Councilor Colin LePage pushed to have the moratorium prohibiting the centers extended to next summer, but he was overruled by other councilors worried that state officials would have a negative view of such a lengthy delay. LePage said at least one other Massachusetts community has extended its moratorium to June.
City Solicitor William Cox told councilors that the point of the moratoriums is to allow communities time to establish regulations, but they aren’t supposed to be used to delay or stop the facilities.
Attorney Valerio Romano of Boston said his client had an agreement to lease a building on Hale Street for a medical marijuana operation. Due to the council’s inaction on the zoning measure, however, Romano said Haverhill would miss last week’s state deadline for deciding which applications for medical marijuana licenses should go forward. Romano said his client and others eyeing Haverhill will now turn their attention to communities that have established regulations for the centers.
While that might seem like good news for people who oppose the centers here, Romano said it means people who apply for hardship licenses to grow medical marijuana in their Haverhill homes will have strong cases.
“Haverhill is a big city and, in my opinion, by this time next year you are going to see hundreds of people with hardship licenses growing marijuana in their basements,” Romano said in an interview after Tuesday’s hearing.
Donna Rheaume, a former spokeswoman for the state Department of Public Health and founder of the Medical Marijuana Public Relations firm, agreed with Romano’s prediction. Rheaume said she expects it will be several years before the state considers allowing more dispensary licenses after the 35 that are expected to be handed out in the current round.
Neither Fiorentini nor Cox returned messages seeking their comments for this story. David Van Dam, Fiorentini’s aide, said the mayor did his part by forming a committee to make zoning recommendations, and that the matter is now in the hands of the City Council.