May 4, 2022

Licensing of Recreational Cannabis Shops Should Be Deferred to “Minimize Harm”

To the Editor:

As health care providers, we fully support the Princeton Board of Health’s (BOH) recommendation to defer the licensing of recreational cannabis shops in Princeton, as detailed in the article published on April 13, “BOH Raises Red Flags on Cannabis.”

We support the medicinal use of cannabis; however, we are dismayed at the efforts of some elected officials and members of the Cannabis Task Force (CTF), who have been seeking approval for recreational cannabis dispensaries in Princeton. While the majority of Princeton residents voted to legalize cannabis in the November 2020 state referendum, we do not believe that supporting cannabis decriminalization is synonymous with an obligation to open recreational cannabis dispensaries in Princeton. Does support of the First or Second Amendment in-turn define an obligation for Princeton to approve the opening of pornography or gun shops? Also, there is insufficient objective data to support the assertion that retail cannabis stores are symbols of “social justice and equity.” Princeton is a diverse and progressive community, and at the March 29 town Council meeting, the vast majority of residents who spoke were in fact against retail pot shops in Princeton.

The BOH’s decision was grounded in science. We implore our elected officials to listen closely to the advice of our local health care professionals. As BOH Chair George DiFerdinando stated, Princeton is not prepared for the recreational sale of cannabis. He explained that there is no universally safe level of use, there is risk of medical and psychological harm, and the scale of the negative effects in the community is not known. His charge to the Princeton community was clear: “minimize harm.”

As health care providers, we are concerned that those industries who lobby for recreational cannabis dispensaries mirror those who lobbied for the “normalization” of tobacco products, vaping, and prescription pain medications. These “normalization” efforts ultimately led to the overuse of these substances. We have seen how abuse destroys lives and communities, especially when the most vulnerable are exposed at younger ages.

As health care providers and long-standing Princeton residents, we recommend deferring licensure of recreational cannabis dispensaries in Princeton, to “minimize harm” and to support the safe community that we love.

Jason Rogart, M.D.
Marion Road

Michael Kalina, D.O.
Walnut Lane