Five Cannabis Museums to Visit Around the World
Explore the history of cannabis when visiting one of these cities.
For 10,000 years at the very least, cannabis has been utilized by ancient empires as medicine, as fabric and for religious and recreational uses as it spread throughout the inhabited world. Remnants of hemp rope have been found upon Neolithic pottery in North-Central China circa 4000 BCE; its uses as a medication for gout, rheumatism, menstrual problems and other conditions were documented by the legendary Emperor Shen Nung in his Pen T’sao pharmacopoeia roughly 1300 years later. Between then and now, cannabis has racked up so many accomplishments and intersected so many major civilizations that a museum should be in order. However, up until recently, institutions such as the Smithsonian Institute discreetly omitted such facts in their exhibits. In his book The Cannabis Manifesto, Steve DeAngelo recalls a particularly trenchant detail from an exchange in the Just-Say-No 1980s between the Institute and cannabis/hemp activist Jack Herer: “He complained to the museum [about it], and officials responded that there are some parts of American history children didn’t need to know about.”
Thankfully, there are plenty of exhibits and archivists that share the relics and once-forgotten lore of cannabis throughout the world. Some are traditional location-based museums; others are Instagrammable activations. But you’ll be certain to learn something about the heritage of the plant and what it has done for the world at large.
Hash, Marijuana & Hemp Museum (two locations: Barcelona, Spain and Amsterdam, The Netherlands): Founded by Ben Dronkers and world-renowned cannabis cultivator Ed Rosenthal in 1987, the Hash, Marijuana and Hemp Museum spreads its collection across two locales. Hemp cultivation tools, 19th century book illustrations, filmed documents of the 20th century countercultural revolution in both the US and Europe, and special exhibitions can be seen in both. Currently the museum is highlighting the millennia-old tradition of hashish-making, with examples of how the world’s oldest concentrate is created and embellished upon by cultures that are partially defined by it.
According to the museum’s website, being the first museum did mean taking heat from authorities, who confiscated some of the museum’s collection on its opening day. However, in 2012, the Barcelona satellite welcomed Sir Richard Branson to its opening ceremony, which shows how much the times have changed since then.
Cannabition (Las Vegas, NV): Following in the footsteps of social media-centric activations like the Museum of Ice Cream, Cannabition turned heads with installations like a 24-foot bong and a slide which deposits patrons into a tub of foam cannabis buds. After a successful run at downtown Las Vegas’s Neonopolis, the activation was set to open at cannabis emporium Planet 13 in 2020, but at the time of this writing, it’s still a work in progress.
The History of Cannabis Museum (Washington, DC): Opening its doors on 420 five years ago, The History of Cannabis, or THC Museum stands as the east coast’s lone outpost to cannabis lore, and a corrective to historical monuments like Mount Vernon, where according to THC staff the tour guides still won’t tell you that Washington grew hemp there. At THC, they will, and they’ll also share info about the plant’s medical properties and plenty of fun anecdotes about cannabis’s outlaw past. Owned and operated by Grow Club DC, a consultancy firm which installs personal and professional cannabis grow ops, THC wears its community pride on its sleeve.
Croatian Cannabis Museum (Zagreb, Croatia): Sprouting up in a decidedly un-liberalized portion of Europe (only medical and cannabis with 0.2% THC can be sold), the Croatian Cannabis Museum serves as both a tourist space as well as an activist installation. That’s underlined by the Museum’s policy of free admission for the employees of the Ministries of Health, Economy, Agriculture and the Interior. In addition to backlit showcases discussing the endocannabinoid system and the history and culture of the plant, there’s also a Wall of Fame and Wall of Shame for those who have sought to help or hinder cannabis progress. Museum founder Tvrtko Kračun, who also founded a hemp supply company in the city, told Total Croatia News, “[Building up the industry] is one of the changes I want to see, and not for Croatia always to be the one to follow the trends last.”
Cannabis Museum (Athens, OH): Less a destination than a traveling archive maintained by Ohio lawyer/cannabis activist Don Wirtshafter, the collection boasts a vast array of 19th century-era pharmaceutical bottles containing various types of cannabis extract that was once prescribed throughout the country before its prohibition. In addition, there’s plenty of posters, articles, postcards journals and other primary-source material. Upcoming events include a hemp paper/print -making workshop with Ohio University and the Columbus Printed Arts Center, as well as an exhibit at the Athens Public Library in the summer.
Honorable Mention: The Emerald City Museum (Willits, CA): A strong Northern California vibe permeates this countercultural-media collection, curated by Richard Jergenson, whose brother designed the iconic brass Proto Pipe.