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Drugs

A Visit to New Zealand's Weed Museum

At the foot of New Zealand’s South Island is Dunedin. Historically a farming community, 30 percent of its population now consists of students attending the local university. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it’s also home to Cannabis House, the...

by Max Oldfield
May 19 2014, 7:24am


Photos by Danielle Caddy

At the foot of New Zealand’s South Island is Dunedin. Historically a farming community, 30 percent of its population now consists of students attending the local university. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it’s also home to Cannabis House, the country’s only marijuana museum. This small operation is run predominantly by Abe Gray, a jovial bearded botanist who splits his time between activism and lecturing pre-med biology at Otago University, and the live-in manager, Julian Crawford. In a neighborhood Abe and Julian describe as “not the best,” the community holds a certain respect for Cannabis House. 

Arriving at the museum, visitors are greeted by a large green door, flanked by two bay windows peeking into the Legalize Cannabis Movement office and the one-roomed museum. I must have done something good in a past life, because during my visit the exhibit was Hit for Six: The Story of Cannabis in Cricket.

The idea for the exhibit came about when Abe was asked by a local news outlet about the museum’s upcoming shows. At a loss, Abe’s mind wandered to cricket. The article was published with the plans for the cricket exhibit, forcing Abe and Julian to make good on their offhand comment. It’s probably the most natural way for someone who runs a New Zealand weed museum could organize an exhibit.

The show runs until the end of May and explores the romance between marijuana and cricket. Entering the house, guests wander past paper chain marijuana leaf banners and a gift shop display. An orange clock sits on the floor, forever stuck on 4:20, near a banner reading, "A Regulated, Taxable Market: 

." 

www.norml.org.nzBehind the banner are three seven-foot high cubicle dividers housing the guts of the text and photo display.

In the far corner sits a TV playing clips of cricket matches to a soundtrack of 10cc’s “Dreadlock Holiday,” while mannequins wearing cricket gear and holding spot-knives lend a New Zealand flavor to the whole thing. There is a small library of over 100 books not available in stores or libraries, and as many bongs, pipes, and bucket displays as you’d expect in a museum dedicated to herb. It's a 16-year-old’s dream house.

New Zealand cricket’s link to cannabis is undeniably storied, beginning with an incident during the 1993 to '94 Zimbabwe series involving bowler Danny Morrison narcing on half of the touring squad for firing up a doob at an after-match barbecue. Captain Stephen Flemming and players Matthew Hart and Dion Nash took the blame for the alleged toking, resulting in tens of thousands of dollars of legal fees and lost sponsorship. The chairman of NZC later claimed it to be, “one of the darkest weeks in the history of our sport.”

Although New Zealand isn’t alone in the world of weed, the whole Commonwealth has apparently had brushes with THC-laced controversy. England, Pakistan, and South Africa’s smoking exploits are detailed, with a footnote statement on the world Anti-Doping Committee’s decision to increase the threshold for cannabis testing from 15 ng/mL to 50 ng/mL. A choice the organizers warmly conclude is a sign of the growing acceptance for marijuana in sport.

Prior to this exhibition, the museum explored New Zealand’s beloved practice of spotting and Otago University’s ongoing marijuana activism and protest smoke-ups.

Looking ahead, Gray says the museum’s next exhibit will be centered on Bitcoin and the role of crypto-currencies in drugs sales and purchases. In a country where cannabis law reform is looking more and more likely by the day, Dunedin’s Cannabis House and Marijuana Museum sit in proud defiance of the current legislation. Hopefully in time we’ll be adding some extra smoke to the Land of the Long White Cloud.

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