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Home > Cannabis regulation: lessons learned in Colorado and Washington State.

Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse. (2015) Cannabis regulation: lessons learned in Colorado and Washington State. Ottawa: Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse.

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This report is to help promote a national dialogue that will inform “made in Canada” policy options to minimize the potential negative health, social, economic and criminal justice impacts of marijuana use in Canada.

With the purpose of collecting the best available information to support evidence-informed policy advice, CCSA led delegations to Colorado and Washington state in February and August 2015, about a year after retail sales of cannabis began in each jurisdiction. That these two states are using different regulatory frameworks also provided the opportunity to compare the models in terms of both implementation and impact.

The delegations met with stakeholders from a range of perspectives, including public health, regulation, government, enforcement, prevention and the cannabis industry. Despite different perspectives several common themes emerged.

The key message heard was the importance of identifying the purpose driving policy change. In other words, begin by defining the problem to be solved and the goals to be achieved. In Canada, reliable indicators and data for sound policy are based on evidence, public health objectives and human rights standards, including harm reduction. These factors are integral to the new approaches that are being considered.

The delegations also heard the importance of assessing impacts and making incremental changes rather than moving too quickly. The need to invest in effective implementation was another common message from stakeholders in both Colorado and Washington. Adequate time should be allocated to:
• Bringing diverse partners together from the beginning and promoting open, consistent communication and collaborative problem-solving;
• Establishing comprehensive baseline data and conducting rigorous, ongoing data collection to monitor impact;
• Developing a strong regulatory framework and the capacity to administer it;
• Investing in a public health approach that builds capacity in prevention, education and treatment;
• Developing a comprehensive communications strategy to convey details of the regulations prior to implementation, so that the public and other stakeholders understand what is permitted, as well as the risks and harms associated with use;
• Ensuring consistent enforcement of regulations by investing in training and tools for those responsible for enforcement, particularly to prevent and address impaired driving and diversion to youth, and to control the black market.

Item Type
Publication Type
International, Report
Drug Type
Intervention Type
Harm reduction
November 2015
23 p.
Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse
Corporate Creators
Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse
Place of Publication

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