NEW BEDFORD — In anticipation of the state's plan to begin accepting applications for licenses to operate recreational marijuana establishments in April, officials are continuing to determine how they will govern the drug.

In an 8-3 vote, City Council has decided to refer an ordinance that would place a temporary moratorium on opening up the recreational marijuana industry in the Whaling City to a second reading at the state level. Being a state initiative, will also be reviewed by the Ordinance Committee and the Planning Board.

The vote comes as the state is preparing legislation for recreational use and sale of cannabis, letting individual municipalities determine how to govern it in their own districts.

Ward Six Councillor Joe Lopes voted in favor of the moratorium and says that it shouldn't last longer than about six months.

“What we're doing is giving the city additional time to put everything in a row,” Lopes explained. “The state is not coming up with their findings until the end of March and things take over in April. Nobody knows what the state findings have been, so how do you make an ordinance without knowing what the state is going to allow?”

City Councillor At-Large Deborah Coelho also voted for the moratorium, calling the move a safety precaution.

“We want to proceed with caution and I think that's exactly what that does. Its nothing for us to be overly concerned about, but it's a safety precaution that I think is very well intended,” Coelho said.

When asked if the safety precaution is more of a financial or criminal concern, Coelho said, “I think it's both, really.”

City Councillor At-Large Brian Gomes voted against the moratorium along with Council President Linda Morad and Ward Four Councillor Dana Rebeiro. He says there's plenty of time to ensure the city is ready and prepared to take on recreational marijuana.

“There's no need for a moratorium. We have not heard from the state or the commission yet on what the rules and regulations will be. We will be governed by the state, not by the city, by the state,” said Gomes. “I'm sure there's things we want to look at to make sure the city is safe, but there's plenty of time to do that.”

City Council also acted on the ongoing search for a site to house a new public safety building in the south end. They voted unanimously to refer to the Committee on City Property an order from Mayor Jon Mitchell asking for a Request For Proposal (RFP) and two responses to purchase property for the site.

The Mayor also requested the Committee on City Property ratify the RFP process, select the preferred site, commission an appraisal, and provide direction regarding the purchase and sales agreement.

“This is a long time coming,” Coelho said. “As we know, public safety is by far the most important the most important element for everybody in the City of New Bedford. This is something that we as an administration and as a council have been working together on and have started to see fruition where we see the layout, so it's very exciting.”

The City is sending proposals for two locations in the south end. One is a business owned by Dr. Ahmet Dirica at 890 Brock Avenue, the other owned by Clark's Cove Development for parcels of land on ES Bolton Street and WS Orchard Street.

Councillor Lopes says the RFP process is necessary for the city to negotiate to buy the land it's aiming to combine three sources of public safety onto. Lopes says that the building will house the police and fire departments for the south end, as well as ambulances for EMT use, making it an all-purpose public safety building.

“We've already approved up to $2 million to buy the land and for design study. Now it's just its just beginning the process of acquiring the land through the RFP process.” Lopes said.

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