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November 28, 2012

Peabody takes lead to ban pot 'dispensary'

PEABODY — Answering an appeal from Mayor Ted Bettencourt, Peabody’s City Council has overwhelmingly approved a measure that begins the process of forbidding any marijuana dispensaries or growing facilities within the city.

The Tuesday night meeting reflected a great deal of frustration and doubt by councilors regarding the Election Day passage of a statewide initiative petition allowing the sale of the drug when prescribed by a physician.

The action by the Peabody council becomes among the first on the North Shore to address potential placement of medical marijuana “dispensaries” as outlined in the law – which calls for 35 such dispensaries across the state, with at least one and no more than five in each county.

Cape Ann officials have started talking informally about options for Gloucester and Cape Ann’s towns, as well. Erin Battistelli, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said she is in favor of a medicinal marijuana dispensary within the Cape Ann community, adding that the more potential and accessible dispensaries, the better – especially for elderly or terminally ill residents.

She added that said that Cape Ann’s communities should coordinate and work together, as a dispensary placed in Gloucester or any other community could affect surrounding towns, as well.

No one spoke in support of locating marijuana facilities in Peabody, but some worried that banning them outright — rather than restricting them to the city’s 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.

Councilor Barry Sinewitz, meanwhile, worried about the impact of placing them on Route 1 — the adult zone — which 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.

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