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For Immediate Release:
July 15, 2019
For more information contact:
Public Health Communications
(213) 240-8144

New Report Assesses Health Equity Implications of Cannabis Regulation for Los Angeles County
Responsible Regulation May Reduce Harms to Public Health

LOS ANGELES – Today, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) released a health report that provides new information on the health implications of cannabis regulatory options for local jurisdictions. The report found that unlicensed cannabis dispensaries in Los Angeles County—in contrast to those that are licensed —are overconcentrated in areas already burdened with health disadvantage and engaged in business practices that pose health risks to consumers. Areas of the County that are currently licensing dispensaries have seen a decrease in the number of unlicensed dispensaries, while the areas that maintain a ban have not.

“It is critical that we regulate cannabis in ways that minimize potential health risks,” said Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. “As in other areas of social policy, the potential risks posed by the legalization of cannabis should not be disproportionately experienced by low income communities and communities of color; we need to take actions to promote health equity through careful implementation.”

The report also found that cannabis-related emergency department visits increased among African Americans and young adults over the past five years. In 2017, these visits were more frequent among patients living in areas with higher concentrations of dispensaries. In 2018, greater neighborhood density of unlicensed dispensaries was associated with higher rates of violent crime, but density of licensed dispensaries was not. In 2017/2018, cannabis use among middle and high school students increased slightly for the first time in five years. Cannabis use was higher among students in lower-income schools and among students reporting less supportive school environments.

The report presents health-related data and recommendations addressing some key questions for local regulators

  • Where should licensed cannabis dispensaries be located and how many should there be?
  • What types of business practices should be promoted or incentivized among licensed dispensaries?
  • What enforcement and assurance methods should be considered to eliminate unlicensed dispensaries and to promote product safety and safe driving conditions?
  • How can cannabis taxation facilitate access to medicinal cannabis and support evidence-based cannabis prevention programs for youth?

The report concludes with 15 recommendations for local jurisdictions interested in minimizing health risks and promoting health equity as they consider regulation of retail cannabis businesses in their areas.

To view the full report online, visit: http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/chie.

The Department of Public Health is committed to promoting health equity and ensuring optimal health and well-being for all 10 million residents of Los Angeles County. Through a variety of programs, community partnerships and services, Public Health oversees environmental health, disease control, and community and family health. Nationally accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health comprises nearly 4,500 employees and has an annual budget of $1.2 billion. To learn more about Los Angeles County Public Health, please visit www.publichea lth.lacounty.gov, and follow LA County Public Health on social media at twitter.com/lap ublichealth, facebook.co m/Lapublichealth, instagra m.com/lapublichealth and youtube.com/ lapublichealth.