Councilors Eye Zoning as Way to Limit Sale of Recreational Marijuana

Councilors Tuesday rejected colleague Joseph J. Bevilacqua’s idea to ask the city solicitor to write an ordinance prohibiting the sale of recreational marijuana in the city.

The majority of councilors voted, instead, to ask Solicitor William D. Cox Jr. what options are open to the city to limit the sale of recreational marijuana.

Councilor William J. Macek said Haverhill residents voted in 2016, by a margin of two to one, to allow the sale of recreational marijuana in the city. As a result, the city would need to schedule a referendum and let voters cast ballots a second time. If they were to change their vote, the city could then refuse to allow recreational marijuana to be sold legally in the city, he said.

But Bevilacqua said he is concerned that the state Cannabis Control Commission will permit marijuana sales even in communities that have imposed a moratorium, which Haverhill plans to do.

Macek argued that the city’s best way to protect itself is to limit sales of recreational marijuana to the small overlay district off Broadway in the area of Research and Computer drives, “so we don’t have them popping up all over the city.”

Last week, Mayor James J. Fiorentini said he would sign a letter of non-opposition for Alternative Therapies Group and begin negotiating with the company to locate a medicinal marijuana dispensary in the overlay district.

Rules created by the state panel are expected to go into effect later this year, with recreational marijuana sales allowed beginning on July 1.