Getting it Right

From the Start

Advancing Public Health & Equity in Cannabis Policy

When California legalized cannabis through Proposition 64, the state left many of the details of cannabis policy to local jurisdictions.  Our project works with cities and counties, as well as other states, to provide guidance on adopting cannabis policies that reduce harms, protect against youth and problem cannabis use, and ensure social equity.

Neat Desk


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

Held Monday, June 29, 2020
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 impose a local tax on cannabis, and the average gross receipts tax across activities was just 5%. In the era of COVID-19 when local budgets and staff are being severely cut, and critical social needs go unmet, reasonable local cannabis taxation could provide a much needed source of revenue. Amongst those who did levy a tax, little or no revenue was dedicated to community social needs, youth or prevention, while law enforcement budgets continued to rise.
Our speakers will discuss, at this time of shrinking local revenue due to the pandemic, where we stand on local marijuana taxation in California, sharing new research on how these products are being taxed and regulated in California’s 539 cities and counties, how to tax cannabis commerce locally, how current cannabis tax revenues are primarily benefiting law enforcement and offer some alternative approaches for capturing revenue to benefit youth and communities and meet local needs.
This Web Forum is recommended for local elected officials and policymakers (city council members, supervisors, fiscal staff, public health staff, social services), and community advocates for youth, public health or substance abuse issues.

Lynn Silver, MD, MPH, FAAP, Director, Getting it Right from the Start: Local Regulation of Recreational Marijuana, Senior Advisor, Public Health Institute (PHI) and Clinical Professor, University of California San Francisco


Michael Colantuono, JD, Attorney, Colantuono, Highsmith & Whatley, PC

Jim Keddy, Executive Director, Youth Forward

Alisa Padon, PhD, Research Scientist, Getting it Right from the Start project, Public Health Institute (PHI)

Interested in learning more? Read next about our article in JAMA on local cannabis laws in California.

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


We collaboratively develop and test models of optimal cannabis policy (retail practices, marketing & taxation) with the goal of reducing harms, youth use & problem use. These models are based on the best scientific evidence and guided by the principles of public health, social justice, and equity. 

We also provide technical assistance to jurisdictions considering legalizing cannabis. Please contact us for more information. 



Tel: 510.285.5648

Fax: 510.285.5501


Public Health Institute

555 12th Street, 10th Floor

Oakland, CA 94607