The State of Local Cannabis Policy in California Cities & Counties: 2021 Scorecards

While legal cannabis sales in California are increasing dramatically, local policy efforts to protect youth and public health have lagged behind. PHI’s Getting it Right from the Start program annually reviews all of California’s 539 cities and counties and produces scorecards for those jurisdictions that allow retail cannabis sales, to educate policy makers and promote more protective rules.

cannabis in a jar on a table with a notepad

With legal cannabis sales skyrocketing, what are communities doing to protect youth, public health and equity? These scorecards, produced by PHI’s Getting it Right from the Start Project, evaluate the policies passed by California cities and counties that allow cannabis sales, rating them on a 100-point scale.

The Scorecards highlight jurisdictions that are making positive steps in adopting cannabis regulations that protect youth and public health, and demonstrate the gaps in protections in many other localities. This provides policymakers, health advocates and others the only comprehensive guide to understanding and comparing the policies and trends on cannabis regulations throughout the state.

Explore the Scorecards


For more information, review the scoring methodology; see best practices in action, explore scores by region; or view the full press kit and fact sheet.

Fall 2021 Updates

The 2021 Scorecards found that 173 of California’s 539 cities and counties allowed storefront sales of cannabis, and an additional 108 allowed sales by delivery only. Overall, local policy efforts to protect youth and public health have lagged, with a statewide average score of only 17 out of 100 points across all jurisdictions allowing any form of retail sales.

However, a few jurisdictions have adopted some protective rules, and overall there has been some positive movement since the release of the 2020 Scorecards:

  • Overall scores improved by an average of one point, and the percent of jurisdictions that limit the number of retail outlets increased by 4% (to 74%).
  • 45% of jurisdictions established stronger buffer zones to distance storefront outlets from schools and youth.
  • Contra Costa County and the cities of Watsonville, Chico and Mammoth Lakes prohibited or severely limited sales of youth-targeted flavored products, while Mono and San Diego Counties and the cities of Chula Vista and Pasadena prohibited “cannapops”— cannabis-infused beverages like orange soda.
  • 157 jurisdictions implemented local cannabis taxes, and 12 dedicated revenues to substance abuse prevention, youth education or mitigating the impact of the war on drugs.
  • Two cities, Grass Valley and Cathedral City, taxed products by the amount of THC.
  • 20 jurisdictions  had specific policies for equity in hiring or licensing, up from 13 in 2020.

To assist local governments, the Getting it Right from the Start Project offers model policies for cannabis retailing, marketing and taxation that cities and counties can adopt. The Project also offers complementary resources and expert technical assistance to state and local regulatory agencies, policymakers and their staff, as well as community organizations and advocates.

A chart from Getting it Right from the Start outlining their services

Originally published by Getting it Right from the Start

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