METHUEN – City officials are eyeing a temporary moratorium on recreational marijuana establishments, joining a slew of municipalities throughout the state in attempting to set restrictions on the drug's sale.

The moratorium would be in the form of a zoning bylaw amendment that would restrict the use of “land or structures” for the retail sale of recreational marijuana – including dispensing, processing and cultivation – through either Nov. 1, 2018, or for six months after the effective date of the state's Cannabis Control Commission regulations, whichever is greater, according to language from the state attorney general's office being used by the city.

While the city is currently courting three proposed medical marijuana dispensaries, Mayor Stephen Zanni introduced the moratorium at a City Council meeting Monday night and spoke out against recreational marijuana being sold in Methuen.

“I think it's important that we as a city take a stand to prevent pot shops from entering our community,” Zanni said.

Sales of recreational marijuana in Methuen would “be a detriment to our kids in the future,” he continued.

“Can they go to other cities? Yes. But I don't think we should have it here in our city,” Zanni said.

While Massachusetts as a whole voted to legalize recreational marijuana last year, Methuen, by a slim margin, did not.

The legalization of recreational marijuana went into effect on Dec. 15. But legislators pushed back the opening of recreational pot shops until the middle of 2018. 

The city now joins more than one-third of the 351 municipalities in the state in considering, or having considered, restrictions on recreational marijuana establishments. Some communities have approved bans, while others have approved temporary moratoriums. For instance, voters at North Andover Town Meeting approved a moratorium earlier this year.

According to language from the attorney general's office, the moratorium is designed to allow the city to go through a planning process to prepare for recreational marijuana sales, including reviewing regulations and potentially adopting new zoning bylaws.

Keeping in mind Methuen's vote against legalizing recreational marijuana, some councilors spoke favorably of the moratorium on Monday.

“The moratorium is definitely a good idea,” said west district Councilor Lynn Vidler, while stressing the importance of following the appropriate process for enacting the moratorium in a timely manner.

“The moratorium is important so that we can plan and administer a correct zoning map for anyone that is going to pursue any type of retail marijuana shop,” she said after the meeting.

Councilors voted to table the moratorium to an upcoming public hearing with the Community Development Board. A date for the hearing has not yet been set. If the city ultimately passes the moratorium, it would have to be sent to the attorney general's office for final approval.

Follow Lisa Kashinsky on Twitter @lisakash23.

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