Legal Marijuana Massachusetts

FILE - In this July 12, 2018, file photo, newly transplanted cannabis cuttings grow in soilless media in pots at Sira Naturals medical marijuana cultivation facility, in Milford, Mass.  (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

HAVERHILL — As the debate over marijuana sales in the city rages, the city council is poised to decide on permits for two proposed shops — one of which is the target of a lawsuit.

The council on Tuesday night is expected to decide whether to grant a permit for Haverhill's first pot shop, Full Harvest Moonz, near the Plaistow line. 

Full Harvest Moonz hopes to open a recreational store at 101 Plaistow Road, currently the site of Jimmy K's restaurant, which plans move to a new building.

A vote on whether to issue the first special permit for a pot shop in Haverhill was scheduled to happen at a council meeting two weeks ago, but was postponed to the June 4 council meeting, then was postponed to this week's special council meeting due to the absence last week of Councilor Thomas Sullivan. Councilor McGonagle had stepped out due to his conflict of interest, leaving a total of seven councilors at last Tuesday's meeting.

Next week, June 18, the council is scheduled to consider a permit for Haverhill Stem LLC, a pot shop proposed for the former Sons of Italy Hall at 124 Washington St., in the heart of downtown. 

The lawsuit by three local businessmen against the city and the proposed downtown pot shop was originally filed in state Land Court, which was expected late last week to decide on an injunction to block the shop. But the suit has been moved to federal court, and with no injunction from the Land Court, Cox said the city council will consider a permit for the shop at its meeting Tuesday night of next week.

The suit is being brought forward by downtown businessmen Bradford Brooks, a local realty professional and Lloyd Jennings, a local contractor, both of whom are listed in the suit as trustees of L&B Realty Trust. A third person, Steve Dimakis of Mark's Deli, is listed as a trustee of the Evthokia Realty Trust.

Cox said the suit alleges the zoning that allows for a pot shop in that area of downtown is not legal and was done incorrectly. The plaintiffs were asking the state Land Court to rule on the validity of that zoning, he said.

The suit specifically targets 124 Washington St., which for years housed the Sons of Italy, and which is where Caroline Pineau has proposed opening a pot shop under the name Haverhill Stem LLC. The suit indicates Pineau is leasing the building from The Westland Group LLC, which is also named in the suit.

At the council's June 4 meeting, Councilor Joseph Bevilacqua tried and failed to convince his colleagues to put the pot shop issue to a special vote of Haverhill residents.

The ballot question Bevilacqua was seeking would have given Haverhill voters the opportunity to reduce the number of pot shops in the city to below the six that the state has mandated, and, as a second option, to ban pot shops entirely.

Despite the council refusing to support Bevilacqua's proposal, Cox said a ballot question could go before Haverhill voters if a member of the public were to collect the signatures of 15 percent of registered voters on a petition in support the ballot question.

Cox noted, however, that placing a question on the November ballot will not prevent the five pending applications for pot shop permits in Haverhill from coming before the council. The applicants are grandfathered by state law from the restrictions which could be imposed by revising current zoning laws, he said.

According to City Clerk Linda Koutoulas, the following organizations have applied for special permits to open retail marijuana shops in Haverhill: Full Harvest Moonz; Haverhill Stem LLC; CNA Stores Inc., which proposes a shop at 558 River St.; Mellow Fellows, which wants to open a shop at the former Seafood Etc. restaurant at 330 Amesbury Road; and Haverwell Market LLC, which proposes a shop at 399 Amesbury Road behind the Mobil gas station.

Also at Tuesday's special council meeting, Mayor James Fiorentini is expected to present his capital improvement plan for the next fiscal year.

According to the mayor, a capital improvement program is a fiscal planning tool that documents the city's capital asset needs, ranks those needs in order of priority, and schedules projects for funding and implementation as the budget allows.

Categories under a capital improvement plan include land acquisition or leasing; building renovation, construction or acquisition through purchase or lease; infrastructure such as water and sewer pipes, roadwork, sidewalks, and other improvements; the purchase or upgrade of city vehicles such as fire trucks, and the purchase or upgrade/repair of air conditioning, heating and other systems within a municipal building.