Following a tearful testimonial from a local woman whose husband relies on medicinal marijuana to treat a debilitating disease, city councilors unanimously defeated a motion Thursday night that would have made it difficult for Salem to obtain one of Essex county's five medical marijuana dispensary licenses.
Prior to the vote, Nicole Snow Dawson, of Salem, told councilors that her husband, Tom Dawson relies on medicinal marijuana to treat pain associated with neurofibromatosis, a genetic condition that causes him to be abnormally prone to tumors.
Dawson fought back tears as she described a time when her husband told her he would rather deal with the pain from frequent surgeries than suffer through the side effects caused by the pills prescribed to him by physicians.
"He couldn't eat, he got sick, he was pale and nauseous...so our only option was to get him the medicine he needed," she said. "Not long after he took his first puff from the vaporizer, the color returned to his face, he was smiling, he was relaxed and that's how we got through it. Using medical cannabis."
The motion to review the city's current zoning ordinance, raised by Ward 3 councilor Todd Siegel, would have required that the council schedule a joint hearing with the city's Planning Board - a lengthy process that lawyers representing prospective dispensary operators called a stalling tactic.
In the coming months, the state's Department of Public Health will announce the five municipalities in Essex County that will be awarded medical marijuana dispensary licenses. 35 licenses will be issued statewide, five in each county.
Prior to the vote, Salem Attorney and former city councilor George Atkins, who spoke on behalf of the Newburyport-based Alternative Therapies Group Inc., told councilors that the city's current zoning ordinance already includes a well-written definition of what a medical dispensary is and doesn't need any editing.