Commercial Tobacco and Marijuana

Many states have legalized or are considering legalizing the use and sale of marijuana for medical and recreational purposes. Despite public support, legalized marijuana presents many public health, safety, and social justice challenges and considerations for jurisdictions. Although marijuana and commercial tobacco products differ in significant ways, many of the overall regulatory strategies are similar, as are the regulatory obstacles they present. In commercial tobacco control, state and local authorities have a wealth of research and decades of experience developing the most effective evidence-based policies to reduce and prevent tobacco-related disease and death. Unfortunately, limited research on marijuana’s individual and societal effects not only significantly impedes the scientific understanding of this drug, but also the advancement of public policy and overall public health.

Tobacco control professionals are concerned about the increased social acceptability of marijuana, the health risks associated with the popular trend of using electronic smoking devices to vape cannabis, the policy impact of recreational marijuana use on hard-won tobacco control laws, as well as a host of other administrative and regulatory concerns. Issues that often directly or indirectly implicate commercial tobacco policy include the need to prohibit youth access, restrict social use, develop robust licensing and zoning laws, regulate product price effectively, and control the advertising and marketing. As more states consider marijuana regulatory regimes, the need for experienced law and policy guidance continues to grow.

Featured resources are below. Other relevant resources in right sidebar (desktop/tablet), or end of page (mobile).

No smoking, chew and vaping signs

Tobacco, Recreational Marijuana, and the Shifting Prerogatives of Use (2021)

Journal article exploring legal and regulatory challenges in regulating recreational marijuana use in a variety of U.S. social and residential settings and examining analogs in similar use restrictions for commercial tobacco products and electronic smoking devices. Kerry Cork, 45 S. Ill. U. Law J. 45 (2021).

Marijuana and Papers

Marijuana in Multi-Unit Residential Settings (2019)

This fact sheet addresses a few common questions about smoking or vaping marijuana in multi-unit residences, including federally subsidized housing, and describes similarities between smoke-free tobacco and marijuana policies.


Toking, Smoking & Public Health: Lessons from Tobacco Control for Marijuana Regulation (2018)

Updated 2018 synopsis of regulatory public health issues related to marijuana legalization that are analogous to those faced in tobacco control and overview of options that local and state governments might consider when developing marijuana regulations.

Marijuana and Vape Pen

Marijuana Mayhem: Regulatory Lessons from Tobacco Control - Webinar

Marijuana legalization is on the minds of many U.S. policymakers these days. As state and local authorities work through the complex regulatory issues involved in legalizing this drug for recreational use, they often end up grappling with the public health consequences of product regulation.