Amsterdam's Hash, Marijuana, and Hemp Museum

The grow room in Amsterdam's Marijuana Museum.
By Rick Steves

Though overpriced, this small, earnestly educational museum has much to teach (but little to entertain). If you have the patience to read its thorough displays, you’ll learn plenty about how valuable the cannabis plant was to Holland during the Golden Age.

The leafy, green cannabis plant was grown on large plantations. The fibrous stalks (hemp) were made into rope and canvas for ships, and even used to make clothing and lace.

Certain strains of the cannabis plant — particularly mature females of the species sativa and indica — contain the psychoactive alkaloid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that makes you high. The buds, flowers, and leaves (marijuana) can be dried and smoked. The brown sap/resin/pitch that oozes out of the leaves (hashish, a.k.a. hash) can also be dried and smoked. Both produce effects ranging from euphoria to paranoia to the munchies.

Throughout history, various peoples have used cannabis as a sacred ritual drug — from ancient Scythians and Hindus to modern Nepalis and Afghanis. Modern Rastafarians, following a Bible-based religion centered in Jamaica, smoke cannabis. To worship, they get high, bob to reggae music, and praise God. They love the Bible verse (Genesis 1:11-12) that says God created “every herb” and called them all “good.” All over Amsterdam, you’ll see the Rastafarian colors: green, gold, and red, mon.

The museum’s highlight is the grow room, where you look through windows at live cannabis plants in various stages of growth, some as tall as me. These plants are grown hydroponically (in water, no soil) under grow lights. At a certain stage they’re “sexed” to weed out the boring males and “selected” to produce the most powerful strains. Your ticket includes a souvenir guidebook about the exhibit and a fun photo op, as well as entry to the nearby Hemp Gallery, which focuses mainly on extolling the wonders of industrial hemp.

At the museum’s exit you’ll pass through the Sensi Seed Bank Store, which sells weed seeds, how-to books, and knickknacks geared to growers.