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Newton group pushes to ban pot shops

AP Photo/Steven Senne/File

Newton voters could face two ballot questions in November asking whether to limit or ban recreational marijuana businesses within city borders.

The 2016 measure legalizing marijuana in Massachusetts which the majority of Newton voters supported allows cities and towns to hold a local vote to determine whether to permit the commercial selling of marijuana and marijuana products.

Opt Out Newton, a committee created by a group of residents, is collecting signatures to put a question on Newton’s Nov. 6 ballot asking voters to ban recreational marijuana sales within the city.

Lisa Gordon, one of Opt Out Newton’s founders, said the group is concerned about the impacts on the city if retailers open in Newton. “A lot of people feel that having these stores right around the corner from their homes is not a good idea,” Gordon said in an interview.


Gordon said she is concerned that Newton will become a retail destination for marijuana. She also is concerned that people who purchase marijuana will consume it and then drive on local roads.

“I am concerned that the sites they are looking at are near village centers or, most recently, in village centers. I don’t believe pot shops are neighborhood friendly business establishments,” Gordon said.

She also said she is concerned about the impact on adolescent use of marijuana if pot is sold legally in Newton.

If Opt Out Newton collects 6,000 signatures by Aug. 22, the City Council will decide whether to put the initiative on the ballot. If the council declines, Opt Out Newton will have to obtain an additional 3,000 signatures by Sept. 26 to get its question on the ballot, according to the city clerk’s office.

Opt Out Newton brought a previous version of the initiative before the City Council earlier this month, but councilors voted against putting it on the ballot.


Instead, the City Council approved its own ballot question for the November election that would limit the number of retail pot shops in Newton to no more than four.

The two ballot initiatives raise a question about local election rules: If both appear on the ballot, and both are approved by voters, which one prevails?

The City Council will have to decide how to handle that before the vote, Ellen Ishkanian, a city spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. “The city law department is recommending that should both questions make it to the same ballot, the City Council move forward with a simple majority winning because that’s the model used in the City Charter,” Ishkanian said.

Neither proposal would impact businesses involved with medical marijuana in Newton.

John Hilliard can be reached at