The Oakland Museum of California will open the first ever exhibit on marijuana on April 16. “Altered States” will include posters, art, scientific exhibits, political documents and interactive displays about the history of marijuana in California. The exhibit will show how the plant is cultivated and used, public attitudes about cannabis, and the social issues its use raises.
“Whether you support it, smoke it, abhor it or ignore it, there’s no doubt marijuana holds a special – and evolving – place in California’s history,” says curator Sarah Seiter, assistant curator of the Natural Sciences gallery where the exhibit will be shown.
The impetus for the exhibit is the possibility California will place a measure on the November 2016 ballot to legalize recreational use of marijuana in the state, according to Seiter. The state was the first to authorize the use of medical marijuana. Ironically, California was also the first state to ban the use of marijuana, in 1913, in response to the Opium Wars.
Medical use is permitted in 22 other states. However, only Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington State permit recreational use. Federal law still prohibits the use and sale of marijuana but states’ rights prevail where use is common.
“Our goal is that this exhibition will help people have informed conversations with their family and friends about what type of marijuana policy is right for California,” Seiter says. To that end, the museum will hold a public event, “$4.20 at OCMA” from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 20 at the museum and will admit any visitor for $4.20. April 20 is a traditional day of celebration for marijuana proponents and 420 is the symbol for support of marijuana use.
“Californians have always tried to tie weed to larger societal changes, whether it’s the counterculture or the war on drugs, or whatever social movement is at the forefront,” Seiter says.
This is one of three exhibits dedicated to social issues which will be mounted in the next year in the museum. The second will detail the legacy of the Black Panthers, a group originating in Oakland, and the third will show the photos of Dorothea Lange, drawn from the museum’s large collection of the Depression-era artist.
“This is definitely part of a broader push to be a space where people can talk about contemporary issues and address the social needs of Oakland,” Seiter says.
The Oakland Museum of California, 1000 Oak St., Oakland, is open Wednesdays and Thursdays 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Fridays 11 a.m.-9 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Admission ranges from free to $15.95. See www.museumca.org for information.