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The Public Health Framework of Legalized Marijuana in Colorado

Colorado’s legalization for the recreational use (late 2012) and sale (Jan. 2014) of marijuana has prompted state health officials to reexamine the impact of marijuana on public health. In a recent perspective piece, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment share the public health framework they developed in an effort to guide other public health agencies in states where legalization of recreational marijuana is under consideration. The public health framework for legal recreational marijuana includes three pieces: assessment, assurance, and policy development.

  • Assessment: the article identifies mechanisms for monitoring patterns of marijuana use and assessing consequential health effects. The authors discuss the challenges from Colorado’s lack of adequate baseline data prior to legalization; and thus, encourage other states to consider collecting population baseline data before legalization.
  • Assurance: the article discusses how the department provides assurance through enforcing laws, ensuring a competent workforce, and evaluating data collection methods for efficacy and benefit.
  • Policy development: the article summarizes policies and regulations developed to protect the public’s health and safety. In addition, the authors discuss how the state is educating citizens about the safe, legal, and responsible use of marijuana.

Take Away: For those interested in the impact on public health from legalizing recreational marijuana, consider reviewing this article as well as additional information provided by Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment, available at: https://www.colorado.gov/marijuana


Ghosh, T., Van Dyke, M., Maffey, A., Whitley, E., Gillim-Ross, L., & Wolk, L. (2016). The public health framework of legalized marijuana in Colorado. American journal of public health106(1), 21-27.

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