In a classic NIMBY move, an ostensibly timid but self-proclaimed progressive Princeton Township Council has caved to public pressure and punted on a decision to permit a local cannabis dispensary, according to a report by TAPinto Princeton, which covered a governing body meeting on Tuesday evening.
Princeton Cannabis Task Force
The long-awaited conclusion to the marathon cannabis debate that began March 29 came to an end for all practical purposes after about 45 minutes on May 17. After hearing from 14 members of the public, far fewer than had been waiting their turn when the last meeting was adjourned, Council began its own discussion.
Now that the sale of recreational cannabis is legal in New Jersey, Princeton residents have some simple questions to resolve: Should the town allow a dispensary – call it a pot shop – to open in town? If so how many should the town allow? And where should they be located?
But nearly two years later, as talk turns to where to put a marijuana dispensary amid the artisan eateries and designer clothiers lining Princeton’s leafy streets, critics of plans to allow sales locally are drowning out supporters of legal weed.
“It smells terrible,” said Paige Randall.
“Why would we bring pot shops into Princeton knowing they are uniquely attractive targets to criminals?” said Gabe Saltarelli.
“Having this available within a walking distance is not a benefit, especially for an addictive substance,” said James Hong.
The special council meeting to discuss the possibility of a cannabis dispensary in town is now scheduled to take place on March 29, Councilwoman Eve Niedergang said in an email to residents. Niedergang is also the chair of the Cannabis Task Force (CTF).
One theme of the opponents of the task forces studying both cannabis and permit parking is that the work has been done out of the public eye, with the meetings sprung on them at the last minute.
Council member Eve Niedergang, chair of the Cannabis Task Force, seemed mindful of that in a January 14 e-mail to various residents who have come forth in opposition and support of the task force recommendations.
After welcoming incoming Council member Leighton Newlin and also swearing in returning incumbent Eve Niedergang, Mayor Mark Freda and the six Council members each offered a New Year’s statement to the public.
The special council meeting to discuss the possibility of a cannabis dispensary in Princeton, has now been postponed to spring. The meeting will "probably be rescheduled" in March, Councilwoman Eve Niedergang said in an email to the press. Niedergang is also the chair of the Cannabis Task Force (CTF).
During the Dec. 16 meeting, the CTF said it was going forward with its recommendations to allow three medical and adult-use retail dispensaries in town. despite some pushback from residents.
The special council meeting was expected to be held in January.
There would be no minimum distance from churches, playgrounds and parks, but the proximity of cannabis stores would mirror the regulations for liquor stores. A liquor store must be at least 200 feet away from a school.
The federal drug-free zone around schools is 1,000 feet, but task force members said that since there is no evidence that the 200-foot requirement for liquor stores had led to under-aged drinking, the same 200-foot standard should apply to cannabis stores.
The Cannabis Task Force met again on Thursday, December 16, and – despite a public opinion campaign in opposition to the group’s recent recommendations to Princeton Council – decided to stick with those recommendations.
The Task Force recommended that the town “allow no more than three retail medical and adult-use dispensaries, with a strong preference for at least one micro-license that has a social equity priority.”