© 2021 KALW
KALW Public Media / 91.7 FM Bay Area
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Test your cannabis IQ at Oakland museum

Four brightly lit dark-green marijuana plants are the first things visitors see when entering the room. No, this is not a grow house, it’s part of the current exhibit at the Oakland Museum of California, “Altered State.”

You can’t touch the plants. That would be a federal offense. So a display is fitted with thick rubber gloves, the kind used to handle extremely toxic material, which allows you to pick up seedlings and mature leaves for a better look.

Both of these elements of the show —the first major museum exhibition on the topic of marijuana — are tightly sealed so that no felonies are committed on premises. But most of this show is definitely hands-on.

One display can be described as “nose-on.” Dried cannabis buds are displayed in acrylic boxes equipped with flaps: lift the flap, put your nose near the air holes and inhale. Is it stinky, or aromatic, pleasing or overwhelming?

The museum has been careful to take a non-committal position throughout, allowing the viewer to gather information in order to make an informed decision.

The exhibit is structured so that you can share your thoughts with others, both in writing and in conversation. Many of the sections pose questions, with large sheets of paper and pencils provided. For example, under the main heading of “What are your deal makers and deal breakers?” there are sub-headings such as “Would you support over 100 dispensaries in your city?” and “If you knew the number of young people using marijuana would not go up?”

The topic of “Youth and Weed” has its own room, which young people from the area helped design. Starter comments include a 16-year-old who says, “We don’t think the same as our parents.” Another notes, “UC Berkeley is the hardest school to get into, but still I’m seeing all these kids smoking weed.” Feel free to your add your own thoughts.

It’s only partly coincidental that the exhibit opened last weekend, ahead of today’s national celebration of cannabis, known as 4/20. But today’s admission fee — $4.20 — was definitely planned in advance.

“Altered State: Marijuana in California” continues at the Oakland Museum of California until September 25.