Haverhill Councilors Reject Plan to Ask Voters to Rethink Marijuana Legalization

(File photograph.)

A majority of Haverhill City Councilors say voters spoke clearly in 2016, and there is no need to put the question of recreational marijuana availability back on the ballot.

Council President John A. Michitson and Councilors Joseph J. Bevilacqua and Timothy J. Jordan were the only ones Tuesday night to favor various options for asking voters to decide the question again this November. Bevilacqua, for example, said he spoke to residents of all ages and backgrounds.

“What they told me, they didn’t realize, they could be actually in their backyards. What they told me was they weren’t aware the fact there could be a multitude…it could be up to six (shops) potentially,” Bevilacqua said.

Councilor William J. Macek, who said he personally voted against the 2016 legalization, said voters who contact him continue to favor legalization 2-1. He quoted one person who emailed him, asking, “Why don’t we re-do the 2016 presidential election if you don’t like the result?

Others echoed Macek’s sentiment, including Councilor Mary Ellen Daly O’Brien.

“Just because you don’t like the outcome of an election or a ballot question because it’s not in your favor, doesn’t mean we have to go back and change it again,” she said.

Besides Bevilacqua, Jordan argued some voters did not believe Haverhill would host shops or as many as six stores. “I think we should at least give the residents a chance to say how many of these establishments do you want. That would seem like a very reasonable compromise.”

Various options, from letting voters decide how many shops they would accept to an outright ban on pot retailers, failed to pass the Council. Besides Macek and O’Brien, Councilors Melinda E. Barrett and Colin F. LePage voted against a new ballot measure. Councilor Thomas J. Sullivan was absent and Councilor Michael S. McGonagle left the room because he co-owns the Amesbury Road property where the Mellow Fellows” shop is proposed.

No matter the outcome, City Solicitor William D. Cox Jr. reminded them any ballot measure would have no effect on those who have already submitted special permit requests to sell marijuana in the city. None have yet been granted. He said 54 percent of residents voted in favor of allowing retail marijuana shops.

Although the Council didn’t approve a new ballot questions, residents could still force the matter if they submit a petition of 12 to 15 percent of all registered voters.

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