Whether marijuana is medically legal, recreationally legal or completely illegal in your state, you still may be concerned about the dangers of use, particularly among youth, as well as the potential for addiction. You’re also likely to be interested in pursuing public education or perhaps marijuana prevention efforts, as well as making sure addiction treatment and recovery resources are available in your community. If marijuana is legal in your state, you probably have additional concerns, such as where it is sold, how much individuals can possess, where it is legal to use the drug, where it can be transported, how to govern drugged driving and more. It may be helpful to know that in states where recreational marijuana has been approved, individual communities still have the right to opt out. For example, shortly after the passage of Oregon’s Measure 91 (legalizing statewide recreational marijuana), the League of Oregon Cities proposed a bill allowing cities and counties to ban marijuana within their borders or to levy their own taxes on retail sales to make marijuana prohibitively expensive. Some communities have also banned use in public areas, established zero-tolerance policies at schools and encouraged local businesses to adopt drug-testing programs for employees. In another example, the Colorado Attorney General’s Office has supported employer policies that forbid employees from using marijuana, even when off duty. Many are keeping a close eye on the impact of marijuana policies in states where it is already legal. Indeed, your community may look to existing policies elsewhere for lessons learned. Yet keep in mind that those communities are still learning. Community monitoring and involvement need to be ongoing in order to continuously improve regulations and education about marijuana, and to minimize the negative impact of marijuana on youth and public health. Understanding the Regulatory Framework if Marijuana Has Been Legalized in Your State If you live in a state with legalized marijuana and want to help prevent marijuana from negatively impacting your community, it’s best to start by familiarizing yourself with the state law that made marijuana legal. It should either provide information or lead you to information about the regulatory framework that was established to govern your state’s marijuana industry. These regulations might address any number of issues, including licensing and production, taxes and pricing, how marijuana is prepared and consumed, and packaging and marketing. What’s more, ongoing regulatory oversight will ensure that changes are implemented when necessary and additional concerns are tackled as they arise. Let’s start with licensing and production. State regulations will govern who is licensed to produce and sell marijuana, guidelines for product safety and quality, and security requirements designed to limit diversion from legal production systems to illegal markets. Review the state statute to learn how your state is addressing these issues in its regulatory framework. You also will want to review your state’s marijuana taxes and how they relate to retail pricing. Both are flexible regulatory tools that can swiftly respond to changing circumstances or new evidence. The legal price of marijuana has a huge impact on the size of the illegal market, levels and patterns of consumption, home-growing trends, use of other drugs that may be less expensive and revenue generated from production and sales. In 2014, Colorado rang up $700 million in marijuana sales and garnered $70 million in tax revenue—almost twice as much as the state collected from alcohol taxes that year. Of that, $24 million was appropriated for building schools, $8 million for marijuana research, and $11 million for addiction prevention and treatment targeted to students. Additional funds were set aside for law enforcement. Community involvement can help steer marijuana revenues to education, prevention programs and addiction treatment. It is worth noting, however, that marijuana-based revenue streams remain at some risk, should the current or a future presidential administration decide to enforce federal laws more strictly. As you examine your state’s regulatory framework, you may find rules and guidelines specific to different forms of marijuana. The drug can be prepared and consumed in a number of ways. Most often, we think of marijuana in its smoked form. But the drug also can be prepared in pill form, as an oil to be vaporized, as an edible product, as a liquid tincture and in other forms. Some argue that non-smoked derivatives should be regulated, approved and promoted in policy as a healthier alternative to smoked marijuana. At the same time, others raise unique concerns about edible marijuana products. Indeed, recent deaths related to the dosages in edibles have highlighted the need for increased regulation of such goods. Advocates have called for better warning labels on the packaging, uniform lab testing standards to ensure product consistency and education campaigns. Stricter regulation of edible products means better control over what’s available, better information for the general public and fewer accidental deaths. Meanwhile, the need to expand research on marijuana edibles parallels the need to expand all types of marijuana research. Another important issue is marijuana potency. As you may have heard, the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels in marijuana today are much higher than they were in decades past. While marijuana with higher THC levels poses more health risks, legal marijuana with low THC levels can fuel the illegal market for marijuana with higher THC concentrations. Regulations ought to be balanced accordingly. Regulation of the tobacco and pharmaceutical industries has resulted in child-resistant packaging and other packaging requirements. Similarly, marijuana packaging should be child resistant, include general safety information and be targeted only to adults. That was not initially the case in Colorado. Edible marijuana products sold there looked so much like candy that Hershey won a lawsuit against an edibles company for trademark infringement. In response to this and other concerns, Colorado created a legislative task force dedicated to monitoring regulations on packaging of edible products and launched media campaigns to more effectively educate the public about cannabis consumption. In both cases, community advocates played a big role in raising concerns and bringing about change. When it comes to marketing marijuana products, we can learn much from the alcohol and tobacco industries. Widespread marketing of alcohol has accompanied ever-increasing use, especially among youth. The same could once be said for tobacco marketing. However, with the advertising restrictions in recent decades, tobacco use has declined significantly. In light of this, banning all forms of marijuana advertising, promotion and sponsorship could significantly help with prevention efforts. Effective marketing restrictions can prevent problems, especially with underage use. Marijuana business interests may disagree with marketing restrictions, and in fact, they do in states like Colorado and Washington. For prevention-minded communities, this is an issue demanding early attention. A related issue to licensing for marijuana producers is licensing of vendors, who must be trained to enforce and follow restrictions on sales relating to age, amount, intoxication and so on. Communities can also expect vendors to help educate customers about using responsibly, minimizing risks, and getting help or further information if needed. Vendors that fail to meet requirements should be penalized and, potentially, lose their license. Also subject to regulation are the retail outlets where vendors sell their marijuana products. Most believe such stores should be only functional and should not include advertising, signage or product displays that promote marijuana use. Many also support restricting marijuana outlet locations to keep them away from places like schools, playgrounds, parks and homes, and to prevent them from becoming too concentrated in one area. Designated areas for consumption should be clearly marked and publicized to minimize public exposure and assist with law enforcement. Purchaser regulations are another essential aspect of a state’s legal framework. Of course, age limits are important. Limits on purchasable amounts are critical, too, because they promote more responsible consumption and prevent resale to minors and others on the black market. In addition, drugged driving laws are vital to protecting the public from buyers who would drive under the influence of marijuana. In the end, people’s well-being is the most important factor in the public discussion over marijuana, and establishing a regulatory framework is an important first step in reducing the negative impact of marijuana on the community. But the real work starts afterward. Regulations must be monitored for effectiveness and altered if necessary. That means data should be collected and measured to track progress toward policy goals—something that requires funding. As a community member, you may need to advocate for funding to support data collection, focus groups, research studies and more, all of which can be used to monitor use and addiction rates, demographic trends, drugged driving convictions, crash incidents, hospital visits, calls to poison control centers, public consumption violations and so on. Such data can inform local policymakers as they consider changes to laws, regulations and public investments. Ultimately, changes in public policy take place through community action—action that starts with you. So ask questions and be proactive.