Council Continues Cannabis Zoom on May 17
By Donald Gilpin
As discussion and debate over the question of retail cannabis in Princeton continue in the public and private spheres of the community, Princeton Council is preparing to host a virtual special meeting on the subject on Tuesday, May 17 at 7 p.m.
Council will be in listening mode again at the session. Members of the public who had their hands raised but did not have a chance to speak at the last cannabis meeting on March 29 will have the first opportunity to speak. There were about 345 in attendance on March 29, with about 35 still waiting to speak when the four-hour meeting finally ended at about 11 p.m.
Mayor Mark Freda and Council members have been enthusiastic about the level of community participation and engagement, as they attempt to process the wide range of input and perspectives before beginning deliberations over whether to create an ordinance to allow a cannabis dispensary in Princeton.
If time permits, additional participants will have an opportunity to speak at the May 17 meeting, but only those members of the public who had their hands up when the March 29 meeting ended are guaranteed that opportunity. A Zoom link for the meeting will be provided at princetonnj.gov.
New Jersey voted in a November 2020 referendum to legalize the sale of recreational cannabis in the state. Under the subsequent legalization law, municipalities were empowered to make the decision whether to allow retail sales and to control the cannabis businesses in their towns.
Princeton Council initially opted not to allow dispensaries in town pending further study and discussion, and it created an ad hoc advisory body, the Cannabis Task Force (CTF), which, in November 2021, recommended that Council pass an ordinance allowing up to three cannabis retail establishments.
Criticism of the CTF’s recommendation has been heated, and the debate continues. Among surrounding communities, Lawrence Township, with its Zen Leaf dispensary on Route 1, is the only one to approve retail cannabis sales. West Windsor, South Brunswick, and Montgomery have opted out for now.
Many who oppose the CTF recommendation have focused their criticisms on the potentially harmful effects of
cannabis on young people. The Princeton Board of Health (BOH) has weighed in, recommending that Princeton Council delay taking any action until there is additional planning and more safeguards are in place.
The BOH in an April 12 resolution emphasized the need for Princeton to take action to minimize the potentially harmful effects of cannabis sales in town and throughout the state. April 21 was the first day for legal recreational cannabis sales in New Jersey.
The BOH called for further assessment of local needs, along with additional education and outreach, as well as adoption of a set of least-harm cannabis usage guidelines.
The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (NJCRC) at nj.gov/cannabis, which provides information, educational materials, and guidelines about cannabis and the industry in New Jersey, reported that on April 21, the first day of adult-use sales in the state, New Jersey’s 12 participating dispensaries sold cannabis and cannabis products to 12,438 recreational cannabis customers for a total sale of nearly $1.9 million.
The dispensaries have reported brisk, steady business, with occasional long lines, particularly during the first days of sales, and few problems.