Cannabis forum scheduled for May 17

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The Princeton Council is poised to pick up where it left off in seeking public comment on whether to allow as many as three retail cannabis stores to open in town at a special meeting.

The May 17 meeting, which has been billed as a listening session and not an “action” meeting, is a continuation of the Princeton Council’s listening session held March 29.

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The Princeton Cannabis Task Force has already identified several areas in town where cannabis stores could open their doors to sell it for recreational purposes.

At the March 29 meeting, proponents of opening retail cannabis stores and those who opposed it were given time to outline the reasons for their positions. Once the two sides had completed their presentations, the meeting was opened for public comment.

But after three hours’ worth of public comment and the inability to hear from all who wished to speak, the Princeton Council agreed to hold another listening session and set May 17 as the date.

The featured speakers at the March 29 meeting ranged from the regional organizer for NORML – an advocacy group that has promoted the legalization of cannabis, or marijuana – to the Maplewood deputy mayor, a clinical neuropsychologist and a psychologist who treats addiction.

Those who favored allowing retail cannabis stores to open in Princeton framed the argument in social justice terms, pointing to the many Black and Brown people who had been arrested for possession of marijuana before New Jersey legalized it.

Opponents countered that it’s about making money and ignoring the potential for mental health and addiction issues to develop. They also dismissed claims that allowing cannabis stores would promote social and racial justice.

Meanwhile, the Princeton Board of Health weighed in and has called for a hold to be put on a proposal to sell cannabis for recreational use through retail cannabis stores until plans are in place for increased education and outreach.

The Princeton Board of Health also recommended adoption of the “Least Harmful Cannabis Usage Guidelines,” regardless of the presence of retail cannabis stores or dispensaries in town. The document is modeled after similar guidelines developed in Canada and based on an article published in the International Journal of Drug Policy.

The Princeton Public Schools has taken the position that if retail cannabis stores are allowed to open in town, they should be at least 1,000 feet away from a school, which is the federal drug-free school zone buffer.

The school board stated that if retail cannabis stores are permitted to open, the school district should receive a portion of the 2% sales tax proceeds from the sale of cannabis to be used to pay for school and public information campaigns about cannabis and its effect on the adolescent brain.

The school board also sought a commitment from Princeton municipal government, the Princeton Police Department and would-be cannabis store owners to enforce state law so that no sales would be made to anyone under 21 years old.

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