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Hash, Marijuana & Hemp Museum

This entry is part 13 of 20 in the series Amsterdam Museums

It’s not surprising that Amsterdam is home to a museum of Hash, Marijuana and Hemp, given its generally tolerant policy toward soft drugs. You’d think, given the somewhat subversive subject, that it would be entertaining to visit.

It wasn’t.

The main part of the museum (hash and marijuana)

The main part of the museum inhabits the ground floor of two attached row houses: two shopfronts, in other words. It is packed with exhibits, but not particularly well-presented. The rooms are brightly-lit, and the space is filled for the most part with glass-fronted display cases. The glass reflects the light, making it hard at times to see what’s inside the cases, especially toward the back of the cabinet.

miscellany in a glass case at the marijuana museum in Amsterdam

miscellany in a glass case

Inside the cases, the items are crowded together, jumbled, unlabeled. One shows pipes and other pot-smoking tools. Another contains a collection of vintage anti-marijuana propaganda: books, pamphlets and so on. Antique medicinal bottles showing cannabis as the active ingredient are assembled in another cabinet, while another contains medicines meant for veterinary purposes. And so on. It looks like someone’s personal collection that outgrew the available shelving in their attic.

a few bottles from the collection of antique medicines containing cannabis and other drugs

a few bottles from the collection of antique medicines containing cannabis and other drugs

Any remaining wall space that’s not blocked by glass-fronted cabinets is packed with framed photos, drawings and lithographs: botanical, historical, propaganda (for and against) and so on, very few with labels, and many too high up to see well. Nothing is presented interactively, unless you count a few videos.

A section of one of the picture walls, this one showing antique photos and lithographs involving cannabis use

A section of one of the picture walls: this one showing antique photos and lithographs involving cannabis use.

The second storefront, containing the medical displays, smells slightly of marijuana: four plants grow there, in a brightly-lit room, glassed-in, I presume, to prevent customers from stealing any.

This display rather broadly interprets Shakespeares sonnets 76 and 27 as being about marijuana.

This display rather broadly interprets Shakespeare’s sonnets 76 and 27 as being about marijuana.

I’m not saying there isn’t plenty to learn here. The audio tour, included in the €8.50 admission fee, gives plenty of information about many of the items on display. The problem is that it contains an overwhelming amount of information and I, with my usual lack of patience, could not listen to the whole thing at each stop.

The museum “gallery” (hemp)

The admission  price includes a “gallery” in another storefront half a block away, devoted specifically to hemp and its uses. In other words, despite being somewhat better laid out and more artfully lit, it’s even duller than the storefronts devoted to hash and marijuana.

Here you can learn about the industrial uses of hemp and objects made from hemp, with explanations of how hemp is used for making ropes, reinforcing cars, and so on, emphasizing how strong it is. In this “gallery” some of the items are not actually behind glass: a loom, for example, and a big piece of hemp rope. If possible, it was even less interesting than the first part of the museum. Yawn.

the loom in the hemp section of the museum

the loom in the hemp section of the museum

Perhaps when I was a teenager I would have found this museum titillating: a hint of the forbidden, especially seeing those live plants openly displayed. I guess the problem is that marijuana and hash are not really forbidden in the Netherlands: “coffee shops,” where marijuana is freely available, are everywhere. When something that was once forbidden is allowed, it just isn’t exciting anymore.[tweetthis]When something that was once forbidden is allowed, it just isn’t exciting anymore.[/tweetthis]

Would I recommend the Hash, Marijuana and Hemp Museum? If you’re into hash and marijuana and have a lot more patience than I do, sure. You could learn a lot here: about hash and pot themselves, of course, but also about the arguments for and against legalization, the different ways these drugs have been viewed throughout history, the “war on drugs,” and so on.

If you’ve come for a thrill, though, don’t bother. Instead, go to one of the coffee shops in the neighborhood and partake of some yourself. It will be far more entertaining.

If you decide to go, click on this link to order your tickets. I will get a small commission on what you spend.

This is one of my on-going series on small museums in Amsterdam. Here’s the whole list:

Series Navigation<< Red Light Secrets: Museum of ProstitutionThe Sex Museum in Amsterdam: the cure for insomnia >>
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23 Comments

    • Rachel

      October 23, 2015 at 10:29 pm

      I’m not at all surprised. Drug use is lower in the Netherlands than the US. The same principle shows in statistics about teenage sex: in the US, it’s essentially forbidden and they have a very high teen pregnancy rate. Here teen sex is more open and accepted and the average age for having sex for the first time is actually later than the US, and the teen pregnancy rate is extremely low.

      Reply
  • Shobha

    October 24, 2015 at 4:30 pm

    hysterical! Not sure why you’d go to a hash, etc. museum – clearly meant for backpackers who want a giggle while they pretend to be historical. I’ve heard lots about the medicinal uses of hemp – I’ve had stomach issues in the past and the alternative therapist suggested adding hemp to my diet. Decided I’d rather give up wheat than chew on rope 🙂

    Reply
  • Jeremy

    October 25, 2015 at 1:07 am

    Seems quite interesting actually … there is an intellectual side to the subject, as subject matter around marijuana doesn’t have to be lurid as we’ve all become accustomed.

    Reply
    • Rachel

      October 25, 2015 at 5:45 pm

      I guess I just don’t have the patience or focus to take in the information when it’s offered in such a dry form. I suppose the whole point is to normalize it, so maybe the fact that I was bored means they’ve succeeded!

      Reply
  • Raymond Hopkins

    May 17, 2016 at 4:19 am

    Legalizing Marijuana is still an issue being discussed in many countries. I agree that when something forbidden is allowed, it would not be exciting anymore. We should be open minded on the benefits of this plant.

    Reply
  • larissa

    August 16, 2016 at 8:22 pm

    Any city is bound to have a tourist trap, so I am sure Amsterdam is no different. While I don’t like being ripped off when I travel, I can’t say that I like to go as cheap as possible. I have some comfort expectations when I travel and I am sure I would have wanted to check this little museum out. Definitely something cool to loo at!

    Reply
    • Rachel

      August 16, 2016 at 11:19 pm

      I don’t think it’s a tourist trap. I just think it’s not a very good museum. I see from your URL that you have some connection to medical marijuana in Colorado. I think you’d find this museum much more interesting than I did.

      Reply
  • Brian

    October 19, 2016 at 6:27 pm

    This seems like a pretty interesting museum. There are a lot of uses for hump and marijuana and this is definitely a cool way to showcase it. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  • Christina

    December 15, 2016 at 4:48 pm

    Your distinction between the ideal use of the coffee shops vs. the museum is pretty sensible. Now, that the substance is readily available in your location, a museum does not hold the same titillating allure and can now be viewed with an information centered perspective by those interested in the subject itself as well as the history rather than thrills they can find elsewhere.

    Reply
  • GroWeed Club

    January 1, 2017 at 2:21 pm

    Thanks for the post I found that quite interesting. Museums can be boring at the best of times, when you were in Amsterdam did you visit a CoffeeShop before going to the museum? 😛 Happy Blogging!

    Reply
  • Daniel

    January 16, 2017 at 12:14 am

    Thanks for giving us a view inside the history of hash, marijuana and hemp museum. I think this post should be interesting to everyone who loves to study people’s behavior (if they’re not interested in the marijuana and all that themselves) and changes in their actions with it as time progresses forward. So, apart from the elements themselves, we also got to see how human beings interacted with it all.

    Reply
  • McKenzie

    January 17, 2017 at 4:29 pm

    Like you stated, I think someone who was particularly interested in the history of marijuana and it effects would love to go and experience this. Thanks so much for sharing!

    Reply

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