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Lynn City Council may ban smoking pot in public

LYNN — The Lynn City Council is considering a ban on smoking pot in public.

The City Council will discuss, but not vote on, the possible ordinance on Tuesday night, which would prohibit the public use of marijuana. The Council is expected to set down a public hearing on the ordinance, which would take place Sept. 11.  

Under the drafted ordinance, “public place” would include any place to which the public or a substantial group of people have access and/or view.

That would include public ways, streets, sidewalks, walkways, alley or alleyways, highways, bridges, overpasses, parking lots, municipal buildings, municipal parking lot facilities, vacant or undeveloped lots, transportation facilities, parks, public pools, plazas, building facades, stairwells, alcoves, doorways, entrance ways, pedestrian malls, playgrounds, places of amusement, along with anywhere in apartment houses and hotels not constituting rooms or apartments designed for actual residence.

Any person who violates the ordinance, if it is passed, would be penalized by escalating fines of $100 for the first offense, $200 for the second offense, and $300 for the third offense and subsequent offenses.

Ward 5 City Councilor Dianna Chakoutis said the idea for an ordinance banning smoking pot in public came out of a neighborhood meeting she held with Ward 6 City Councilor Peter Capano last week at the Lynn Police Station.

Chakoutis said residents were concerned about how people were smoking marijuana everywhere and how they could smell it everywhere.

“We’re just trying to get it so people can’t walk down the streets smoking marijuana,” Chakoutis said. “What people do in the privacy of their own home, (we) cannot stop them.”

She said police at the meeting suggested that the City Council look into putting an ordinance to regulate marijuana use, which would be similar to the open container law with alcohol.

James Lamanna, the city’s attorney, said the police department asked that the Council give them some teeth in the law, as the state is still reacting to the pros and cons of marijuana legalization.

Massachusetts voters legalized marijuana for recreational use in 2016. But under state law, using pot is illegal in any public place. It’s also illegal to smoke pot in any place where smoking tobacco is banned.

“(Police) had concerns that the laws on the books weren’t sufficient to give them teeth with dealing with an issue that they thought should be dealt with,” Lamanna said. “The police department feels right now their hands are tied a little bit without guidance from the city or state.”

Chakoutis said she doesn’t expect much pushback at next month’s public hearing on the proposed ordinance, as people can’t smoke cigarettes in certain places. Common sense would say smoking marijuana by a playground should be prohibited, Lamanna added.

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