Turning great ideas into healthier communities


Getting it Right from the Start: Regulation of Recreational Marijuana

Legalization of recreational marijuana is spreading rapidly in the US, currently reaching 11 states and the District of Columbia. State licensing of retail marijuana outlets in California began January 1, 2018. Getting it Right from the Start was created to develop tools and provide assistance to states, local jurisdictions and community partners to protect their community against youth use and problem use and promote equity by adopting best practices from tobacco control and other fields, avoiding unfettered promotion by the rapidly burgeoning legal marijuana industry.

This project has:

  • Developed a model local ordinance for marijuana retailing and marketing and two for local taxation under California law, using decades of accumulated experience from tobacco and alcohol control.
  • Carried out research with stakeholders from other states who have legalized, local jurisdictions, academic marijuana, addiction and legal experts, taxation experts, marijuana businesses and community groups to identify best practices based on what we know and don’t know.
  • Developed legal analyses of relevant issues for local licensing, constraints on marketing and local taxation.
  • Created a listserv, webinars and other technical assistance tools to support communities and exchange experiences and questions.
  • Providing public health oriented input to regulatory processes in California and other states
  • Provided technical assistance to states, local government and community partners leading to improvements in many local laws, such as the first ban in the US on flavored cannabis products for inhalation or combustion in Contra Costa county.

Program Director(s)

Lynn Silver

Program Site


Here's How We're Making a Difference

Getting It Right from the Start: Communities and Marijuana Legalization

Across the United States, a growing number of cities and jurisdictions are legalizing medicinal and recreational use of marijuana and the Getting it Right from the Start: Local Regulation of Recreational Marijuana project is helping those communities develop and test policies and recommendations to support healthy, equitable implementation while preventing use among youth and reducing the harms related to marijuana use. 

Getting it Right from the Start builds on decades of public health experience in policy on harmful but legal products to develop model ordinances and options to educate cities and counties to better balance protection of youth from harmful health impacts with the criminal justice benefits of legalization.

The project reached out to every California city and county with information on the model ordinances and other resources, and provided one-on-one technical assistance with San Francisco, LA, Kern, Humboldt, San Mateo, Riverside, Sonoma, Ventura, Solano, Alameda, Mono, Contra Costa and Shasta Counties, and Long Beach, Culver City, Emeryville, Mammoth Lakes, Placerville, and Berkeley cities. Findings from the project have also been presented at national and state-based conferences. 

Guiding Cannabis Policies that Protect Youth & Health

As cannabis legalization swept the nation, PHI’s Getting It Right from the Start provided national leadership and guidance on policy implementation, with the goal of reducing harms, and addressing youth and problem use. Illinois laws included recommendations made by the program such as equity licenses; automatic expungement of possession convictions; a ban on health and therapeutic claims; and restrictions on advertising near youth sensitive locations. California adopted program recommendations including age and ID verification on delivery; stronger exclusions on products attractive to children or resembling certain common foods; and maintenance of child-resistant packaging requirements. The program also guided municipalities and governments in nine states and Canada in 2019. Learn more.