Colorado was the first state in the country to pass comprehensive recreational cannabis legalization legislation, with legal weed sales starting over three years ago on the first day of 2014. Since then, the Centennial State has become America’s most cannabis-friendly locale, with millions of tourists taking the pilgrimage to Colorado for their own 420-friendly vacations. In Denver, legalization has normalized marijuana so much that even the area’s local public libraries are doing their part to mainstream the once forbidden crop.
According to deep dive through the local Dewey Decimal System by reporters at Westword, Denver’s chain of publicly funded Anythink Libraries chain stocks 108 cannabis-related books, 259 e-books, 56 audio books, 140 albums and 65 movies. Since legalization, officials at the public libraries have made an effort to make sure their palaces of public learning are up to date with the needs of their community.
"If it meets our collection development policy and is relevant to our community, then we consider it," Jennifer Hendzlik, the collections buyer for Anythink Libraries told Westword. "We saw a need for factual information for locals and librarians."
In addition to stocking shelves with relevant books on cannabis history, baking and cultivation and movies like Half Baked and How High, Anythink Libraries have hosted events like a Careers in Cannabis speaking panel, and librarian education nights, where Hendzlik and her fellow buyer, Aaron Bock, will team with other Colorado and national chapters of the Public Library Association to open a dialogue about marijuana and literature, how to approach the topic at other libraries, and even how to best use cannabis as a supplemental tool to make reading more enjoyable.
At one of their informational sessions, the pair brought along oregano and rolling papers to teach their librarian peers how to roll a joint, followed by Hendzlik’s expert suggestions on strain-specific lit literature pairings. For example, the librarian suggests sparking up some Girl Scout Cookies before diving into the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
"We called it 'puff, puff, lend,'" Hendzlik told Westword. "But really, one of our most important responsibilities as librarians is giving out reliable information."
In addition to Anythink’s extensive cannabis catalogue, the Denver Public Library has their own collection, with over 300 pieces of weed-related multimedia and the nearby Aurora Public Library gives residents access to over 130 books, videos and musical recordings that fit the bill.
As marijuana legalization makes its way around the country, it is increasingly important to educate the public about everything from prohibition's racist past to the plant’s chemical breakdown and everything in between. But while public schools are largely stuck on marijuana’s lasting stigma, the country’s libraries are the next best thing, with completely public access and increasingly educated employees eager to share their knowledge.
“The stigma is attached, even for librarians," Hendzlik told Westword. "But so far, we think the response has been really good."