Getting it Right from the Start

Advancing Public Health & Equity in Cannabis Policy


Learn MoreContact Us

They say the devil is in the details.

We’re here to help.
(for FREE!)

Today, 15 states, the District of Columbia, and two US territories have legalized recreational marijuana use. In most states legalization  has focused more on creating a legal profit-making  system than on putting in place the guardrails to protect public health, youth or social equity.  Our project works with states that have legalized or are considering legalizing cannabis, as well as  cities and counties, to develop and share models for safer cannabis policy and provide guidance on policies that can reduce harm, protect against youth and problem cannabis use, and promote social equity. We draw on the best science available from research on cannabis policy and lessons from tobacco and alcohol control. 

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

Based on the best scientific evidence, we draft model comments & letters on proposed cannabis regulations.

Basic Principles of Action

We have prepared an abbreviated version of key principles and action steps for regulating.

NEW!! The State of Cannabis: Local Scorecards Provide Glimpse into California’s ‘Wild West’ Patchwork of Cannabis Policies

OAKLAND, CALIF., JANUARY 14, 2021 … For the first time, California cities and counties can measure how well their new cannabis ordinances are protecting youth and supporting social equity. Released today by Getting it Right from the Start at the Public Health Institute (PHI), 157 scorecards summarize cannabis policies in each of the California cities and counties that have opted to permit storefront sales of recreational cannabis. The scorecards bring light to a patchwork of local policies that often fall far short of what public health leaders believe is necessary to prevent the cannabis industry from following in the footsteps of Big Tobacco.

“California is solidly in the ‘Wild West’ of cannabis regulation, creating an overheated cannabis market that has already led to increases in teen use. This approach can have serious negative impacts on physical and mental health, as well as equity,” says pediatrician Lynn Silver, MD, MPH, who heads PHI’s Getting it Right from the Start project.

The City of San Luis Obispo scored the highest of all jurisdictions, with 52 points, thanks to several early and bold actions by the city council, including limiting the number of retailers and distancing them from places that serve youth. Contra Costa County came in second, showing nationwide leadership by prohibiting the sale of flavored products for inhalation or combustion, widely known to hook kids, and establishing zoning rules beyond state law to keep cannabis storefronts away from schools.

“The practical information PHI offers to cities and counties is indispensable, and was used to formulate our local rules,” says Dan Peddycord, Director of Public Health for Contra Costa County. “Local governments’ decisions over the next few years will be critical. If we do this right, we can provide safer legal access while reversing epidemic increases in youth vaping and heavy use of marijuana. But without swift action, we could expose our young people to harm for decades to come.”

Cannabis products, what are they?

Product diversification is a key and concerning strategy of today’s cannabis industry. From traditional flowers to inhaled products to edibles, the world of cannabis products and their modes of consumption is constantly changing. To shed some light on this topic we created a short brief on Cannabis Products, with some basics and examples of commonly used products currently available in the industry.

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?

Assessment of Incorporation of Lessons From Tobacco Control in City and County Laws Regulating Legal Marijuana in California

California legalized medical marijuana in 1996 and adult recreational use in 2016, effective in January 2018.

California Cannabis Tax Revenues Padding Law Enforcement Budgets

As activists across the country call to reduce funding for police departments, a report from Youth Forward and PHI’s Getting It Right from the Start shows cities across California are spending cannabis revenues on city and county law enforcement.

Program Goals

  • Protect children and youth
  • Don’t exacerbate existing health inequalities such as low birth weight, poor mental health outcomes, or lower high school graduation rates
  • Minimize cannabis dependency and attendant health and social harms
  • Minimize creation of a powerful new tobacco-like industry
  • Reduce social harms related to the war on drugs
  • Promote economic and social justice

Reach Us

Getting it Right from the Start
Public Health Institute
555 12th Street, 10th Floor
Oakland, CA 94607

Tel: 510.285.5648
Fax: 510.285.5501

About Us

We collaboratively develop and test models for  optimal cannabis policy (retail practices, marketing & taxation), based on the best available scientific evidence,  with the goal of reducing harms, youth use & problem use and promoting social justice and equity. 

We provide technical assistance to jurisdictions which have legalized cannabis or are considering legalizing or decriminalizing cannabis, and to community partners. Please contact us for more information.