City officials are studying applications from four recreational marijuana businesses looking to locate in New Bedford. It's a process many thought would be completed long before now.

City Councilor Ian Abreu has long supported recreational marijuana businesses in New Bedford as a way to create jobs and bring in revenue.

Abreu tells WBSM's Brian Thomas he understands the reason behind the deliberate approach.

"Our Mayor is a little more conservative on cannabis and I fully understand and respect that, given his legal background," said Abreu.

He added, "the reality is we have to find some middle ground between the legislative and executive branch of the city in regards to zoning."

On the subject of cannabis cafés in New Bedford, Abreu called them an interesting idea. He says, though, locating a "social consumption site" in New Bedford would require a city-wide referendum, per state law.

Abreu says he would be okay with a ballot question on the issue.

"We the people, right? If there's a portion of the population that feels passionate about it, and they want to mobilize and collect signatures and get it on the ballot, I've got no problem with that," he said. "That's democracy in action."

The state's Cannabis Commission wants to gradually roll out the cannabis café concept in a dozen cities and towns around the Commonwealth, but the legislature will have to make a change to the state's marijuana laws to make it happen.

State officials are also recommending stringent rules to prevent people under 21 from entering social consumption sites, and training for employees to recognize when a patron is too high to drive safely.