Prohibiting dispensaries in Princeton won’t stop adolescents from using cannabis

Dear Editor,  

Exaggerated representations of the harms of cannabis for nearly a century continue to distort the public’s perceptions to this day. They led to a “war on drugs” with harsh penalties in the 1970’s. Those penalties led to high levels of incarceration, especially for people of color, and many other harms. Making cannabis illegal for so many decades has been entirely counterproductive. This has at last been recognized by our state with its recent legalization of this drug following approval by an overwhelming majority in the state referendum. 

In order for legalization to be effective, it is necessary to provide sale of the drug under controlled conditions and to prevent its purchase by minors. However the objections to such sales which have been raised in our town are based on a poor rationale. 

Cannabis is now legal. In the referendum, an even larger majority in Princeton voted for legalization than in the state as a whole. It is neither reasonable nor effective for the minority who opposed that to try to put up barriers to sales. Such barriers would not prevent use by minors—they would merely benefit the continuation of illegal sales. 

The reality is that Princeton’s children can readily buy illegal cannabis at school at present. That cannabis is totally unregulated and may contain harmful additives. Prohibiting dispensaries in the town for adults will not facilitate students’ access to the drug. Instead, the presence of legal dispensaries will reduce the prevalence of illegal supplies in town and so actually decrease illegal use by minors. 

Concern has been raised about the distance between cannabis dispensaries and our schools. Increasing the distance from school to dispensary is a distraction which will have no effect on sales to minors. The way to prevent sales to minors is to enforce the ID requirement at dispensaries, which has been done in other states and will be here too. No dispenser will risk his/her license for a few sales to minors. The procedure is well established for alcohol sales. There will of course be attempts by some minors to circumvent this regulation and these, like other attempts to break laws, will need to be deterred. But a draconian prohibition of dispensaries is not the way to proceed. That would instead have the highly undesirable and counterproductive effect of leading many users back to illegal and unregulated sources. It certainly won’t prevent kids from gaining access. 

Adults who wish to use cannabis for medical and recreational use will benefit hugely from a controlled and regulated source and deserve this after all these decades of prohibition. 

We learned in the 20th century the hard lesson that prohibition does not work. 


Anthony Lunn


  1. There is no prohibition. Feel free to order your dab kit and have it delivered to your front door along with any tincture and oil you want. Feel free to use 90 percent THC synthetic cannabis products to fry your own brain at your convenience because you have easy access to it without a single dispensary in Princeton. Nobody is prohibiting your use even to smoke a boring joint like the good old days.

  2. I learned in the twentieth century that people that self-medicate for mental health issues are called addicts and that they visit upon themselves and their families a devastating trauma whether they abuse legal or illegal substances.

    With the rightful end to prohibition, a tide is sweeping over us that is complex and we should be cautious. A new market has opened and a band of prospectors are rushing in to quickly stake their claims on a market that directly impacts the health of consumers while there are still no significant controls or regulations in place to protect them.

    The twentieth century also taught us that tobacco capitalists will happily take your money and leave you with cancer. And then others will overcharge you and spend some of your money to develop a PR campaign to assure us of the safety of things they know to be harmful. (Exxon, you know who you are.). With cannabis, the PR facade dresses itself as just another wellness alternative medicine ploy promising a balanced lifestyle in a moment of obscene income inequality. It also makes dishonest appeals to consumers through vague promises of becoming an entrepreneur. But those of us that actually learned from the twentieth century know that we and our communities are the real cost here.

    And by the way, normalizing cannabis consumption as is already happening in much of the cannabis publicity, certainly does encourage the use by minors. Mr Lunn, there’s data on this, and you’re wrong. But hey, good to know advocates like you have given up on stemming cannabis use among kids.

  3. If a community choosing not to have recreational marijuana shops in their neighborhood is called “prohibition”, I hereby register my strongest protest of Princeton’s prohibition of Chick-fil-A.

  4. Mr.l Lunn seems to either miss the point, or chooses to ignore, that endorsement of cannabis sales could logically send a message to youth that it’s all ‘ok’. Further, local sales, while a benefit to some, would certainly increase local use by young adults, those pregnant, and seniors who might be enticed by exaggerated health benefits to use an intoxicant that can, and does, exacerbate the effects of age related memory loss. Perhaps a review of the CDC list of health effects would help:
    It its also interesting to note that Mr. Lunn loudly campaigned recently for banning of leaf blowers and other gas powered lawn equipment which, while a nuisence, have little health effects outside of those using them. Would that he used that voice to champion for health protections from increased cannabis use, rather than rationalizing and normalizing its full acceptance.

  5. I also noted (too be polite) a glaring inconsistency in the opinion writer’s positions. He fought for, and got, a substantial ban on leaf blower use in Princeton – as a quality of life issue, not one that has any serious health impact.
    Now he’s arguing that we CAN’T ban a different product (recreational cannabis) because…well…it won’t solve all our drug problems in adolescents.
    So, he’s FOR a ban of a non-harmful (but admittedly irritating) product – leaf blowers; but he’s AGAINST a ban of a different product (recreational cannabis) that does have harmful health effects.

    1. Surprisingly, the number of air pollutants emitted by gas-powered leaf blowers and lawn mowers exceed pollutant emissions of large automobiles, which are regulated to reduce and capture many air pollutants. A 2011 study showed that a leaf blower emits nearly 300 times the amount of air pollutants as a pickup truck. Similarly, a 2001 study showed that one hour using a gas-powered lawn mower is equivalent to driving a car 100 miles. Gas-powered leaf blowers and lawn mowers have the potential to cause serious environmental damage, so finding alternatives and utilizing best practices is key (Source: Washington Post).

  6. There are lots of people pro dispensary that are also involved in Sustainable Princeton and The Watershed. Cannabis is detrimental to the environment both cultivation AND use. Mass commercialization of this plant is not only harmful to your body but also to Mother Earth. I’m sorry that you want to destroy people and the environment with your dependency and addiction. (Compassionate care excluded.). To justify this by linking it to social justice is wrong. People of any color or culture do not care to have daily dependence on the psychoactive drug that you are pushing into Princeton.

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