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."