‘It Belongs in a Museum!’

Oakland Museum of California Cannabis Exhibit Cannabis Now

This summer, the world of museum-going got way more funky. Oakland Museum of California’s unprecedented marijuana exhibit “Altered State” is garnering international headlines and massive attendance at a fraction of the cost of rival openings.

“Altered State” is probably the first mainstream museum in the world to dedicate one half a million dollars, a dozen staff and a Great Hall’s-worth of exhibition space to the thorny subject of cannabis. Tens of thousands of visitors are expected to attend the exhibit during its run through Sept. 25.

“Altered State” mashes up pot culture and museum tropes — placing apple pipes and dab rigs under glass with informational placards. The centerpiece is the OMCA’s “Alien Box” — a sealed, glass enclosure full of live flowering cannabis plants on loan from California’s Dark Heart Nursery. OMCA is likely the first mainstream museum in the world to display the federally illegal Schedule I drug. Other features include a biohazard box that allows visitors to touch cannabis leaves through large rubber gloves.

Curator Dr. Sarah Seiter wanted to invite more interaction than just looking at artifacts, though. Visitors can indulge in the “Cannabis Confession” booth, share a police encounter, explore the limited science on medical marijuana, listen to religious teachers discuss cannabis or just chill out in Oakland artist Cybele Lyle’s multi-media art installation. A monthly pop-up shop offers CBD treats for dogs, and hemp bath products. Experts from the ACLU and NORML hold office hours to answer any cannabis questions.

No word on when we could sample the world’s first museum grow harvest, though.

“Altered State: Marijuana in California” runs at Oakland Museum of California through Sept. 25. 1000 Oak Street, Oakland, California 94607

Originally published in issue 21 of Cannabis Now. LEARN MORE

Award-winning San Francisco journalist and best-selling author David Downs is a contributor to Cannabis Now. His writing has appeared in Scientific American, WIRED, Rolling Stone and the New York Times.

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