November 24, 2021

Asking Council Members to Avoid Rushing to Opt-In to Cannabis Retail

To the Editor:

The Princeton Cannabis Task Force (CTF) is holding a meeting on November 30 and plans to propose an ordinance to opt-in to allowing up to three retail cannabis dispensaries in town, possibly in areas where kids walk past and cycle to school. If a majority of town Council members vote for the ordinance, it becomes our town’s decision. Three members of the Council are on the CTF and have voiced support for an opt-in ordinance.

I am one of many parents in town who have questioned the CTF’s rush into this program. There are several reasons we as town residents should all be concerned. First, according to a recent August survey in Princeton Perspectives, 60 percent of Princeton residents polled don’t even want dispensaries in town. Enough said. Shouldn’t we be sure that a sizable majority of residents want dispensaries in their neighborhood before rushing in? There is a petition from another local parent on against Princeton’s opt-in ordinance that received over 500 signatures from Princeton residents. The CTF has avoided mentioning this petition in their public statements.    

Second, opting in and promoting cannabis consumption in town goes against the town’s sustainability goals. The more cannabis we consume as a town, the more cannabis must be produced through an energy-intensive process that emits a surprising level of CO2 emissions. Cannabis is the most energy-intensive crop grown in the U.S. The CO2 emissions created to cultivate a single ounce of cannabis is equivalent to burning an entire tank of gasoline, per a March 2021 article in the journal Nature Sustainability. The reason for this is the 24-hour lighting, ventilation, and temperature control required for the product, which is largely grown indoors. The energy consumed is a big reason why cannabis costs over $300 an ounce.   

Third, and most importantly, cannabis dispensaries have generated unforeseen crime and safety concerns. Armed robberies of cannabis dispensaries have been increasing dramatically nationwide this year. A notable armed robbery of a dispensary occurred this October in Bethlehem, Pa., where a dispensary worker’s life was threatened.

And there are so many other serious considerations, largely around driver impairment and an increase in pedestrians/cyclists killed by drivers testing positive for marijuana. But there simply is not enough space to share it all in this letter.

In summary, the CTF and town Council members have not completed their due diligence on this issue, nor have they acknowledged several serious concerns that must be studied first before opting in. Further study would be worth avoiding unforeseen quality of life issues, and town legal/enforcement expenses. I urge other town residents who have concerns to contact the town Council before November 30. Thank you.

David Jenkins
Leabrook Lane