With consensus on cannabis concerns, school board will send statement to Princeton Council

The school board members for the Princeton Public Schools were in agreement at a meeting Tuesday night about a statement to be sent to the Princeton Council regarding concerns about retail cannabis businesses operating in Princeton in the future.

School board members want a buffer of at least 1,000 feet for any cannabis dispensaries situated near schools. They also want a portion of tax revenues from cannabis dispensaries to be directed to the school district to be used for education regarding cannabis use and the effects of cannabis on health and the adolescent brain, and for policy reviews and training for issues related to students and staff suspected of cannabis use on school property. The school board also wants dispensary owners in town to strictly enforce laws prohibiting sales to minors.

More than 740 Princeton residents have signed a petition calling on the Princeton Council to prohibit the sale of cannabis near schools, playgrounds, and residential neighborhoods. Many residents who signed the petition agree that cannabis use should be decriminalized, but they say that doesn’t necessarily mean cannabis should be sold at retail stores on Princeton, or at least in certain locations in town.

Resident Shenwei Zhao applauded the board for the statement on Tuesday night during public comment. He asked how involved the school board has been in the work of the local cannabis task force. The former interim superintendent appointed a school nurse to the task force. There was no school board representation on the task force. Shenwei Zhao asked if the nurse who served on the task force agreed with the task force’s recommendation that a 200-foot buffer between schools and cannabis shops was sufficient when the school board is calling for a buffer of 1,000 feet.

Resident Bob Schwartz said the school board should not be getting involved in the issue.

Resident Jian Chen praised the board for the statement and encouraged the board to stay engaged on the issue. “Even though the district and the state voted overwhelmingly to legalize cannabis, it is not a refutation of the negative health consequences of cannabis, especially on underage users. Also, legalization doesn’t equate with normalization and commercialization of cannabis products.”

Resident David Jenkins said a minimum buffer of 1,000 feet between a school property and cannabis businesses should be enforced. He called the 200-foot proposal by the task force one of the most agressive proposals in the state, if not the entire country. In Maine, state law requires a 1,000-foot buffer. Many towns in California have zoning regulations providing for a 1,000-foot buffer. San Francisco changed its buffer from 1,000 feet to 600 feet in 2017. In Colorado, state law recommends a 1,000-foot buffer between medical marijuana facilities and schools, drug rehabilitation centers, and child care centers. But the law allows local authorities to set their own rules.

Resident Sheila Geoghegan asked the school board what other towns with families and large student populations are doing in New Jersey. She also asked whether school board members have reached out to other school boards to see how they are addressing the issue.
“Sometimes I feel like we think about this issue in our bubble without looking across the country or within New Jersey and other towns and how they’re wrestling with this issue,” she said. “I wonder if the school board confers with other school boards across New Jersey to understand what the zeitgeist on this issue is across the rest of New Jersey.”

Resident Rita Rafalovsky said she thinks cannabis deserves a place in our society, especially for medical purposes. She also acknowledged that wrong things were done in the war on drugs. “It’s certainly been legalized and decriminalized, and all those things are good things. And I think our community really very much supports that at large. A majority of us do support that,” Rafalovsky said. “But I think that many parents have a lot of concerns with the quality of the task force report that was done, and in our community, we are concerned about what controls will be in place once these cannabis dispensaries are out there.”

Rafalovsky said cannabis is readily available from dispensaries and can also be ordered online and delivered, and that access is no longer a problem. “But there are issues with making sure that our minors do not get access to it,” she said. “There are issues that come with the normalization of having this material very close to our children…In other places, in other states, it has been very difficult to police this kind of activity. If you look at Oregon, if you look at Washington State, if you look at California, you can see that some of the lessons learned on what worked and what didn’t.”

The two speakers during public comment who spoke in support of the cannabis task force’s report were both people who want to open retail cannabis stores in Princeton.

Abigail Kalmbach, a graduate of Princeton University who has a doctorate from Northwestern University and is a research scientist at the Columbia University Department of Psychiatry, told the school board she hopes to receive a micro license for a cannabis dispensary in Princeton. She did not mention in her comments that she served on Princeton’s cannabis task force but stepped down after she decided to open her own cannabis business in town.

“We need to take the intellectual approach to understanding cannabis before making any hasty decisions, and education is critically important,” she said, adding that a 1,000-foot buffer between school property and cannabis businesses is too much because it would eliminate a lot of potential commercial spaces in town as locations for a dispensary. “I also think that we should look at how Princeton can act as a leader in the community to select the right educators to realize how cannabis in Princeton can work and make sense for other towns and for state at large,” she said.

Smrita Choubey, a South Brunswick native and graduate of the business school at Columbia University who worked in mergers and acquisitions at American Express for four years in New York, and in healthcare investment banking at JP Morgan for three years before starting her New York-based businesses Veda Farms and Veda Warrior, said she hopes to become a cannabis entrepreneur in Princeton and distribute her organically grown “craft” cannabis in town. She said she will be building a network of organic cannabis farms following ancient traditions of India, where she said cannabis has been used as a medicine for thousands of years. She acknowledged it is important to develop a strategy that includes children and makes the community safe. “However, we have to be honest about the historical facts that are at hand here. Cannabis was a medicine for thousands of years throughout human civilization,” she said. “Only in the last 100 years was this really banned and outlawed out of our community for entirely racist and political reasons. So while I absolutely agree with taking a very measured approach that is intellectual in nature, I also believe that we should not make any hasty decisions without fully allowing an opportunity for local residents to get educated about this. And one of the education points is literally like, there’s so much medicinal use that has been thrown away. And if we could only educate our communities on how to use this mindfully, it does not need to be a drug. It has been used as medicine for thousands of years. So that’s where education really comes in.”

School district officials said their role is advisory and they have no official authority when it comes to the task force or the council’s decisions. The board members agreed to send the statement on to the Princeton Council and said they would be happy to have discussions with the council. School officials encouraged residents to express their thoughts and concerns with the council, which will take up the issue of cannabis dispensaries early next year. The last meeting of the cannabis task force for 2021 is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Dec. 16 vias Zoom. Attendees must register to receive a Zoom link.Attendees must register to receive a Zoom link.


  1. Fellow Princeton residents,

    Please help make your voice heard on the issue of recreational marijuana dispensaries in Princeton by filling out this one-minute survey below.


    I encourage you to attend today’s CTF meeting and write to our council members.

    Thank you.

  2. BoE has shown that it truly supports our children and families and their well being by speaking about how Princeton cannabis dispensaries will affect schoolchildren. It would be even better if they said no to monetary gain and no to pot shops all around Princeton. Other area towns have opposed and opted out of cannabis businesses: Montgomery, West Windsor, Cranbury. Why not Princeton? This is a very despicable money grab and exposes greed by the mayor and council at the expense of our town and children. Vote for people who care.

  3. Ms. Choubey should work on her town of South Brunswick’s opt out on cannabis instead of promoting it to Princeton families for her own enrichment.

  4. I am glad that the School Board has stated its opinion on this issue. However, I think the distance of dispensaries from school buildings should be governed by a number of factors including the safety of our children, as well as reasonable convenience for those who wish to purchase marijuana and may not own automobiles. Is 1,000 feet minimum the right distance in all cases? …… not necessarily. I think it depends on where in our small town we are talking about.

    Complete prohibition of dispensaries in Princeton won’t work and is counterproductive. Witness alcohol prohibition in the early 20th century. How well did that work out? Plus it’s a well known fact that middle and high school children already have access to marijuana of unknown quality. This is not to say that a higher quality product should be sold to underage children in Princeton. The sales rules proposed by the task force – and in NJ State law – must be followed.

    Finally, as a senior citizen with health issues who would like to try high quality marijuana for both medical and recreational purposes, I don’t want to be driving all over the State to purchase it. Nor do I want to obtain unknown quality product by mail order. I would like a local dispensary whose owners I can get to know and trust, and who have demonstrated knowledge of this product which for too long has been sold in the shadows. And for which an untold number of people have had their lives ruined by Incarceration for being in a business that has been with us for centuries…. if not millennia.

    1. John, your right to consume medical or recreational marijuana is legally protected. If you understand how the law ties the hands of law enforcement trying to protect the youth from both legal and illegal sales, you might be less supportive of local dispensaries. Also, our kids have been wearing mask for almost two years and taken shots to protect the vulnerable population that you belong to. I plead you to show the same compassion to the vulnerable children whom the cannabis industry has every intention to prey on.

      Did prohibition work? I don’t know. But I know we have now almost 100k deaths from alcohol abuse every year.

  5. Los niños de las mujeres que consumieron marihuana durante el embarazo, o poco después, tienen el doble de probabilidades que otros niños de ser ansiosos, agresivos o hiperactivos, según un nuevo estudio. Los hallazgos añaden credibilidad a un creciente conjunto de datos que relacionan el uso de la marihuana durante el embarazo con problemas psiquiátricos en niños. Los problemas de comportamiento quizá se deban en parte a cambios en la actividad de genes que se encuentran en la placenta, el órgano que proporciona nutrientes y oxígeno al feto en crecimiento.

  6. If you were concerned about equity you wouldn’t have a tax on cannabis to profit from at all, which is a motivating factor for the state and the town to even have dispensaries in addition to gouging the user. Simple greed. The tax just increases the price of the product. The tax harms medical cannabis users who also have to pay for doctors visits, chemotherapy, medicine.

  7. 1,000 feet is a walkable distance.
    Any closer and it would be in your house.
    Pressure the state to allow homegrown, no tax and you can control what you grow. Then you can use as much as you please just steps away. Stoners for free pot. Why hasn’t the state allowed homegrowing? I bet the cannabis lobby will object as well as the cartels. What do they have in common? Greed for your money. Then again, the CTF says the money is just a side benefit. The money doesn’t really matter.

  8. Thank you for your thorough reporting of this important issue. I am against recreational dispensaries in our town and think the issue boils down to priorities. Cannabis is abused by our children and both sides on this issue agree that it is very damaging to their physical and mental wellbeing because their brains are still developing. And, we have a lot of children in our town: Princeton University, PHS, PUMS, PCS, JP, CP, PDS, Stuart, Chapin, Princeton Academy, etc. Should we want to put adult access to recreational marijuana above the safety and well being of our children? Because adults already have easy access to cannabis through the mail and dispensaries in neighboring towns, I don’t think we should allow dispensaries in our town and I certainly don’t think we need 3 of them or that they should be 200 feet from schools, parks etc. We also shouldn’t allow them unless and until our police department is given clear direction on what role, if any, they are allowed to play when they come across underage use because the laws as written give our police very limited powers. Thank you

  9. A dispensary already exists on Route 1.

    Online ordering available
    3256 Brunswick Pike (route 1)
    (609) 212-4351

  10. The effects of alcohol are much much worse than Cannabis. There is scientific consensus on this. Alcohol is more addictive than Cannabis. Yet, we seem to have no problem with liquor stores. In fact we have to dodge bottles while grocery shopping in MCaffery. I rather not have either stores in Princeton but if I had to chose one, I chose Cannabis over alcohol. It’s safer and it also has medicinal properties.

  11. Marijuana is 30 times more potent than just decades ago and comes in the form of “shatter,” “dabs,” or in vapes. These high-potency products now dominate the market.

    Dozens of studies have raised the alarm that those using ultrapotent weed have higher risk of schizophrenia or psychosis. This includes a recent study published in the Journal of American Medicine that found high-potency marijuana was associated with large increases in addiction and mental health concerns.

    Research yourself.

  12. Statistical data substantiates the concerns concerning the adverse effects marijuana has on the young.

    In 2014 and 2018, the proportion of suicides under the influence of marijuana have increased from 14 to 23%. Marijuana is the most common drug found in the toxicology of teenagers who have committed suicide. Between 2014 and 2018, the proportion of suicides under the influence of marijuana has increased from 14 to 23%. Of teenagers aged 15-19 who committed suicide in 2018, 37% tested positive for marijuana (of the two thirds whose toxicology information was available). The trend appears to be exacerbated by the growing potency of the drug, which causes irreversible damage to teenagers’ health.

    “This is not the same marijuana”

    A study by the National Institute of Drug Abuse reveals the potency of regular leaf marijuana sold in the US has increased from an average of 6% of THC (the psychoactive component) in 2008 to over 16% today. In addition, some new forms of marijuana products released on the recreational market now have a potency that exceeds 60% of THC. The increased THC concentration is associated with increased risks of cannabis use disorder (CDU) and psychotic incidents.

    “This is not the same marijuana. When I was a kid, very low percentage of THC, now, it’s over 90% with the shutters, waxes and dabs that they’re using, it’s very toxic.”

    Consider all the facts and make an informed decision.

Comments are closed.