State Land Court Judge Denies Request to Close Haverhill Pot Shop; Dismisses All Zoning Claims

Stem, 124 Washington St., Haverhill. (WHAV News photograph.)

A state Land Court judge today denied an emergency request to close a newly opened retail marijuana shop in downtown Haverhill, while also throwing out a larger and earlier zoning challenge.

The decisions by Judge Robert E. Foster allow Stem, owned by Caroline Pineau at 124 Washington St., to remain open. Last Saturday, Stem, became the first of four permitted adult-use marijuana stores to open in the city.

Foster said the request by opponents Stavros Dimakis of Mark’s Deli and Realtor J. Bradford Brooks and Lloyd Jennings, owners of 128-130 Washington St., for an emergency closure order became moot when the judge ruled against them on the larger city zoning challenge.

“Therefore, the plaintiffs by definition have no likelihood of success on the merits of their claim. In any event, judgment having entered, the case is final,” Foster wrote in his decision. Foster’s decision could be appealed to the state Appeals Court.

In granting the City of Haverhill’s final motion to dismiss claims the shop violated city zoning ordinances, Foster ruled, retail Licensed Marijuana Establishments are consistent with the city’s Licensed Marijuana Establishments Overlay Zone, Waterfront District and the Downtown Smart Growth Overlay District.

The opponents argued city rules call for a 500-foot buffer zone between any marijuana establishment and schools, childcare facilities, parks, churches, libraries, playgrounds and youth centers. However, Foster noted, Haverhill allows an exception within the Waterfront District Area.

The judge further ruled the city had a valid reason for creating the zones, pointing to a 2016 ballot question approved by voters that allowed recreational marijuana.

When filing the renewed request last Friday, Dimakis, Brooks and Jennings said there was increased potential for marijuana products to be diverted to children since more people are picking up meals at nearby restaurants since schools are closed. They also said operation of the store violates zoning ordinances and result in “increased traffic, stigma, parking issues, queuing, diversion,” among other concerns.

A year ago, the city’s lawyers temporarily sidelined the zoning challenge by convincing the Land Court that opponents had made federal claims that required the case to be heard in U.S. District Court. Thereafter, Dimakis, Brooks and Jennings withdrew the federal arguments.

The only remaining legal challenge is the opponents’ challenge of the Haverhill City Council’s granting of a special permit for the business.

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