Retail cannabis dispensaries in Princeton would increase adolescent marijuana use

As Princeton residents and professionals who work in the medical/mental health space, we feel it is important to share with the public what we have learned and seen on the job.

I am Sara Popkin, MD, Board Certified in General Psychiatry and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. I am all too aware of how vulnerable adolescents are to marijuana’s many known adverse effects. Marijuana’s impact on the cognition, behavior, and brain development of adolescents has both immediate and long-term implications, including, but not limited to, lasting decline in intelligence measures, academic failure, an increased incidence of psychotic, mood, anxiety and substance use disorders, an increased risk of motor vehicle accidents, and sexual victimization. Retail cannabis dispensaries in our town, even if restricted to adults, will be associated with a reduction of adolescents’ perception of marijuana’s harmful effects. In turn, this will increase rates of adolescent marijuana use and its associated problems. We need to be educating our youth about the significant harm that marijuana can inflict on their developing brains. This will be increasingly difficult to do if they see it being sold on Nassau Street.

I am Matt Bellace, PhD, a psychologist and drug prevention speaker. Since 1995, I’ve spoken in 48 US states and 5 Canadian provinces. I tell my own kids, “I’m this busy for a reason!” Youth drug abuse is such a tremendous problem in schools and communities they’re willing to bring in an expert from far away to talk about it. My parent programs focus on encouraging adults to model healthy behaviors because our kids are paying attention. When I started my career there was an almost hopeless attitude in this country of, “Teens use drugs and nothing will stop them, so why bother?” Interestingly, during the intervening years, teen alcohol and other drug use has plummeted to an all-time low. This may surprise you with the opioid epidemic raging, but there are numerous factors involved. However, there are two notable exceptions to the historic decline – vaping nicotine and the use of cannabis. Both of those have increased significantly. For many young people, the combination of the two (vaping THC) has become their drug of choice. In our town of Princeton, the old sense of hopeless is alive, “You can’t stop teens from using weed, so why not just open a dispensary or three?” It may not seem like it, but this decision matters. Young people are paying attention. Let’s be role models and keep dispensaries out of our town for the health of our youth.

I am Jared Newman, DO, Board Certified in Family Medicine. I am a family practitioner in Central New Jersey and have been practicing medicine for over 20 years. Through the years, I have dealt with my fair share of patients who have overdosed during the current opioid epidemic. I spoke to the parents of these patients to try and better understand the illness. When asking what the first drug was that their child used, the overwhelming consensus was always marijuana. It is our responsibility as parents and pillars of the community to protect our children and in my medical opinion, allowing the open sale of marijuana in Princeton will lead to more children being exposed to drugs and increased risk of addiction. I also work with many people in their 50s and 60s, who have multiple medical conditions including chronic pain. I am concerned about similar individuals in our community self-medicating with marijuana without the full understanding that today’s product has much stronger levels of THC than decades ago. These interactions could cause life threatening complications. For example, Cannabinoids affect key classes of cardiovascular medications including antiarrhythmics, calcium-channel blockers, statins, β-blockers, and warfarin, potentially leading to increased levels of these medications in those patients. Ease of sale through a store in Princeton puts this population at grave risk.


  1. I applaud these doctors for speaking up on behalf of our children, families and friends about the real effects of dependence on cannabis and the known harms. Their real life experiences are helpful. I hope council pays attention to these knowledgeable people and their personal insight.

  2. Absolutely, legal does not mean safe, especially with all the industry money behind expanding the cannabis market. Their profits come at the cost of our health. We’ve seen this already with tobacco.

    1. Kevin,
      The survey you link to DOES show a decrease in cannabis use in adolescents in 2020 – in states with and without legalization. No one can deny that 2020 was an odd year. While we don’t know it for certain, it seems logical to suggest that obtaining and smoking cannabis while being at home with your parents all year SHOULD lead to a decrease in smoking cannabis. Is that due to legalization and commercialization? WAY too soon to tell.

  3. These doctors are much more trustworthy than those profit-driven marijuana lobby group’s paid doctors.

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