December 22, 2021

Arguing That Princeton Cannabis Task Force Ignores Children’s Future

To the Editor:

Future generations will be left to solve the most complex and existential challenges young generations have ever faced. We will be leaving the burden of solving for climate change, biodiversity loss, and pandemics to our children. Young people will need to harness a tremendous amount of intellectual energy and sheer collective will to solve these profound threats if they are to survive.

What messages are we sending young people when they see adults prioritizing easy access to marijuana only steps away from their schools? From children’s perspective, watching leaders of their community vigorously pushing to have cannabis dispensaries must lead them to believe that enabling people to get high is our top priority. Given the tremendous weight young people have on their shoulders, shouldn’t we be directing their gaze to higher aims?

It is insidious that the Cannabis Task Force (CTF), along with its Council liaisons, is emphasizing retail access to drugs as a social justice initiative. Paterson, New Jersey, is deeply committed to social justice and its leaders have rejected retail cannabis dispensaries. “Just because it’s legal doesn’t make it right,” said Kenneth L. Simmons, the president of the school board in Paterson, who opposes a proposal to permit cannabis start-ups in a city where one in four people lives in poverty. “A revenue stream for City Hall,” he added, “is not prosperity, especially when it brings another possible pitfall closer to our youth.”

Even more glaring, the CTF includes a cannabis industry lobbyist whose mission is to maximize profit for the cannabis industry. The CTF’s proposed 200-foot proximity from schools introduces high risk of attracting young buyers. Yes, I realize customers have to be 21, but let’s get real. Product has a way of insinuating itself into young people’s hands. Will the town tolerate exploiting young people for commercial gains? If Princeton leaders are so committed to social justice, why not invest in jobs programs, career training, after-school enrichment, internships, and racial literacy programs? Does the CTF really think more drug use will have a positive impact on social justice?

Young people will not be able to anesthetize themselves from the harsh realities of the 21st century, and CTF is doing them a huge disservice by emphasizing access to a drug that is known to create apathy, lethargy, and a lack of motivation. This is supported by many studies including the National Institute of Health’s report citing “studies reveal significant associations between cannabis use and a range of measures of educational performance including lower grade point average, less satisfaction with school, negative attitudes to school, increased rates of school absenteeism, and poor school performance.”

Teaching kids they should have easy access to cannabis so they can anesthetize their way through life does not prepare them for the future. Conversely, teaching kids that solving 21st-century challenges will require stone-cold sobriety and laser-focused attention is our moral obligation. Tell Princeton’s Council you don’t support recreational retail cannabis (email addresses are at 

Sheila McLaughlin
Walnut Lane