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Council Adopts Zoning Ban on Pot Shops in Peabody

City officials sign off on zoning ban for medical marijuana facilities in hopes it will just discourage potential shop owners from considering sites in Peabody rather than go to court. State still has yet to develop rules and regulations.

It's official: no pot shops in Peabody.

The City Council unanimously voted Thursday night to support a zoning ban on medicial marijuana growing and distribution facilities within the city limits.

Mayor Ted Bettencourt has pushed for the local ban since shortly after voters approved the ballot question for medical marijuana in November.

Bettencourt has said he has grave concerns about the new law and operation of such facilities and still has yet to receive any information or guidelines from the state, which will be regulating the pot shops.

In light of those unknowns, he believes it's in the best interest of the city to prohibit such facilities altogether.

He said understands the value of medical marijuana in certain cases, but believes it should be handled by licensed medical professionals at pharmacies and doctors' offices and with prescriptions, not just at a corner pot shop somewhere.

"We have worked very hard over the years to educate our youth...to teach them about the dangers of drugs," Bettencourt said. "And I think [it] sends the wrong message to allow a pot shop to open up in the city limits. I think that’s conflicting to our city youth."

The city's Board of Health, Police Chief Robert Champagne and District Attorney Jon Blodgett all remain opposed to the law, as well.

Bettencourt added that seven towns in Massachusetts have already adopted similar zoning bans Peabody would be the first city to do so.

"I think it’s the right thing to do and it’s something we should be proud of," he said.

City councilors once again agreed and voted in full support of adopting the ban. The only councilor who has not supported the ban is Bob Driscoll, who felt it was premature without state guidelines yet, but he was absent from Thursday night's meeting.

Councilor-at-Large Jim Liacos said he's well aware of some of the criticism levelled at the council and Bettencourt on this issue -- Peabody voters came out in favor of the ballot question.

"We’ve got our share of things and I think the mayor is on the right track when he gets out in front of this and says we don’t really want this in our community," Liacos said.

"This belongs in a hospital or a pharmacy, not on Route 1 or 128 or in the Northshore Mall. You don’t want it in the community and you set up that wall and it kind of pushes them in another direction," he said, voicing his colleagues' hope that a ban might discourage potential facilities from even considering locating in Peabody.

"When this was before the public, I think a lot of people just didn’t read the fine print," said Ward 2 Councilor Arthur Athas.

He admits he didn’t realize that medical marijuana would not actually be dispensed at a pharmacy under the new law, which was one reason he actually voted for it.

"What about dry towns?" he said, referring to the small amount of towns in Massachusetts that still don't allow for sale or service of alcohol. "I don’t see why Peabody can’t follow a similar pattern when it comes to marijuana."

Saber Walsh January 25, 2013 at 11:40 AM
This is real common sense as well as real leadership on behalf of the mayor and the city council. The populist movements are all over the media and the bloggosphere and made the right decision for their citizens. "The citizens who are demanding this" and "what happened to democracy?" arguments that we see in the blogging world just don't hold water. Citizens may want this, but it's still a violation of federal law -- so those citizens need to fix that first. The democracy thing is pretty simple: the U.S. is a constitutional republic, not a democracy, so get over it. Good job to our mayor and city council! Now if we can fix the governor's office my wife and I can stop looking at real estate in New Hampshire.
Jenn12 January 25, 2013 at 03:07 PM
What a joke! The federal gov doesn't give a second thought to pot. While its "illegal", they are giving Washington State a chance to distribute it with no backlash. They even know its a joke. And only a matter of time. Mayor, you should be ashamed of your otal and complete ignorance.
Bob Croce January 25, 2013 at 03:33 PM
Jenn, You just aren't getting it. The Mayor is doing his job and protecting the safety and quality of life of Peabody's residents against a vague and totally -- at this point -- unregulated law. There are too many unanswered questions that cause concern here. Yes. A majority of Peabody residents voted for it, but I know a lot of people who voted for it who thought this would be prescribed by qualified physicians and then dispensed through a pharmacy that is in compliance with FDA regulations. It's not. Anyone can own one of these "pot shops." When you say "medical marijuana" what you're really talking about is an end run around federal law. If you want full legalization, go for it. But this law is a wolf in sheep's clothing, and Peabody doesn't need any more vice on Route 1. Thanks to our Mayor and our City Council for doing the right thing to protect our citizens and Peabody's reputation. http://www,eyeonpeabody.com
Jeffrey Berger January 25, 2013 at 03:41 PM
Just another lost revenue stream!
John Castelluccio (Editor) January 25, 2013 at 03:55 PM
Jeffrey, I realize I was remiss in not including this in the latest article here, but these marijuana dispensaries would be nonprofit entities and therefore exempt from taxation. Whether or not licensing fees are established by the state is another story.
Prisco Tammaro January 25, 2013 at 04:42 PM
Bob, the voters have spoken. To circumvent the law, because you don't like it (or understand it), is whats wrong here. Stop imposing your will on the people. Instead of being lazy and banning it. Add restrictions to where you want it. Not near schools playgrounds etc. Maybe in industrial area. To do a total ban is just lazy and illegal. I hope someone does bring the city to court (even if just on principle) and the city pays big money to defend itself, and your taxes go up even more, beacause your politician were too lazy to do the right thing.
Jenn12 January 25, 2013 at 04:52 PM
Bob, just because you and I may disagree, doesn't mean I "just don't get it." How extremely condescending. No one is saying to put one up inside of a school- obviously there needs to be restrictions and regulations...but as stated above, politicians, like yourself are too lazy to research options. Instead, you would rather go against what people believe in and voted for. Keep writing your opinions, and good luck with whatever it is your running for- just watch out how many people you are alienating with your comments and the way you say things. #justdontgetit
Jenn12 January 25, 2013 at 05:03 PM
Also, the only wolf in sheeps clothing is Mayor Bettencourt.
Bob Croce January 25, 2013 at 06:08 PM
Jenn, What I mean by "just don't get it," is that this issue is about the lack of information and the uncertainty here around this fly-by-seat-of-our-pants law. You think it is about the Mayor not "being informed." You're the one being condescending. I'm also fairly certain that if you took a poll of Peabody residents, they would overwhelmingly agree with the Mayor and the City Council here. I don't know if you are from Peabody, but if you are, you are definitely in the minority on this issue. How do I know that? Well, politicians are very careful not to go against the majority on their votes, and last night the vote was unanimous without any debate. Also, if so many Peabody citizens are in agreement with you, then why wasn't there even ONE citizen there last night to speak in opposition of the zoning change? I was there, and despite the fact that it was a well publicized public meeting, there were no dissenters to be found in Wiggin Auditorium. In fact, there were like only 4 people total in the audience when the city council took this vote. http://www.eyeonpeabody.com
Bob Croce January 25, 2013 at 06:29 PM
Prisco, It's not illegal to ban it. Local communities ban the sale of alcohol all the time. Besides, some lawsuits are just worth fighting: especially when they are fought to defend the safety of citizens. This isn't about laziness of politicians at all. It's about the sponsors of this law not doing their due diligence when it comes to providing enough details to local communities. The law is too vague. That's why almost two dozen towns and cities have taken the same action as Peabody. People, including all local law enforncement, are concerned with what they don't know. http://www.eyeonpeabody.com
Greg January 25, 2013 at 08:29 PM
I wouldn't call the Mayor a wolf in sheep's clothing over this. In fact, i don't really understand the analogy there at all. I think the issue regarding medical marijuana isn't that we passed a law or that the law was poorly worded. Rather, I think the issue is the state govt. hasn't provided an infrastructure to support this yet. Last time I checked, that's actually the role of government (and politicians) to implement the policies that voters vote on. So rather than an outright ban on this, I would have preferred a 6 month or even a 1 year hiatus on any permits being issued. Let's give the state some time to finalize the rules around implementation before implementing such a ban. Other than that subtle change, I do appreciate the councils take on this issue. Especially considering the state of illegal drug activity in this city to begin with.
Saber Walsh January 26, 2013 at 02:48 AM
Hey, Jenn... sorry to harsh your mellow, but Google the terms "DEA raid medical marijuana" and see if your definition of "no backlash" is the same as raids/arrests. Just sayin', the mayor and the city council were spot on.
Saber Walsh January 26, 2013 at 02:50 AM
Yeah, but there was a strong smell of burning gym socks out back by St. John's... I guess the stoners must have forgotten to attend.
David MacDonald March 13, 2013 at 05:48 PM
ooops, not so fast...http://www.myfoxboston.com/story/21631139/ag-towns-cant-issue-med-marijuana-bans

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