Time to end the Retail Cannabis Discussion in Princeton: Disband the Cannabis Task Force

Dear Editor,

The release of the Princeton Cannabis Task Force (CTF) report in late November of 2021 has prompted ongoing public debates for over five months. Among all meetings I have attended, both public and private, the voices against retail cannabis remain an overwhelming majority. Participation in the discussion has broken some records in the recent history of Princeton. For example, in the March 29th special mayor and council meeting, about 350 people participated the Zoom call. With 60+ people raising their hands, waiting for their 3-minutes public comment, the mayor had to end the meeting and set up a follow-up meeting for May 17th so each resident who wants to comment can speak. Among comments made in these public meetings and all the opinion letters sent to various local media, the majority of them are opposing the opening of retail cannabis.

On the one hand, it is very impressive for me, a first-generation immigrant from a place where public debate simply does not exist, to see Princeton demonstrate this great democratic process. On the other hand, I could not stop but ask myself: Does opening a few retail cannabis stores really worth the efforts and time for everyone involved?

By now, I have had opportunities to talk to pretty much every elected official in Princeton. A common theme I gathered so far is Princeton has so many ongoing issues and the opening of retail cannabis does not seem to be on the top of the priority list.

I recently joined a dialogue with 19 other residents. The main topic was retail cannabis but we also talked about other things. Among these participants, there were long-term Princeton residents but the majority of us were first-generation immigrants from all over the world: China, Indian, Cuba, and Europe. Ethnicity-wise, the group consists of Asians, Black, Latinx and White. Coming from all walks of life, we have two things in common: the love of Princeton and opposing the opening of retail cannabis in town. Sitting in that meeting with everyone’s camera on, I really hoped CTF members could have noticed us before they started to draft the “unanimous” report in their echo chamber: They have missed so many things and so many people. As a result, the report created more trouble and divisiveness among us than what it claimed to resolve.

It’s time for the council to listen to the public and show leadership: disband the Cannabis Task Force. To the CTF members who are our fellow Princetonians, as much as I respect their volunteerism, the impressive title they might have, and the achievements they have reached in their professions, the sum of the CTF work really has not demonstrated any good to our town. It is very one-sided, misleading, superficial, divisive, and has added unnecessary workload to drain the brainpower of our elected officials.

Mr. Mayor and Council Members, please disband the Cannabis Task Force and end this retail cannabis discussion in Princeton.

Shenwei Zhao
Prospect Avenue

One Comment

  1. The final Cannabis Task Force recommendations submitted to Mayor and Council serve as the end to the task force. According to the Princeton government handbook, task forces are established for a set amount of time and are temporary. The volunteers were asked to be on the CTF for 5 to 8 months on February 17, 2021. In his 2022 Council reorganization statement the mayor called for greater transparency through BCCs instead of temporary task forces. Thank you Mayor Freda.

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