While walking through the Field Museum of Natural History’s psychoactive and medical plants exhibit in Chicago last year, it struck Eureka resident Kenny Gregg as odd that a marijuana plant was tucked far in the back, almost as an afterthought.
“I was looking at that and thinking that maybe it’s an afterthought here in Chicago,” Gregg said, “but back in Humboldt County, look at the impact that cannabis has had in recent history — especially since the early ’80s with the advent of sensimilla.”
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After mulling over the idea with Graham’s Brand collective director Graham Shaw of McKinleyville, the two men decided the time was ripe for Humboldt County to have its own museum focused on the good, the bad and the offbeat aspects of the region’s marijuana culture.
Sitting down with the Times-Standard last week, Gregg and Shaw laid out their vision which they expect will be a must-see attraction for both locals and those traveling on U.S. Highway 101.
“How many people are fascinated by this culture, but are afraid to go near it because of the law enforcement history behind it, but they’ve always wondered?” Gregg said.
Rather than the museum being a “subculture experience” designed for marijuana enthusiasts, Shaw said he wants to create an educational outlet for locals, tourists and those in the industry where they can learn about all aspects of the county’s marijuana culture and history.
There would be no dab bars, no plants and no smoking. Instead, Shaw said they want the museum to be inclusive of the community and all the areas cannabis has played a role in such as law enforcement, economics, children and schools, the cultivation history, cultural assimilation, crime and camaraderie.
“We’re going to create an exhibit that the local tourism board will be confident and proud to promote,” Shaw said. “It won’t be like they’re promoting a head shop. They’ll be promoting something that is educational, cultural and relevant.”
But detailing the county’s cannabis history — everything from the first harvests in the 1960s up to the potential legalization in California this year — is no small feat.
To aid in this endeavor, Shaw and Gregg are now working to form a board of directors that they hope will include both members of the cannabis community as well as representatives of law enforcement, national parks and local schools, to name a few.
“You don’t have to be in love with cannabis to be involved with this,” Shaw said. “You can be like, ‘Our lives have been ruined by cannabis’ and be involved in this. Because that is part of the whole story.”
An inspiration for the Humboldt County Cannabis Museum is the Oakland Museum’s exhibit “Altered State: Marijuana in California,” which is currently wrapping up its final week. The museum included displays of different marijuana plant leaves, areas to smell different types of cannabis flowers, signs for visitors to learn about the plant’s history and even a “Cannabis Confessional” where they could recount their marijuana experiences to a digital priest.
However, Gregg and Shaw said that the Humboldt County Cannabis Museum would be unique in that it would focus specifically on the county that is recognized internationally by its association with marijuana.
“There have been lots of museums and lots of exhibits on this, but this is an evolving industry,” Gregg said. “There are so many aspects of this that are unique. This is ground zero. Where better to have it?”
Finding a location for the museum has been the most challenging aspect of the museum so far. Shaw said they are working with the city to find a property that the community will stand behind.
If all goes to plan, the Humboldt County Cannabis Museum could open its doors by the end of next year, Shaw said.
“History is history,” Shaw said. “You can’t hide it. You can’t shelter people from it.”
Will Houston can be reached at 707-441-0504.