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Amsterdam's Hash Museum

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
Europe is in the grip of summer holidays, and both the cities and beaches are crowded with holidaymakers. The Netherlands is no exception - but many visitors to the Dutch capital are disappointed to find that two of Amsterdam's world famous museums are closed for renovation with only a tiny portion of their collections on show.

But there are a wealth of other, smaller museums in the city, often the brainchild of one obsessive collector. And they're well worth a visit for the curious or the adventurous.

Amsterdam's Hash museum - or Museum of Hash, Marijuana and Hemp, to give it its full title, is to be found on one of the canals running through the city's red light district. Tourists of all ages and nationalities are drawn to the area by its reputation as a haven of easily accessible sex and drugs. Sitting at a canal-side cafe, Ken Johnson the Museum's manager - or plant curator as he prefers to be called - warned that although most foreigners think soft drugs are legal in The Netherlands, that's far from the case.

For virtually everyone, except the coffee shops who can have a small amount (but where they get it from is a bit of a legal mystery), and regular users in very small quantities, it's very tightly controlled.


It seems paradoxical, that coffee shops can exist, and sell marijuana, but that it's illegal to supply them. Ken calls it the intersection of sane drug laws and insane international obligations, and points out that the Dutch approach has resulted in a rate of cannabis use lower than almost all Western countries, even those which take a draconian attitude to the drug.

At the museum itself, the shop which sells cannabis seeds is doing a roaring trade and a cue of mostly young tourists are waiting to enter. It's a tiny space, crowded with exhibits, the first of which focuses on the history of hemp and it's practical uses. Once a vital crop, Ken explains how cannabis came to be an outlawed substance.


The prohibition of cannabis is an incredibly irrational phenomenon. Basically it's got links to racism, to social control, to industrial monopolies. Unfortunately, hemp is so useful it's also a medicine and it happened to be a drug mostly used by blacks and Mexicans, which was a very useful way to ban it. That's actually where the word marijuana comes from: it was the 1920's equivalent of the word terrorism. It was designed to undercut people's thoughts. Everyone knew what hemp was and if they tried to ban hemp on the floor of Congress, they'd get a very different reaction so they re-branded it as marijuana.

At the back of the museum is a small room crammed with visitors. The smell of cannabis is strong and protected behind glass is a fine crop of big bushy hemp plants. Visitors push their noses up against the glass and admiring comments in a range of languages fill the air.

Environmentally friendly

The museum has displays of beers, books, comics, clothes, games and music all inspired by hemp's recreational applications, but Ken insists it's not just a crop to grow for fun. It's environmentally friendly, nutritionally valuable and has a wide range of medical uses - there's just one problem, it's illegal. So how did this seeming wonder plant get such a bad name? Ken's convinced it could almost be called a conspiracy.

It's simply decades, almost a century of disinformation based on the shakiest of science. There's a curious parallel between the anti-masturbation movements of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They were armed with endless reams of statistical data about how masturbation made people crazy and you can draw such amazing parallels with the anti-cannabis movement. That it's just a morally bad thing, and they come up with shaky reasons for why. But if you look at the data neutrally, conspiracy does fit very well.

Now, Ken Johnson is clearly a man who knows his subject, but for most of the museum's visitors, the history of hemp and it's wide variety of uses aren't nearly as important as that brightly lit glasshouse full of bushy plants, Legal or not, there's only one form of cannabis most of them are interested in.


News Hawk- User http://www.420Magazine.com
Source: Radio Netherlands
Author: Louise Dunne
Contact: Radio Netherlands
Copyright: Radio Netherlands 2007
Website: Amsterdam's hash museum
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