Alcohol and Cannabis Advocacy and Policy Resources

Alcohol and Cannabis Advocacy and Policy Resources

The environment around alcohol and cannabis regulation is ever-changing. With the inclusion of liquor stores and cannabis dispensaries as essential businesses in many states during the COVID-19 public health emergency, alcohol and cannabis have become easier to access. Many of those emergency regulations, such as curb-side cocktails and home cannabis delivery, seem to still be in place even as stay-at-home orders have been lifted. The purpose of this resource guide is to inform and empower prevention practitioners to act and develop a plan for advocacy and policy change in their communities.

PTTC Network Resources

The Prevention Technology Transfer Center (PTTC) Network has designed the webinars and self-paced courses below exclusively to address the role prevention professionals play in advocacy and policy change.

Advocacy Essentials for Prevention Practitioners: Tools for Impacting Substance-Related Policies and Regulations

This webinar provides an overview of the difference between advocacy and lobbying, current research on policies and regulations that are often adopted with little public health input, and what tools are available to prevention practitioners to ensure they are providing a voice in the regulatory process. 

Advocating for Advocacy in Prevention

This webinar will examine the theme of advocacy versus lobbying and define tangible examples of prevention advocacy to support public health and prevention efforts. Specific strategies will be discussed as examples of what prevention practitioners can and should do to advocate for substance misuse prevention at the local and state level. 

An Introduction to the Power of Policy Change

This self-paced course provides an overview of how policy change can be an effective strategy for prevention professionals to address community-level problems with alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. The goal of the course is to dispel some of the concerns around policy and help community coalitions and partners see that it is feasible, doable, and most importantly, impactful.

10 Steps of Policy Change

This self-paced course provides an overview of a 10-step policy framework adopted and modified by the Southeast PTTC – The Policy Adoption Model. Prevention providers will follow the path of a fictitious prevention coalition as they develop and implement a local policy campaign.

Resources for State and Federal Policy

It is important to be familiar with existing state and federal policy and know where to look for the latest information as policies can change quickly. Below are resources to help you understand the policy environment in communities nationwide.

Alcohol Policy Information System (APIS)

This website contains detailed information on alcohol-related policies as well as policy information regarding pregnancy and drugs and the adult use of cannabis. 

National Alcohol Beverage Control Association (NABCA)

The public policy and research resource center from the NABCA contains a wealth of information on policies related to alcohol, regulation, enforcement, law, and public health, including resources that will help you understand the alcohol policy environment in communities throughout the U.S.

Alcohol Beverage Authorities Directory

Following your state alcohol beverage authority can help keep you informed of any changes to regulations as they are happening. This resource will help you find the alcohol authority for each state.

State Cannabis Laws

The National Conference of State Legislatures provides updates on state and territory initiatives allowing medical and nonmedical cannabis use.

Congress Alerts

Stay as up to date as possible and sign up to have alerts sent to you when a measure (bill or resolution), nomination, member profile or committee profile has been updated with new information, or when your saved search has new or changed results.

Healthy Gen Policy Resources

There is more to changing policies than simply voting. Learn more about the legislative process and how to communicate effectively with legislators with these tips from Healthy Gen.

Center for Alcohol Policy

The Center for Alcohol Policy educates policymakers, regulators and the public about alcohol, its uniqueness and its regulation. Their research and studies are all available on their website, many of which include insightful historical analysis of U.S. alcohol policies.

Resources for Understanding the Evidence and Selecting Policies

Just as we are intentional about selecting evidence-based programs for our communities, we need to be just as intentional about selecting policies that show a strong evidence-base of effectiveness. Below are some resources for understanding and selecting policies for your community.

Center for Advancing Alcohol Science to Practice

This webpage explores the science supporting the effectiveness of strategies and policies aimed to reduce excessive alcohol use. Also, on this page, The Guide to Community Preventive Services is a collection of evidence-based findings to determine whether an intervention works and is cost effective.

U.S. Alcohol Policy Alliance

This page from the U.S. Alcohol Policy Alliance describes the most researched strategies and provides resources for you to learn more. 

Guidelines for Advocacy

Advocacy work can rally community support and draw the attention of policymakers, but many agencies are hesitant to take up the role of advocate because they fear they may unintentionally wander into lobbying territory. Below are resources that will help identify restrictions around advocating for policy change that organizations are often concerned about.

CADCA Strategizer 31 - Guidelines for Advocacy: Changing Policies and Laws to Create Safer Environments for Youth

This guide from Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America helps clarify what constitutes lobbying activities for nonprofit organizations and to what extent these organizations can participate in lobbying activities specifically and the legislative process in general. 

Federal Restrictions on Lobbying for HHS Financial Assistance Recipients

This page from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services outlines provisions and restrictions around lobbying for HHS grant recipients.


Effective advocacy and policy change requires detailed strategy. Below are resources to help organizations plan effective campaigns including step-by-step processes and ways to frame your message so it inspires others to act.

Partnership to End Addiction Advocacy Toolkit

This resource from Partnership to End Addiction is a detailed guide for advocating on the issue of substance misuse at any level of government (i.e., federal, state, local). It includes tips for building relationships and effectively communicating with members of congress, information about important advocacy needs in the substance misuse field, and guidance for getting involved. 

The Advocacy Progress Planner

Advocacy efforts must be formed from an intentional strategy. This free tool from the Aspen Institute is a Microsoft Office-based tool designed to help advocacy organizations plan and evaluate their advocacy strategies. It covers the major ingredients of advocacy efforts, guiding you to clarify the goal, audience, and tactics of your advocacy campaign.

Reframing Adolescent Substance Use and its Prevention: A Communications Playbook

The FrameWorks Institute knows that effective messaging is not always about what you say, but how you say it. This playbook is a step-by-step guide to using evidence-based framing strategies to communicate about adolescent substance use divided into three sections: strategies that get the green light, those that users should use with caution, and those that should come with a flashing red signal to stop.

Community How to Guide On...Media Relations

A strong media presence is essential for advocacy work, but there is more to media advocacy than getting on the news. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s guide on media relations includes sample press items such as press releases, op-eds, and a letter to the editor to help expand your reach and get your message out.

Other Resources

As an advocate for change in your community, it is important to use credible resources in your messaging. Below are a few resources with the latest research on substance misuse and its impact on communities.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Alcohol and Public Health

The CDC has created a number of fact sheets, FAQs, guides, and other resources that are easy to digest and share with your community.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)

The NIAA’s Facts and Statistics page contains expertly organized and credible information to strengthen your advocacy messaging about the impacts of alcohol misuse on an individual, community, economic, and global level.

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)

NIDA has a wealth of information on the latest drug trends and research. The annual Monitoring the Future study has measured drug and alcohol use and related attitudes among adolescents nationwide since 1975.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

SAMHSA’s mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities. Every year they release the National Survey on Drug Use and Health which provides up-to-date information on tobacco, alcohol, and drug use, mental health, and other health-related issues in the United States.

Smart Approaches to Marijuana Toolkit

Dedicated to a health-first approach to cannabis policy, Smart Approaches to Marijuana has created one-pagers, research studies, pictures, videos, and PowerPoint presentations to help you discuss the harms of cannabis with community leaders at a moment’s notice.

Advocacy in Action

Changing the community through advocacy and policy work can be a slow and incremental process, involving many moving parts and a lot of peoplepower. But it is worthwhile. As policies and regulations around alcohol and cannabis use and access are relaxing in some states and jurisdictions, your role as a prevention professional is crucial. The work you do today could be the catalyst of change for a better tomorrow. Below are examples of ways a few concerned citizens came together, organized their advocacy efforts, and convinced lawmakers to act.

Social Host Ordinance in California

Recognizing the harms associated with adolescent binge drinking at house parties in a California community, a local youth commission lead the way to reduce underage drinking through collaborating with police officials and lawmakers to advocate for the passing of a county-wide Social Host Ordinance. The youth commissioners conducted research, wrote personal arguments, and presented at meetings in support of the ordinance, seeing it passed in several cities before being adopted countywide. The passing of the ordinance was promoted through various community campaigns including the use of door hangers to outline the ordinance and associated penalties, along with healthy activities for teens that do not involve using alcohol or other substances.  Read more about their story on SAMHSA’s Communities Talk: Success Stories, Inspired and Empowered Youth: Working to Prevent Underage Drinking and Change Social Norms.

Guam Changes Minimum Legal Drinking Age

The island nation of Guam changed its minimum legal drinking age from 18 to 21 through continued advocacy efforts. In 2006 the death of Ramon Oberiano, who was killed by a 19-year-old drunk driver, led to an outcry for change, however, there was work to be done before that change could take place. Efforts to persuade legislators and citizens to recognize the negative effects of youth drinking and gain support for increasing the legal drinking age were underway, leading to the launch of the “One Nation, Alcohol-Free” social marketing campaign in 2010 from the Guam Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse. This campaign was aimed at reducing the acceptability of alcohol use as a cultural norm on Guam and its Pacific Island neighbors. Additionally, community organizers planned a series of Town Hall meetings to reach stakeholders and youth which prompted many Guam teens to write letters, make public statements, and submit testimonies calling for the legislature to pass the Ramon Someros Oberiano Act, raising the legal drinking age from 18 to 21. Lawmakers began to take note when so many soon-to-be-voting age young people showed up for their hearings with signs urging the act’s passage and the Ramon Someros Oberiano Act was signed into law on July 8, 2010. Read more about this story on SAMHSA’s Communities Talk: Success Stories, Guam Town Hall Meetings—Changing Underage Drinking Laws and Social Norms.

The Pacific Southwest PTTC is dedicated to providing training and technical assistance services to the substance misuse prevention field. If you are looking for more in-depth assistance regarding advocacy and policy change in your community, please reach out to us at [email protected].

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