the vote into consideration, while taking steps to ban something that we as a city voted in favor of. I thought they were supposed to represent the will of the people. With all the liquor stores and strip clubs, how is one dispensary going to tip the balance into this drug addled lawlessness that I am hearing from the paranoid among us? Don't ban it - find a way to make it work.
Saber Walsh November 28, 2012 at 04:09 PM
It's clear that the problem we have is that nobody has studied "medical marijuana" to any degree necessary for it to be prescribed with full understanding of the side effects. Prescriptions are for those things that are established by the FDA to be "safe and effective," but medical marijuana doesn't have enough evidence for physicians to prescribe it without fear that they would be liable for any harm that might befall the patient. In other words, the liability falls 100% on the physician who recommends and/or prescribes it. Can't you see it? "Did your doctor prescribe 'medical marijuana?!?' If so, the law firm of Dewey Cheatem and Howe wants you to know that you may be entitled to a settlement...." So what we should be banging the drum about is really getting the evidence. Is there a way to make an inhalation form that doesn't have the carcinogens, and that can be studied effectively? I suspect that this issue has more to do with who really will profit from all this (we can wag our fingers at the drug companies all we want, but there plenty of people willing to spin all sorts of "scientific stories" in order to pick your pocket -- like what happened with the fraudulent global warming data). We need to learn more before our society should accept increasing access to an addicting gateway drug that any licensed physician would be fool to "prescribe." Peabody has done the right thing.
Sarah November 28, 2012 at 04:32 PM
I agree with Rob Lyons ... leads to crime pure and simple.. even regulated when it starts to get out of hand ... I voted to NOT have it legal for medical purposes either... there are OTHER ways to get medical relief where it wouldn't get out of hand... however you do hear of prescription drugs being abused too but let's not make it worse?
Carol-Lee Armstrong Kehoe November 28, 2012 at 04:34 PM
The people of the Commonwealth voted for it. I would rather see it sold in a somewhat controlled environment than on the street mixed with who knows what. People who are sick and benefit from this are not going to attack your children. What you don't realize is there are lots of people now driving around your neighborhoods high on prescription drugs and illegally obtained marijuana. If it's legal and benefits the sick or those in pain, it should be available and I don't find anything wrong with it being available in Peabody.
Joey Ismail November 28, 2012 at 04:55 PM
Then don't come crying the patients are growing it in their homes, next door to your kids, twenty feet from your house. This is like putting a giant spotlight of stupidity on the city council. The people have clearly spoken on this issue, patients are going to get their medicine from a dispensary, or they are going to grow it on their own. This isn't a complicated issue. We are talking about a nontoxic plant, not toxic waste. With pharmacies selling deadly/addictive pills, bars selling poison, and fast food restaurants killing people, this is hardly an issue to get up in arms about. There are already more dangerous drugs at the corner store than all the marijuana on earth put together. The hysteria is ridiculous.
Bob Croce November 28, 2012 at 05:23 PM
It's not about marijuana itself. What this is about is Peabody trying to rebuild itself and it's reputation. The city needs more wholesome businesses to help it get back on track. Maybe I’m being a NIMBY, but I really have no problem with these shops opening. It’s just that I feel they should open someplace else that wants them. Does anyone commenting here realize the problems the methadone clinic on Route 1 has already caused our neighborhoods? I have a friend who lives near Route 1, and was raking leaves recently, and he found five used hypodermic needles on his front lawn from people driving off Route 1 and into the neighborhood to get their fix. http://www.eyeonpeabody.com
Bob Croce November 28, 2012 at 05:28 PM
The mayor's job isn't to side with "populist free thinkers." His job is to rebuild Peabody on all levels after 10 years of malaise. I want him to LEAD. I don't want him bowing to so-called free-thinking special interests groups. I want him doing what's right for Peabody's future, and Peabody could do with a little less vice.
Bob Croce November 28, 2012 at 05:32 PM
I agree it should be dispensed at a legit pharmacy. But that's not the case here. And ... it's not really about this specific drug. It's about the clientele for these shops. Sure there will be good citizens coming with legit medical conditions. But as has been the case in California, these pot shops will also attract a less desirable element. http://www.eyeonpeabody.com
Bob Croce November 28, 2012 at 08:59 PM
I never said pot turns anyone into a "violent criminal." Neither do strip clubs or XXX-rated book stores, but we don't want anymore of those either up on Route 1.
Rob Lyons November 29, 2012 at 11:02 AM
You said police have enough crime to deal with, implying a pot shop would attract criminals. this isnt true. and this is a simple case of NIMBY. we voted this in but nobody wants it in their town. cant have your cake and eat it too
Mary Lou November 30, 2012 at 04:23 PM
apparently the mayor (king) and his council have spoken -- overriding the voters - which mayor thinks is why he was elected. The "proactive" mayor and council are operating from place of fear and hysteria with no facts or basis meanwhile sick people are suffering. It's forward thinking leadership like this that gets us empty storefronts on main street (and keeps them that way). Had hope for young mayor but see decades of decay will continue in Peabody.

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