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A library advocacy group recommends that librarians get involved with cannabis legalization efforts to help secure funding for public libraries. 

The EveryLibrary Institute, a political action committee working to support American libraries, recently published a new whitepaper titled “Cannabis Tax Policy and Libraries.” The paper encourages libraries in adult-use states to demand a share of cannabis tax revenue from local politicians. And in states that have yet to legalize, the paper encourages librarians to actively get involved in grassroots legalization campaigns to ensure that they can get a fair share of funding.

“Libraries have a singular opportunity to boost their funding and their role in our communities,” authors Megan Blair and John Chrastka explain. “Library advocates should not be afraid to work with other community groups fighting for cannabis revenue. Now more than ever libraries are under attack, and it is important to build coalitions with groups with similar goals and priorities.”

Adult-use states have collected over $10 billion in combined cannabis tax revenue since 2014, the year that Colorado and Washington both began selling legal weed. Recreational pot sales are bringing in around $3 billion in tax revenue annually. This welcome source of income has been used to fund cannabis expungement efforts, community reinvestment and social justice programs, inmate reentry programs, schools, and other essential services. But not many of these states have chosen to direct weed funding to public libraries.

“Cannabis taxes are a huge potential source of funding that libraries should not be left out of,” the EveryLibrary report argues. “Libraries in states with current recreational cannabis should be actively working with state legislatures to allocate funding from tax revenue. In states that have not legalized recreational cannabis, libraries have an opportunity to anticipate and influence the future tax revenue allocation.”

The whitepaper also argues that libraries could become community education centers for prospective or current cannabis business owners. By providing a source of free information, libraries could help people in lower-income neighborhoods learn how to apply for social equity grants and start their own legal weed businesses. Public libraries could also contribute resources to help support drug prevention and treatment programs.

Blair and Chrastka are encouraging state library managers to actively engage with cannabis legalization groups, including NORML, the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), and the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA). In states that have not yet legalized, libraries could work with activist groups to make sure that legalization ballot measures specifically direct a percentage of weed tax revenue to fund public libraries.

“Libraries must actively engage in this process in order to be written directly into the language as eligible for funding from state cannabis tax revenue,” the paper concludes. “While the cannabis industry is still very new and is rapidly expanding, cannabis no longer holds the same stigma that it once held. Now is the time to get involved in markets that have already been established and get ahead in those that will open in the future.”