BACKGROUND: Drug prevention methods tailored to specific target groups have become increasingly important. There is a growing need to find ways to rapidly assess and situate target groups in their particular contexts. This need is associated with the implementation of evidence-based interventions (EBIs) for these specific target groups. METHOD: This article describes the application of Rapid Assessment and Response (RAR) as a necessary first step in designing and implementing a prevention intervention plan for problematic cannabis use among "loitering" youth in the South of the Netherlands. Seven RAR studies were conducted using an innovative stepwise model in which the prevention field worker is central. RESULTS: The normative structure for the use of cannabis was found to vary across the neighborhoods of the RAR studies and emerged as the focal point in designing a suitable response. The RAR studies also identified the need in the prevention toolbox for a tailored, low-threshold, effective, individual brief intervention for youth problematic cannabis use. CONCLUSION: The RAR was found to provide a powerful methodology for detecting target groups and generating contextual and normative data that enable the prevention field worker to select and adapt from the spectrum of existing Evidence based Interventions (EBIs) or develop the most promising model for implementation with the specific target group.