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August 7, 2013

Committee proposes to limit pot production

HAVERHILL — The city industrial parks might one day be home to a new cutting-edge business: manufacturing legal marijuana.

A mayoral committee has recommended that medical marijuana dispensaries be limited to the city’s business parks, and the City Council is expected to consider the zoning measure following a pubic hearing in two weeks. Mayor James Fiorentini filed the proposal with the council last night.

Two weeks ago, the council passed a moratorium on the centers, banning them until Oct. 1 at the earliest.

The use of medical marijuana in Massachusetts was approved by 63 percent of voters in November. In Haverhill, 60 percent of voters supported the measure, which removed criminal and civil penalties for medical marijuana use for patients with certain conditions.

The new law provides for 35 nonprofit medical marijuana treatment centers throughout the state, with no more than five in each county. The centers may grow, process and provide marijuana to patients who have a prescription from a doctor. The centers would be overseen by the state Department of Public Health.

Similar to pornography stores and even specific kinds of businesses and housing developments, cities and towns can regulate where medical marijuana dispensaries can be located, but they cannot ban them.

Fiorentini has said he sees it as unlikely that someone would try to open a marijuana center in Haverhill, because there can be only five in the county. But he also noted he has been contacted by a group that is scouting for locations.

The committee that made the zoning recommendation consists of Economic Development Director William Pillsbury, police Chief Alan DeNaro, Board of Health chairman Dr. Carl Rosenbloom, City Solicitor William Cox and City Councilor William Ryan.

Ryan previously said he expected the committee would target an industrial park for the marijuana zone.

“No one wants one in a residential neighborhood,” Ryan said.

Of the 351 communities in Massachusetts, only Lawrence and the small town of Mendon voted against the November state ballot question that legalized medical marijuana.

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