Marijuana's path towards overall public acceptance has been measured in baby steps, with most government institutions and authorities slow to recognize its medical and social relevance...or ignoring it altogether. But at least one arm of Colorado's government has embraced the plant: the public library.
Anythink Libraries recently hosted a Careers in Cannabis panel as part of its Anythink Startup Month in September, bringing in a trio of prominent pot-industry executives to talk about the challenges and rewards of working in the unique trade. But that was just the tip of an iceberg full of marijuana multimedia.
The chain of publicly funded libraries, with seven locations spread between Bennett, Brighton, Commerce City and Thornton, now has nearly 550 items of cannabis-related material, including 108 printed books, 259 e-books, 56 audio books, 140 albums and 65 movies.
"If it meets our collection development policy and is relevant to our community, then we consider it," says Anythink collection buyer Jennifer Hendzlik. "We saw a need for factual information for locals and librarians." Hendzlik and her fellow Anythink buyer, Aaron Bock, haven't just been developing cannabis collections for library visitors, they've also taught fellow librarians how to approach cannabis education and literature.
In a series of sessions with the Public Library Association's Colorado and national chapters, the team has taught colleagues which growing guides, cookbooks, historical recollections, fiction and more to put on their shelves. And Hendzlik and Bock didn't stop there: They brought in oregano and rolling papers to teach attendees how to roll a joint, and Hendzlik shared her favorite book and bud pairings, a list of books and the strains she thinks matches well with them.
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Hendzlik thinks that pairing Colorado Cough with The Shining and Girl Scout Cookies with the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde shows librarians and readers that enjoying a joint and a book is no different than reading with a glass of wine. "We called it 'puff, puff, lend,'" she jokes. "But really, one of our most important responsibilities as librarians is giving out reliable information."
Scouring books, films, music and articles for solid information about such a new part of the legal world can be difficult, the two say, especially when some of their colleagues still consider marijuana taboo. Still, Bock and Hendzlik approach it like any other subject of interest, searching for reliable authors, established publishers and entertaining content.
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"Sometimes escapism is good," explains Bock, who isn't afraid to purchase Half Baked, How High and other popular "stoner" movies. "People like to entertain themselves. Just because pot might be at the center of it isn't necessarily a problem."
Books about cultivation and cooking are the most popular, according to Bock, though the subtopics can range far and wide. "We buy some books for people to specifically read when they're stoned," he says, based on the content, composition or illustrations. They even have a children's book from the Michigan Cannabis Business Association with the character "Stinky Steve," who educates kids about marijuana use.
Anythink isn't the only network of libraries that has an extensive cannabis collection. The Denver Public Library has over 300 pieces of marijuana-related multimedia in its catalogue, while the Aurora Public Library carries 130 pot books, videos, music and more. About half of the libraries she's visited or contacted have cannabis collections, Hendzlik says, and she believes more will follow suit.
"The stigma is attached, even for librarians," she says. "But so far, we think the response has been really good."