The Cannabis Task Force (CTF) recently presented their unanimously-supported recommendation report to the Princeton Mayor and Council. The decision to open recreational dispensaries presents great uncertainties for our community, yet the CTF’s report has taken an entirely Pollyannaish attitude. No negative effects or risk mitigation strategies are mentioned. Scientific data supports the link between recreational local cannabis dispensaries and the increase of cannabis use among the underage group. There are also notable negative impacts on public health, public safety, the environment and real estate values. Ignoring all negatives makes the report exclusively one-sided, clearly incomplete, and casts serious doubt on its conclusions.
Twenty-two people were involved in authoring the CTF report. Strangely, nobody highlighted lessons learned from cannabis retail implementations in other states, and the need to include a risk mitigation plan. Where are the BOE members, school principals, child psychologists, addiction therapists, and pediatricians in the CTF?
The CTF report claims local dispensaries will “reduce underage access to cannabis by working to eliminate Princeton’s illegal cannabis market.” Yet, there is no evidence supporting that claim. On the contrary, legal dispensaries in many parts of the country have created a boom for underground markets by introducing cannabis products to more people, especially the young.
The CTF stresses that they kept social and racial justice considerations in the forefront in formulating their recommendations. Unfortunately, the report fails to articulate how establishing cannabis dispensaries will benefit those in our community who have been wronged by the injustice of the War on Drugs and how it will benefit our community as a whole. While it’s an admirable intention to use all of the 2% revenue from local dispensaries toward social justice causes, the report includes no projection of estimated tax revenue and is void of any discussions on the potential costs our town will likely incur on abuse treatment, abuse prevention and education, law enforcement and public safety. A detailed cost-benefit analysis should be an integral part of any studies on this issue.
Our community, especially our youth, deserves thorough and balanced due diligence from the Cannabis Task Force. Princeton is a town that said no to McDonald’s. We should at least exercise the same level of prudence when it comes to local cannabis dispensaries.