Council Committee Nixes Healthy Pharms Pot Site

Haverhill City Councilors William J. Macek, Mary Ellen Daly-O’Brien and Michael S. McGonagle review the recommended location of a zone for medical marijuana facilities. (WHAV photo.)

Haverhill City Councilors William J. Macek, Mary Ellen Daly-O'Brien and Michael S. McGonagle review the recommended location of a zone for medical marijuana facilities. (WHAV photo.)

A Haverhill city council subcommittee is recommending land off route 97 be considered as the city’s only approved zone for medical marijuana facilities.

The council’s Administration and Finance Committee voted unanimously last night to move one of six possible areas to the full council for consideration. The selection may slow plans by Healthy Pharms. That company, once represented by lobbyist James P. Jajuga, was provisionally licensed to locate a dispensary at 114 Hale St. City Solicitor William D. Cox Jr. said Healthy Pharms will still have to lease or purchase property in an approved zone and obtain permits.

The only formal objection came from Haverhill Public Schools’ pediatrician John L. Maddox of Wilmington

“I think it is a dangerous experiment to take this and learn in a community that already has a drug use problem, has a crime problem and has a mental illness problem.”

He said cities like Haverhill should not be the first to offer marijuana. “I don’t believe the state should be allowing this first wave of dispensaries to be gateway cities where the rate of marijuana use in children under the age of 13 is already above the state average.”

The plan would create an “overlay” zone over the largely manufacturing area on Computer and Research Drives, but exclude land facing route 97. Sites rejected were Ward Hill, Hale Street, Hilldale Avenue business park and upper Main Street. If approved by the council, the zone would allow marijuana cultivation, processing and dispensary uses.

Although invited, representatives of the state Department of Public Health refused to attend. The department has come under fire for awarding points to marijuana facility applicants even though they misrepresented local support. WHAV was the first to report former Senator and Methuen City Councilor Jajuga paid a $2,500 fine for late disclosure of his work to site Healthy Pharms on Hale Street in Haverhill. Jajuga's late filing shows he was paid $66,500 from two lobbying clients--Harris Corporation and Healthy Pharms--during 2013.

Local officials said they were unaware of Jajuga's critical role at Healthy Pharms. Economic Development and Planning Director William Pillsbury Jr. disputed Healthy Pharms claims the company “has obtained local support for the dispensary location from William Pillsbury Jr.”

Haverhill City Councilor Robert H. Scatamacchia said an undated letter of support signed by him was obtained under false pretenses. Healthy Pharms used the letter as “Evidence of Local Support.” He said Mayor James J. Fiorentini typed the letter on Haverhill City Council letterhead, on behalf of Jajuga.

Councilor William J. Macek reminded audience members Wednesday medical marijuana is legal. “It’s not a red-headed stepchild. It’s a legitimate operation in the state.”

Council President John A. Michitson suggested the city’s planning department might worry about attracting business to the area if a marijuana facility is there.

Besides Macek, committee members include Councilors Colin F. LePage, chairman; Mary Ellen Daly-O’Brien; and Michael S. McGonagle. Councilors attending, but not committee members, were Michitson, Robert H. Scatamacchia and Melinda Barrett.

Councilors don’t expect any final siting decisions to be made until the next governor takes office.