Pop-Up Weed Museum Educates People on the History of Cannabis, but Fails to Mention Sponsors Role in
Tune in to the flower-powered counterculture of the 1960s, bone up on the “Just Say No” campaign of the Reagan era and check out current-day cannabis research and legalization efforts sweeping the country.
But one thing you will not do at the Weedmaps Museum of Weed? Get high. There’s no marijuana for sale, and nary even a drop of CBD at the short-term event space that opened this weekend in Hollywood.
What visitors will find at the 30,000-foot interactive museum near Paramount Studios is an educational walk through the history of marijuana in the U.S., from prohibition and “reefer madness” propaganda to the birth of the Drug Enforcement Agency and legal use.
Organizers of the event want to bust stereotypes about so-called stoners and combat stigma around the plant. More broadly, they’re taking aim at law-enforcement policies that have for decades disproportionately targeted (and imprisoned) people of color and those from low-income communities.
“Today in the United States, someone is arrested for non-violent possession of cannabis every 48 seconds,” tallying 650,000 arrests annually, says Chris Beals, CEO of Weedmaps, which developed the curated pop-up with Los Angeles-based creative agency, Virtue. “There has been too little discussion of the role that prohibition played in a number of historical and ongoing social injustices.”
However, notably absent from the museum is any mention of Weedmaps continual attempts to thwart passage of a bill in the California legislature that would make the market safer for consumers and provide a more level playing field for licensed cannabis operators that are complying with state regulations.
In a recent editorial, Ruben Honig, Executive Director of the United Cannabis Business Association, said:
"Assembly Bill 1417 is pending in the Senate Appropriations Committee. Legislators should approve it when they return to Sacramento in August.
AB 1417 seeks to restrict advertising and marketing by unlicensed cannabis retailers. And it would establish civil penalties for entities that violate the law.
AB 1417 addresses a critical need in the legalized cannabis marketplace: ensuring consumers have safe and legal products.
Currently, an estimated 80% of the cannabis sold in California comes from the illicit market.
Products from unlicensed business are not lab tested. As a result, they may contain toxic byproducts like heavy metals, pesticides, mold, mite infestations, or residual solvents that can cause serious harm to consumers.
By contrast, California’s Bureau of Cannabis Control regulates labs that test legally grown cannabis products sold by licensed operators to screen out harmful chemicals, pesticides and other contaminants.
The challenge confronting consumers is that they cannot trust that they are using safe products unless they purchase the products from a licensed retailer, and the current state of cannabis advertising exacerbates the confusion.
Some third-party advertisers in California, as well as apps, allow and encourage cannabis ads whether or not the business is licensed.
Some platforms that direct consumers to local cannabis dispensaries and delivery services — notably, Leafly — have announced that they will only allow advertisements of licensed businesses in California.
But others including Weedmaps refuse to voluntarily comply with the directive of the Bureau to cease advertising for unlicensed cannabis retailers including brick-and-mortar and delivery.
Not surprisingly, Weedmaps opposes AB 1417.
This confusion makes it more difficult for consumers to differentiate between businesses that are licensed and thus sell product that doesn’t include toxins, and those that are not licensed.
That’s why AB 1417 is so important."
The immersive pop-up, which may extend beyond its Sept. 29 date and costs $35 for general admission, mashes up fine art, cultural touchpoints, natural history and, of course, “mind-melting Instagram opportunities,” says Jonathan Santoro, Virtue’s executive creative director. There’s an on-site gift shop, too, selling apparel, keepsakes and cannabis trinkets, and a cafe with pun-heavy dishes like “One Dank Bowl” and “Wake & Bake.” Again, no weed.
An opening night party last week drew hundreds of visitors, including celebrities like Vanessa Hudgens, Ireland Baldwin, Ashlee Simpson and Tommy Chong.
The goal of the project, Beals says, is “to provide visitors with a robust understanding of the highs and lows of cannabis history and to create a stronger understanding of the importance of this plant and its potential.”
The museum, from Weedmaps, a web and mobile platform often called “the Yelp of cannabis,” isn’t the first of its kind. There have been other such spaces from Oakland to Ohio. Its launch in L.A. comes shortly ahead of the country’s first cannabis cafe, Lowell Farms, set to open this fall in West Hollywood.