Opinion: Oppose retail marijuana commercialization in Princeton

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As a 50-year Princeton resident and family mental health advocate, I oppose for now recreational marijuana shops in Princeton.

That 75% of Princeton residents voted for the cannabis referendum expressed our town’s desire generally to address this sore matter. But that vote was no mandate to commercialize recreational marijuana here. Much more preparation, research, and truly inclusive community response are needed first.

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All should watch the Cannabis Task Force (CTF) meeting videos on the municipality’s website. They reveal CTF members obsessing about social justice to the exclusion of all other considerations for community public health and well-being. Self-righteous talk about Princeton’s “values”: displays of beautifully designed examples of “cannabis dispensaries” as models for Princeton; importunings by zealous out-of-town advocates from Bayonne, Philadelphia, Paulsboro, Trenton and even Colorado; demands for cash reparations for all Blacks ever arrested for marijuana possession in Princeton; assurances of impartial probity from a CTF stacked with national-level self-interested partisans; casual dismissal of the possibility of a local referendum about retail shops; a CTF composition imbalance so unrepresentative as to exclude all our town’s 18% of Asians.

By leaning in so much to bringing marijuana dispensaries to Princeton, the CTF in a subtle, soothing, but sinister way is living up to its moniker as a “force.”

So much is wrong with the current CTF logic and process. Cannabis, especially THC, is indisputably a psychoactive substance. Science has repeatedly shown that cannabis consumption can exacerbate schizophrenia latency and symptoms and depression in some.

Cannabis, while not methamphetamine, is also undeniably addictive for others.

Cannabis consumption can debilitate young people’s developing brains up to the age of 25, resulting in slower learning, social detachment, and even reduction of IQ.

Federal law still outlaws marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance, blocking necessary further research and constraining any local institutions receiving federal funds, notably Princeton University and Princeton’s Public Housing Agency.

Unreferenced arrest data presented by the CTF’s ACLU advocate contradicts and overstates that recorded in Princeton Police Department’s annual reports.

The FDA has not approved or even studied the product quality of prospective cannabis offerings, medicinal or recreational.

Activists blithely suppose cannabis should be regulated like alcohol, when the more appropriate oversight model is tobacco.

One more thing: No Princeton resident opposes the social justice element of this matter. Yes, reduce arrests. Promote expungements. Even fund (from general funds, not pot sales taxes) better social justice initiatives, like more affordable housing and college scholarships. But not marijuana commercialization.

And another thing: Let’s stop calling potential pot shops “cannabis dispensaries,” which wrongly conveys a clinical and medicinal impression. That’s such a deception, especially to adolescents. Marijuana stores, like liquor stores, should never be confused with pharmacies.

Please slow down this juggernaut. Princeton residents may have voted 75% in favor of legalization, but I bet that 75% of Princeton community members would vote against rapid mass retail recreational marijuana commercialization in town. Princeton deserves a better process and public health policy product for such a portentous local public health issue.

 

Thomas Pyle

Princeton

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