HAVERHILL — “The City of Haverhill is neither in favor or opposed to the siting of a marijuana dispensary in the City of Haverhill.”
That declaration of neutrality in an application for a medical marijuana license by the nonprofit Healthy Pharms Inc. was a key factor in the state’s decision to give the group a provisional license to open a medical marijuana dispensary in Haverhill.
The words are from a letter written to the state by City Councilor Robert Scatamacchia when he was council president last year. Several councilors said they were not aware of the letter until recently and hadn’t seen it until a copy of Healthy Pharm’s application was provided to them by a reporter.
“That kind of letter should have been on the council’s agenda,” said Councilor William Macek, who added he has serious concerns about a medical marijuana dispensary on Hale Street, a busy section of the inner city.
Only applications with letters of either support or non-opposition received provisional licenses Friday from the state’s public health department. An application for a dispensary in Lawrence that included a letter of opposition from that city’s new mayor, Daniel Rivera, for instance, was rejected.
Mayor James Fiorentini said he was approached by a representative of Healthy Pharms and asked to sign a letter of non-opposition, but that he refused. Instead, the company got Scatamacchia to sign it.
In a phone interview yesterday, Scatamacchia said he signed the letter on behalf of the full council and that every councilor should have received a copy. Scatamacchia said he signed the letter, which is undated and is on official City of Haverhill stationary, when he was council president last year.
“I would never take a position as president that the other city councilors did not support or were not aware of,” he said. “It was not a unilateral letter by me. It was on behalf of the council.”
The center is planned for an old furniture building at 114 Hale St. The building is just north of downtown in an industrial area just outside Lafayette Square. The building is near the north end of Hale Street, around the corner from several homes.
While some of the 20 winning proposals for dispensaries in Massachusetts are to include various components of delivery, medical marijuana is to be grown, processed and dispensed at the Hale Street site. It was one of only two sites selected for a license in Essex County. The other one is in Salem.
The city as a whole voted in favor of legalizing medical marijuana, along with most other Massachusetts communities, in a statewide election in 2012. The city is currently under a City Council-imposed moratorium that prohibits a dispensary from opening here, while officials consider new zoning that would limit where one can be located. The moratorium expires Feb. 25, unless the council renews it.