Getting it Right from the Start

Advancing Public Health & Equity in Cannabis Policy


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They say the devil is in the details.

We’re here to help.
(for FREE!)

In most states, cannabis legalization has focused mainly on creating a legal profit-making system rather than putting guardrails in place to promote public health, protect youth, and advance social equity. Our project works with jurisdictions that have legalized cannabis, or are considering legalizing it, to develop and share models for safer and more effective cannabis policy. We provide guidance on policies that can reduce harm, prevent problem cannabis use, and remedy the harms caused by the criminalization of cannabis. We take an evidence-based approach and draw on scientific research, cannabis policy analyses, and lessons from tobacco and alcohol control.

Editorial: Legal Pot Needs Better Warning Labels

By Editorial Board, Los Angeles Times, July 14, 2022

Giving consumers more information about the risks of using cannabis is smart policy that will ultimately help legal actors distinguish themselves from the thriving black market. The Legislature should send Gov. Gavin Newsom SB 1097 so he can sign it into law.

Vote Aye: Support SB 1097 – The Cannabis Right to Know Act

Let’s make our voices heard! California cannabis consumers deserve clear, comprehensive labels & science-based health & safer use information. Please urge the california legislature to support SB 1097 (Senator Pan, Assemblymember McCarty): The Cannabis Right to Know Act!

Cannabis Right to Know Act: Fact Sheets & Bill Language

February 2022

SB 1097 (Pan) Cannabis Right to Know Act will provide accurate, visible, and science-based health and safer-use warning labels allowing Californians to recognize a legal product more easily and make informed decisions when purchasing cannabis. Check out Getting it Right from the Start’s SB 1097 Fact Sheet, our Where’s the Warning Label? piece, and the most up to date Bill Language.

Opinion: California’s cannabis conundrum — protecting youth or corporate profit?


By Dr. Lynn Silver of Getting it Right from the Start, San Jose Mercury News, February 12, 2022

In recent weeks, California’s $5 billion legal cannabis industry has engaged in an all-out blitz to convince state lawmakers to eliminate taxes on growers and suspend certain retail taxes at the expense of public health — particularly youth. The industry’s story is more fiction than fact; their “legislative prescription” is driven by profit-seeking, not economic necessity.

Press Release: California’s Local Cannabis Policies Can’t Keep Pace With Surging Sales, Leaving Public Health and Equity Behind


Scorecards Reveal Pathway Forward for Cities and Counties

While legal cannabis sales in California are increasing dramatically, local policy efforts to protect youth and public health have lagged behind, according to a statewide study conducted by the Public Health Institute’s Getting it Right from the Start Project.

Access our most recent Webinar on Mobilizing Local Cannabis Tax Revenue in the COVID-19 Era

In 2018, 289, or 58% of California cities and counties legalized some form of commercial cannabis activity, including cultivation, manufacturing, distribution, retail or testing. Of those, at least 53% did not levy a tax. What legal limits have cities and counties adopted since California legalized marijuana use for adults, and to what extent do these legal limits incorporate public health recommendations and lessons from tobacco control?

Setting the Record Straight: Fact-Checking Claims About California’s Legal Cannabis Industry

Since late 2021, the California cannabis industry has stepped up its lobbying hard for reduced taxes and regulation. To support that goal, they have disseminated information that does not align with what the Public Health Institute’s (PHI) independent research demonstrates. This fact-check analyzes examples of claims appearing in the press. PHI’s research on this issue is supported by the National Institutes of Health and the University of California and tracks local laws, cannabis licenses, and market data.

Opinion: Fact Checking Misleading Claims that California’s Cannabis Industry Is Suffering

Times of San Diego, March 23, 2022

In their quest to expand the industry’s commercial footprint in cities and counties across the state, lobbyists have disseminated information that does not align with independent research conducted by the Public Health Institute, which tracks local laws, cannabis licenses, and market data. This data is supported by the National Institutes of Health and other research funders.

We have conveyed our research into best practices

Model Ordinances

Guidance on public health & equity measures that states, cities and counties should consider adopting  if cannabis legalization is under consideration or has already occurred.  Specific models appropriate for California cities and counties are available.

Model Comments & Letters

Utilizing the best scientific evidence, we draft model written and oral comments as well as sign-on letters to advocate for or against proposed cannabis policies.

Basic Principles of Action

Digestible key principles are available to help determine the next steps you can take to improve cannabis policies.

Program Goals

  • Protect children and youth.
  • Support economic equity and social justice.
  • Avert the emergence of a powerful new tobacco-like industry
  • Protect public health.
  • Minimize problem cannabis use as well as the attendant health and social harms.
  • Mitigate the damage done by the war on drugs.
  • Prevent exacerbation of existing health inequalities that disproportionately affect economically disadvantaged communities and vulnerable populations, such as low birth weight, poor mental health outcomes, and lower high school graduation rates.

Reach Us

Getting it Right from the Start
Public Health Institute
555 12th Street, Ste 290
Oakland, CA 94607

About Us

We collaboratively develop and test models for optimal cannabis policy (retail practices, marketing, and taxation), based on the best available evidence from scientific research and current best practices, with the goal of reducing harms, protecting youth, preventing problem cannabis use, and advancing social justice as well as economic equity.

We provide technical assistance to jurisdictions that are currently regulating cannabis, jurisdictions that are considering legalizing or decriminalizing cannabis, and to community partners. Please contact Aurash Soroosh for more information.