To the Editor:
As a property owner and divorced mother residing with my two young children, the recent push for three recreational cannabis dispensaries in our lovely town is quite perplexing. Though I am in favor of medicinal marijuana, why do the dispensaries have to be in our neighborhoods? Why are residents asked to pay exorbitant taxes and support school district referendums to maintain our excellent public schools, only to have our efforts undermined by another branch of our local government? Do we want our town to be known for this?
I arrived in this country at the age of 6 with my family as political refugees from Communist Cuba. Due to God’s grace, this country’s opportunities, and hard work, I was able to become a school psychologist, school counselor, school supervisor, interpreter/translator, psychiatric screener, etc., and am now raising my young children in Princeton. We all work very hard to live in such a blessed town. Please do not allow me to meet your family and friends when called for a psychiatric evaluation for them at an emergency room.
According to the CDC, marijuana can affect brain development. Developing children’s brains are especially susceptible to the harmful effects of marijuana and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Using marijuana before age 18 may permanently affect brain functions like attention, memory, and learning. Also, studies cited by the National Institute on Drug Abuse show that for those who start using marijuana in their teens, the odds of becoming dependent is 1 in 6.
Given these severe health risks, elected officials need to articulate how cannabis dispensaries will solve the pressing problems in Princeton and why it is worth risking the wellbeing of our youth.
Suppose local recreational dispensaries are to alleviate the accessibility problem. What is the approximate size of the Princeton population that will have difficulty purchasing legal marijuana without a local dispensary? If the inconvenience of driving down Route 1 is the problem, what is the size of the Princeton population that will not have access to mail orders?
If local recreational dispensaries are to make cannabis consumption safer, how many hospitalizations in Princeton were due to contaminated black market cannabis products last year?
If local recreational dispensaries are to restore social justice, how many people in Princeton who the War on Drugs unjustly harmed can the three proposed dispensaries help? Do the Black and Brown communities want recreational dispensaries in the neighborhood? Would you want it in yours?
Let us get the answers to all these questions first, add them up, and then ask ourselves, “is it worth scaring the adolescent years and jeopardizing the future of one Princeton child, ten or twenty?” Parents need straightforward answers to these questions.
The Cannabis Task Force argues that “the law as passed by the NJ Legislature has put into place adequate provisions to address the issue of underage use.” Yet, the reality in early legalized states where there are comparable if not stricter cannabis regulations argues the opposite. A recent study of 700 cannabis dispensaries in California shows that dispensaries loosely follow regulations designed to protect minors. In many states, the black market didn’t shrink as promised by regulators and instead enjoyed a boom after legalization. Princeton’s reputation of excellent public schools and a family-friendly environment convinced many families to pay a premium price to call this town home. The one thing most of these families want in common is a safe and nurturing place where their children can grow up to reach their fullest potential. Recreational marijuana dispensaries threaten to damage the very being of Princeton. Please make the right choice. Once again, I implore you, do not allow me to meet your family and friends when called for a psychiatric evaluation at an emergency room. Not in our town. Not in any of our neighborhoods, please.