Marijuana Smokefree Policy Trends

As of April, 2024, 1025 localities and 39 states/territories/commonwealths restrict marijuana use in some or all smokefree spaces. Of these, 562 localities and 22 states/territories/commonwealths prohibit smoking and vaping of recreational and medical marijuana in one or more of the following venues: non-hospitality workplaces, restaurants, bars, and/or gambling facilities.

Protect Nonsmokers' Rights

If marijuana smoking is allowed indoors in public places, both employees and patrons are at risk. Secondhand smoke exposure from marijuana can cause significant health issues including breathing problems.

Many states have now legalized marijuana for medical (37) and/or adult recreational use (22 states plus the District of Columbia and Guam), with more considering it. A new industry for marijuana consumption is being created in the U.S. and it has one goal: to normalize marijuana use, including smoking, everywhere and to have it regulated “just like alcohol.” As the trend toward normalizing public smoking of marijuana grows, we need to be aware that more laws will likely be proposed to weaken smokefree protections and allow for broader use of smoking marijuana in public places and even in workplaces. The marijuana industry wants to accomplish this goal, in part, by borrowing tactics from Big Tobacco’s playbook and chipping away at smokefree protections.

Our position paper, Protecting Nonsmokers from Secondhand Marijuana Smoke, provides in-depth information on the hazards of marijuana secondhand smoke, industry arguments and activities, ventilation arguments, smokefree policy trends, and other resources.

Smoke is Smoke


Just like secondhand tobacco smoke, many of the chemicals in secondhand marijuana smoke are toxic and contain hazardous fine particles that pose a significant health risk to nonsmokers.


It is important to strengthen all smokefree laws — both existing and new — to include marijuana in the definitions of smoking and vaping. Clearly define smoking as “inhaling, exhaling, burning, or carrying any lighted or heated cigar, cigarette, or pipe, or any other lighted or heated tobacco or plant product intended for inhalation, including hookahs and marijuana, whether natural or synthetic, in any manner or in any form.”



February 18, 2021

In a time where there is more emphasis placed on public health and safety in the workplace, it is surprising that an ordinance has been drafted to bring marijuana/cannabis smoking and vaping into Denver’s restaurants, bars, marijuana businesses and other places throughout the Mile High City. If passed, Bill to Enact Marijuana Hospitality Program for Denver will bring marijuana smoking indoors to restaurants and other establishments

The City of Denver has always worked hard to create workplaces that are free from secondhand smoke from both tobacco and the aerosols emitted by electronic cigarettes. These protections remain very popular with the public. To vast public support, Denver International Airport closed its last smoking room to become 100% smoke free, thus protecting the health of hundreds of airline passengers and staff.

It took decades of effort for Colorado to achieve statewide smoke free restaurants, bars, retail stores, and most public places. Two years ago, the Colorado legislature strengthened the law and closed several key gaps in the state’s Clean Indoor Air Act that was adopted in 2006. The modernized law eliminated exemptions that have allowed smoking in small workplaces, hotels, and long-term care facilities. It also prohibits the use of electronic smoking devices in smoke free venues. Undoubtedly, allowing marijuana smoking or vaping in places where smoking and vaping is now prohibited will undermine the laws that protect the public from exposure to secondhand smoke and secondhand vapor.

Smoke is smoke. Secondhand marijuana smoke is a health hazard for nonsmokers and smokers.  There is now enough scientific evidence to affirm that secondhand marijuana smoke creates a serious health risk to the public.  Just like secondhand tobacco smoke, marijuana smoke is a potent source of PM 2.5 fine particulate matter, which is hazardous regardless of source, including wildfires and air pollution. Secondhand marijuana smoke impacts cardiovascular function and it contains thousands of chemicals and at least 33 carcinogens. In short, there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke, and everyone should have the right to breathe smoke free air in public places and workplaces.

While so many neighborhoods in the Denver Metro area are currently combating COVID 19, a deadly virus that attacks the lungs, opening public places like restaurants and bars where the public and workers are exposed to secondhand marijuana smoke or electronic cigarette aerosols is a bad idea. Marijuana industry profits should not take priority over people. The last thing needed is to create a new class of workers that would have to sacrifice their health for a paycheck.

The undersigned national and statewide public health organizations have come together to raise the alarm against this attack on clean indoor air protections and worker health. We strongly urge the Denver City Council to take a stand for community health by not opting in to Bill to Enact Marijuana Hospitality Program for Denver. Do not roll back hard-won local public health protections by allowing for marijuana smoking and vaping indoors. Let us all stand strong behind the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act. There is no need for people to smoke or vape in ways that harm other people including workers.


RJ Ours,
Colorado Government Relations Director
American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, Inc. 
Sarah Belstock, MSPH
Behavioral Health Planner
Community Health Promotion Division
Denver Public Health
Tracey Richers Maruyama, MA
Chronic Disease Tobacco Program Planner 
Community Health Promotion Division
Denver Public Health
Fernando Pineda-Reyes
Chief Executive Officer
CREA Results
JoAnna Strother
Senior Director | Advocacy | AZ, CO, NM, NV, UT
American Lung Association                     

Pete Bialick, President
Group to Alleviate Smoking Pollution
GASP of Colorado 

Char Day
Program and Training Specialist
Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights

Christopher Roller
Vice President of Advocacy
American Heart Association

Smokefree is Smokefree


contains hundreds of chemicals — just like secondhand tobacco smoke.


contains 3 times the amount of ammonia.


contains significant levels mercury, lead, formaldehyde, benzene, hydrogen cyanide, & toluene.


impairs blood vessel function. Read more.

Three Dangerous Marijuana Bills in California

September 15, 2021

There are consequences to legalizing the adult use of marijuana, and many states are now facing challenges from industry efforts to expand and normalize marijuana use, and to relax regulations designed to create safer public health and retail environments. In California, there are three bills in the state legislature that highlight these challenges.

Assembly Bill 1034 is a very concerning attempt to weaken California’s smokefree law by expanding where marijuana smoking and vaping is allowed. AB 1034 would allow cannabis/marijuana retailers to sell food and non-alcoholic beverages, which would essentially create restaurants that allow onsite smoking and vaping of cannabis. This bill would eliminate the smokefree workplace protections that California has provided to restaurant workers and patrons since 1998. Food service workers are now at risk of becoming a new class of worker who are required to be exposed to secondhand smoke in order to do their job. ANR and many statewide partners have spoken up to strongly urge the legislature to not roll back California’s longstanding and proven effective protections for smokefree restaurants. AB1034 was pulled from a hearing this summer, but is expected to be addressed in January.

Two other bills moving forward in the legislature have been deemed by California public health partners to be detrimental to public health and food safety. AB1302 would legalize marijuana billboards, despite language in Prop 64 that prohibited billboards in order to protect kids from persuasive marketing. Many other states that allow adult use of marijuana prohibit billboard advertising. AB45 would allow the sale of smokable hemp products, including flavored hemp e-cigarettes and cigarettes. Additionally, AB45 would allow hemp-based CBD and THC to be added to food products, including sodas and snacks, that could be sold in regular stores rather than be limited to being sold in marijuana retailers.

“Following in Big Tobacco’s footsteps, the cannabis/marijuana industry is fronting legislation that would put profits over health and well-being,” said Cynthia Hallett, President and CEO of the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation. “Proponents advocated to legalize cannabis under the guise of social justice and decriminalization, but they continue to push for mass commercialization and the proliferation of indoor use spaces and new products. ANR encourages all of its members in CA to oppose these bills, and for all of our members across the U.S. to keep alert for these laws that do not protect public health, but many may, in fact, harm the health of young people and those who do not need cannabis for medical purposes.”

In an Op Ed to CalMatters about AB1302 and AB45, Dr. Lynn Silver, Director of Getting it Right from the Start, says, "[T]here are many things legalization should not be about. It should not be about initiating and hooking more kids, or adding neurologically active and psychoactive substances to our food… we can allow safer legal access to cannabis and useful hemp products without going backward in our commitments to public health and food safety.”

Write a letter to the Denver Post


Keeping a Watchful Eye on Legalized Marijuana Regulations

February 2018

ANR is concerned that regulations proposed by cannabis boards in California, Colorado, and other states that have legalized recreational marijuana do not adequately consider the public health need to protect non-users from exposure to secondhand marijuana smoke.

We're concerned that communities may weaken clean air protections to allow marijuana smoking and vaping in places that are currently required to be smokefree.

Recently, ANR saw a news clip about a cannabis festival being held at a county fairgrounds in California, which highlighted that the festival would allow indoor marijuana smoking. ANR staff contacted the local tobacco control program, who knew about the festival but not that it planned to allow indoor smoking. Marijuana smoking in workplaces and public places violates California’s smokefree air law and the new state marijuana regulations. The tobacco control program mobilized quickly and discovered that the fairgrounds management, festival operators, and local police did not have accurate information about the smokefree and marijuana laws. Thanks to the program’s outreach, the fairgrounds CEO said that smoking would not be allowed in fairgrounds buildings..

This situation is a good reminder that tobacco control programs, health partners, and advocates should keep an eye out for events and venues that may try to permit marijuana smoking in places where it is not allowed. Likewise, we should all be alert to efforts by marijuana businesses and boards to advocate for weakening smokefree protections to allow marijuana smoking in more workplaces and public places.

We’re not questioning the rights of individuals to use marijuana.

We’re advocating for the rights of nonsmokers to breathe smokefree air.

The bottom line is that smokefree spaces should stay smokefree. Regardless of how one feels about marijuana use, no one should have to breathe secondhand marijuana smoke at work, in public, or where they live.

Include secondhand marijuana smoke in your smokefree laws

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