Getting it Right from the Start, an ongoing project by the nonprofit Public Health Institute in Oakland, California, released in early November its fourth annual Local Cannabis Policy Scorecards, a review and evaluation of California city and county policies for legal cannabis retail sales. The annual scorecards give communities information they can use to provide safer legal access without risk of increasing harmful consumption.
The scorecard review provides an interactive map of California broken down by counties, which are each given an overall score, and then by jurisdictions within each county, which are given a total score based on six categories: retailer requirements, taxes and prices, product limits, marketing, smoke-free air, and equity and conflicts of interest.
The average score for the jurisdictions allowing retail sales in the state was 21 out of 100 points, the same score given in 2021. The average score for jurisdictions allowing cannabis delivery was 11, with higher scores indicating policies more effective at limiting underage use, for example.
“The legal market in California has grown enormously and is now stabilizing,” Lynn Silver, the principal investigator for Getting it Right from the Start, said in a press release. “Yet, the state and many local jurisdictions still failed to put in place the guardrails necessary to protect youth and public health. These scorecards provide a clear roadmap for cities and counties to meet this moment.”
According to the report, California regulators are failing to protect the public from what it perceives as the threats posed by expanding cannabis usage. Getting it Right from the Start is calling for a proactive response to the increase in high-THC products, marketing tactics and the industry’s growing political influence. The report fact sheet states that Californian adults have tripled their daily use of cannabis products, use among pregnant women has doubled and the state has seen a 53% increase in cannabis-related emergency department visits during the past three years.
As in 2021, the top scorer among localities allowing retail sales was San Luis Obispo with 51 points. The report cites policies such as limiting the number of retailers and distancing them youth-serving areas as contributing factors to the city’s high score. The most improved jurisdiction allowing retail sales was South Lake Tahoe, which scored 29, 12 points higher than last year due to enacting a local tax to fund youth programs.
In delivery-only jurisdictions, San Benito County received the highest score with 35 points. The report attributed the score to the county’s restricted delivery locations, local tax and refusal to allow cannabis advertising on billboards or to host temporary cannabis events such as sales at concerts or fairs. The most improved delivery-only jurisdiction was Burlingame, which increased from 3 to 21 points this year by limiting signage and prohibiting delivery in areas with higher concentrations of youth.
According to the report, 76% of jurisdictions limit the number of allowed storefront retailers, 58% of jurisdictions have higher established distances between cannabis stores and youth concentrated areas than the state minimum, 44 jurisdictions are allowing onsite consumption, 22 jurisdictions implemented ordinances to prioritize hiring and licensing equity and 165 jurisdictions enacted local cannabis taxes.
Additionally, 61% of Californians live in a jurisdiction where they can legally buy cannabis — a 5% increase from 2019.