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Responsibility Grows in the Garden State

Marijuana wreathThe new Marijuana Research Guide from Rutgers librarians is ready to help researchers, students, and the public after legalization.


In 2016 the Substance Abuse Librarians And Information Specialists (SALIS) organization held their annual conference in Denver, Colorado, the mile-high city on the bucket list of anyone who got into trouble for reading Jack Kerouac’s On the road. A life-changing year for me, 2016 also gave me the opportunity to attend, complete with once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, such as interviewing Jeffrey Beall about predatory publishing and taking a bus to Boulder to see mile zero and a real 60’s hippie carnival by the rocks.

A conference rarely contributes to life-changing experiences, but the one in Denver did, owing to marijuana. No, we didn’t light up. We didn’t visit the “florist,” and not because of the line. It was that eye-opening morning session when employees of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment educated us about the control of production, distribution, and use, and shared their strategies to ensure safe use as well as their practices of disseminating research-based health messages to the public.

Our colleagues in Denver showed us the ropes, although in the previous year in San Diego we had a whole panel on exploring the next steps in marijuana control from the perspectives of alcohol and drug policies, campus prevention, and the complex legal environment. Most content is now available as official state information on the laws & health effects of retail marijuana, including state-level laws broken down to laymen’s terms (for tourists, too), talking tips for adults and youth, along with consumer and prevention resources.

The more hands-on, customized part of the training included informational brochures, edibles in their childproof containers, and, of course, horror stories about out-of-state consumers, who refused to follow the strict guidelines posted in the stores selling marijuana plant products. According to anecdotal evidence, the emergency rooms experienced an influx of these types of clients at that time, for all the strict and regulated measures for compliant growers and retailers.


The moment the news came in about New Jersey voters opting for legalization, a new research guide seemed reasonable and necessary. Based on my previous experience as a subject specialist and using information I had collected earlier for a potential guide, I invited two colleagues to partner with me and create a Rutgers Libraries guide to resources on marijuana-related issues. The guide is intended for Rutgers faculty, staff, and students, as well as for the public.

Government resources librarian Stephanie Bartz selected relevant sources from the federal and state governments, complementing the collection with international resources. Becky Diamond, New Brunswick Libraries business librarian, added business resources, such as industry and company information, market research, and related databases. They both also contributed to other tabs such as data and statistics, New Jersey resources and services, and Rutgers resources. The legal resources tab benefits from the expertise of the Newark Law Library, with law librarian Rebecca Kunkel as partner. Book recommendations also came from Nicholas Allred, Graduate Specialist at Chang’s Books We Read.libguide screenshot


The first audience for the guide included researchers and instructors from Rutgers, as well as substance-abuse librarian and information specialist colleagues, and we received plenty of comments, suggestions, and praise. A prominent researcher pointed out that marijuana is just a slang word for cannabis that derives from the Harry Anslinger-days of vilifying cannabis. Another researcher reminded us that Rutgers had turned down Gov. Christie’s offer to grow NJ crop of medical marijuana in order not to jeopardize federal funding.  Relaying positive feedback from their faculty, the Rutgers Center of Alcohol & Substance Use Studies pledged to promote the guide for their constituents.

Fellow librarians also welcomed the Rutgers guide in the US and overseas. Two of them granted permission to share their sentiments:

“Marijuana continues its controversial yet powerful impact on society. Anyone seeking accurate, science-based information should contact their specialist librarians, who gather information and resources together that is timely, useful, and reputable. Librarians also seek to maximize access and preserve resources for future reference.” –-Barbara Weiner, MLS, SALIS Chair, 2019-2021, (Retired) Director of the Hazelden Betty Ford Addiction Library

“The harmful effects of misinformation about drug use, be it marijuana (cannabis if in the UK!) cocaine, opioids, etc. cannot be overstated. Without access to libraries and their well-researched library guides, like those produced by Rutgers, people turn to other platforms such as social media for information. Unfortunately, we are very aware of how such channels are used to disseminate misinformation. Libraries can be, and are, able to use these channels to post accurate helpful information.” —Christine Goodair, SALIS Member from UK.

In Denver there was a consensus that librarians can help in many ways: disseminating information and resources, keeping current with scholarly literature, and helping translate research to the needs and level of the state in question. Librarians and information specialists often partner with researchers and practitioners to provide science-based marijuana information for the general public, such as in Learn About Marijuana in Washington State created by our colleagues from ADAI. LibGuides are also popular platforms to provide campus-based, college-specific, and state-relevant information on marijuana in diverse disciplines.


The Marijuana Research Guide will remain a work in progress for a while, as the State of New Jersey is working out the nuts and bolts of the complex procedure post-legalization. Updates will be included in several areas as we go. We are confident that there will be a strong agricultural component to it, once the regulations are into place.

With the new marijuana laws Rutgers will face new challenges, and so will New Jersey, from production to proof of sale. The questions seem to be never-ending. Can you grow your own? How many plants? Can you take it out of the state? What about packaging, branding, and trademarks?

This group of librarians did what they do best to provide a curated marijuana research guide: we collected, evaluated, and shared resources. We’ll leave the rest to the experts.

Please send suggestions below.