Remember when you were young and your parents tried to drag you to museums? Well, now Los Angeles residents – and those traveling to the City of Angels – can drag their parents to a new favorite learning center. Beginning in early 2019, Weedmaps, the world’s oldest and largest cannabis technology company, will open the Museum of Weed in L.A., which will feature interactive installations, art exhibits, archival footage and historical artifacts that pertain to cannabis. Don’t believe us? Check out this short teaser video here. And to celebrate the new museum, DOPE Magazine caught up with Chris Beals, President of Weedmaps, to ask him about the inspirations behind the new museum, what organizers hope attendees will learn from the exhibits and whether or not the museum, in all its cannabis glory, will be able to predict the future of the Mary Jane industry.
DOPE Magazine: What was the inspiration behind Weedmaps opening the Museum of Weed?
President of Weedmaps, Chris Beals: We have been planning this project for some time now. With over half of U.S. states implementing legal marijuana programs, we felt this was the perfect time to take a deeper look into what it took to get us here. Our goal is to really bring the narrative and the ability to discuss cannabis openly out from the shadows.
What do organizers hope attendees of the Museum of Weed will leave understanding better or more completely about the history of cannabis?
As cannabis becomes more mainstream, our goal with the museum is to educate and inform visitors of the history behind cannabis prohibition and the current move to legalization. Because cannabis was a taboo subject for so long, there has been little discussion of the role that cannabis prohibition played in a number of historical and ongoing social injustices in the United States and the amount of effort that went into cannabis reaching the point it is at today. We want visitors to come away with a greater appreciation of the people who battled to end prohibition and a deeper understanding of cannabis outside of many of the myths that still linger from the war on drugs era. This is a chance to get a clearer and more informative perspective on what has historically been a stigmatized industry.
How far back chronologically will the exhibits go – starting in the 1950s with Reefer Madness? Will the exhibits focus on the American history of cannabis or a more global one?
The narrative of the museum will begin by covering key elements in the 5,000 years preceding prohibition. That is a lot of story to fit into one exhibition, but we also want to touch on the early roots of cannabis prohibition back in the late ‘20s and early ‘30s as people like Harry Anslinger transitioned from alcohol prohibition to cannabis prohibition. Also, while the museum primarily focuses on the history of cannabis in America, the story would not be complete without acknowledging some of the impact from a global perspective.
What will some of the more exciting exhibits entail – like, never-before-seen videos of Jimi Hendrix smoking a joint or the chemistry breakdown of THC?
We don’t want to ruin too much of the surprise, but every exhibit is curated to be both exciting and interactive, with “Easter eggs” hidden throughout the museum. We are still hunting for interesting pieces to add to the exhibits. We want to try to have an emphasis on significant interactive and artistic elements that visitors can engage with as they move through.
Does the museum come to any particular conclusions as to why cannabis has been so polarizing over the years – is it completely political?
Personally, I think the roots of prohibition come from a blend of causes that range from economic greed to suppressing opposing political and social groups to raw irrational fear. However, we want visitors to be able to come away from the exhibit being able to draw their own conclusions. One unfortunate thing about cannabis’ stigmatization over the years is that there hasn’t been as much historical reflection as there could have been. Hopefully the museum will help address some of that and leave visitors wanting to learn more.
Might the museum, and all it encompasses, point to any prediction toward the future of cannabis in the U.S. or globally?
When you combine the current pace of medical discoveries around cannabis with the studies showing lack of social harm from legalization, I do think it’s impossible not to see an ever-increasing speed of legalization in the U.S. and abroad. We will explore, as part of the museum, this most recent acceleration in legalization. There will also be exhibits that highlight some of the important discoveries in biology and technology.
For visitors not sure whether they should check out the Museum of Weed, what’s the most compelling reason you’d suggest they visit?
The biggest reason is the chance to learn about an exciting subject matter that has been too rarely examined in a fun and interactive environment. It doesn’t hurt that the museum will be located in Los Angeles, which in many ways is the epicenter of cannabis movement. While we of course expect and look forward to having longtime supporters of the cannabis community enjoy the museum, we also hope to bring in newcomers to cannabis that may not have as strong of an understanding on the history, industry and plant itself.