January 5, 2022

Cannabis Task Force Not Aligned With Wishes of Town Residents, BOE

To the Editor:

Recently, the Princeton Public Schools Board of Education issued a position statement listing their concerns regarding the Princeton Cannabis Task Force’s (CTF) rapidly developed plans to allow up to three cannabis dispensaries in Princeton. The CTF’s recommendations are aggressive, and do not include any setbacks for playgrounds, child care facilities, bus stops, houses of worship, drug treatment centers, public pools or public libraries. Further, the CTF recommends an astounding minimum setback of only 200 feet from schools.

The CTF’s recommended setbacks (or lack thereof) stand out as the most aggressive (and most favorable to the cannabis industry) in New Jersey and also in the country. For example, Bordentown, New Jersey, requires a 1,000-foot setback from schools. Dispensaries in Denver (with among the highest density of dispensaries in the country) have to be 1,000 feet away from schools, child care facilities, and drug treatment facilities. Of the New Jersey towns which have opted in, they typically require 1,000 feet setbacks. Despite protests from townspeople and the BOE, the CTF has strongly resisted changing their recommendation for 200 feet from schools and zero feet from other sensitive locations. This shows the CTF’s lack of collaboration with townspeople and the BOE. 

Here are some facts to consider: the CTF includes three of the six Princeton Council members. It also includes several Cannabis Industry consultants, and two employees of Princeton University. The CTF has indicated their recommendations for these minimal setbacks have been “unanimous” among their 21 members. 

What about the question of whether town residents even want dispensaries? A survey from Princeton Perspectives indicated 60 percent of the 90 residents polled do not want dispensaries in town. A recent survey of town residents on Next Door indicates that 52 percent of over 330 residents polled do not want dispensaries in town. A petition on change.org against Princeton dispensaries with over 750 signatures continues to gain support. The CTF has dismissed these data points while indicating the town cannot do its own survey. Shouldn’t the CTF start with the question of whether residents actually want dispensaries in their neighborhoods? Notably, other nearby towns Montgomery, Plainsboro, West Windsor, and Cranbury have opted out. 

The CTF and town Council members involved should be challenged to conduct a democratic process that is free from conflicts of interest and is aligned with the town’s residents and institutions. The CTF’s interests do not appear to be aligned with the majority of town residents, or the educational mission of the PPS BOE. Town residents should reach out to Council members on this issue. Thank you.

David Jenkins
Leabrook Lane