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  • Writer's pictureBen West

A Brief History of the Hash, Marihuana & Hemp Museum in Amsterdam

What is the Hash, Marihuana & Hemp Museum?

The Hash, Marihuana & Hemp Museum is a Museum in Amsterdam that opened in 1987 and reveals many fascinating aspects and uses of the cannabis plant.

Hash, Marihuana & Hemp Museum

Didier le Ger, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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Hash, Marihuana & Hemp Museum History

Amsterdam has, of course, been renowned for many years as a place where personal cannabis use is tolerated. Although still classed as an illegal drug in the Netherlands, personal use has been decriminalised. Recreational consumption of the drug is allowed, and it’s available to buy in coffee shops – the term used in the Netherlands for establishments where the sale of cannabis is permitted by the local authorities.

Relaxation of the drug laws began in 1972 when the Dutch government classified drugs according to the level of danger they posed to users, and decided that possession of a small amount of cannabis should not lead to legal proceedings (although confiscation by the police may sometimes happen).

The Hash, Marihuana & Hemp Museum, here in the Red Light District, aims to shed light on many aspects of the hemp or cannabis plant and the drug derived from it. The different uses of hemp, and the types of cannabis grown for industrial and medical use, are explained in the museum. One of the oldest crops known to humans, hemp has long been used to make textiles, rope and paper, and oil derived from it is used medicinally, for fuel, and in the manufacture of products such as paint and soap. Hemp has been especially useful in the history of shipping: in ship’s sails and rigging, as well as being treated with tar and used to pack the seams between the wooden planks of a boat’s hull, in order to make them watertight.

Ank Kumar, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There are numerous cannabis-related artefacts in the museum, notably prints, drawings and photographs. You’ll also discover paintings by famous 17th-century Dutch artists such as Hendrick Sorgh, Adriaen Brouwer and David Teniers the Younger, with depictions of people in ‘smoking houses’, where typically hemp was added to tobacco.

Cannabis has been considered a sacred plant in most ancient religions, as well as by peoples such as the Bantu and Zulu in Africa. The relationship between cannabis and religion is covered in the museum; American anti-marijuana propaganda books, advertisements, novels and film posters from the 1930s are on display; and the history of cannabis for medicinal use is also explored. The museum’s unique and varied collection, which includes over 9,000 items, will reveal to you the incredible versatility of the cannabis plant.

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