Turning great ideas into healthier communities


Getting it Right from the Start: Regulation of Recreational Marijuana

Getting it Right from the Start, a program of policy advocacy, research and technical assistance, promotes marijuana law and regulation which better protects public health and equity. We work with community stakeholders, cities, counties & states to promote better policy choices. To learn more or for technical assistance, visit our website.

Program Director(s)

Lynn Silver

Program Site



Getting it Right from the Start

We works to collaboratively develop and test models of marijuana regulatory policy with the goal of reducing harms, youth and problem use, based on scientific evidence and guided by the principles of public health, social equity and safety. This includes: developing principles for state regulation and model local ordinances; providing technical assistance carrying out research; operating a listserv, webinars and other tools;; and providing public health input to regulatory processes

Local Cannabis Regulation: What have we learned from tobacco?

This is a pilot study of local law on cannabis in California’s 58 counties and 482 cities in 2018-2019. It examines how cannabis is regulated in areas including: smoke-free air, allowable density of retailers, equity for low income residents, product types and potency, flavors, marketing, warnings, health claims, discounting, taxation design, and use of tax revenue. Results will be used to inform policymakers and engage communities to protect health.

Maternal Marijuana Use During Pregnancy

This five year project, which is part of a larger NIH supported research project lead by Kaiser Permanente Research Institute, examines the relationship between local regulation of marijuana in Northern California cities and counties, use during pregnancy and perinatal outcomes. It builds on our pilot research on California's local marijuana laws.

Here's How We're Making a Difference

Developing Model Marijuana Ordinances to Support Communities

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 equity impacts of decriminalization.

Working with key legal partners, the team developed a model ordinance/ballot initiative for local taxation of marijuana, designed to grow over time to, help discourage high potency products and youth use, and provide sustained financial support to local efforts to create healthier and more equitable communities and prevent substance abuse. The resource is meant to be used as a starting point for local communities in developing their own local policies. 

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.

In 2019, 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. Getting it Right from the Start was also formally appointed to the Prop 64 Advisory Group—helping to monitor emerging trends in youth substance abuse, make recommendations on substance abuse prevention, and review the granting of cannabis funds deposited in the Youth Education Prevention, Early Intervention, and Treatment Account. And in Illinois, new 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.

The program also guided municipalities and governments in nine states and Canada in 2019—and thanks to their technical assistance, 82 cities and counties across the United States adopted limits on the number of cannabis dispensaries in their locality, and 52 adopted some form of cannabis business signage or advertising restrictions.

Researching California’s Marijuana Laws to Know What’s Working & What’s Needed

By studying California’s laws and regulations, Getting It Right from the Start is helping to track and understand how tobacco and alcohol control practices were best incorporated into state and local marijuana policies, such as restrictions on retail outlets; product characteristics such as potency and flavors; delivery; marketing; and required health warnings and taxation. The program also looked at laws in place as of January 31, 2019 to analyze how well localities are protecting public health while legalizing cannabis—and discovered that, of the state’s 540 cities and counties, only 12 jurisdictions imposed restrictions on types of products for sale beyond state regulations.