The marijuana industry is big business in California, which reaped nearly half ($2.7-billion) of America's total revenue from legal marijuana sales in 2015. And it could make even more next year if the state legalizes recreational cannabis use this November. But the Golden State is also rich in cannabis culture and history, which the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) is featuring in an exhibit called "Altered State: Marijuana in California."
The exhibit is mainly about sparking discussion on a controversial issue rather than celebrating cannabis in California. "This is a topic people tend to take very polarizing stances on - and often very personal stances - without really knowing the full story," said Lori Fogarty, Director of the OMCA. "My line is, pot is much less dangerous than your parents told you and much more dangerous than your kids will tell you. That's why we need to know more."
Here's what you'll see when the exhibit officially opens April 16.
1. Mock marijuana lab
One of the more striking parts of the exhibit is a mock lab where OCMA reveals how cannabis prohibition has limited our knowledge of marijuana's side effects and potential health benefits. "[W]hen people say there's proof of marijuana doing this or that - lots of claims, from things like it causes schizophrenia to it cures cancer - there really isn't much real research out there," Sarah Seiter, OMCA's Associate Curator, told The Santa Cruz Sentinel.
She added, "We took eight different research studies, summarized documents, noting sample size and findings, and we'll let people go through them and make up their own minds."
2. Shrine to cannabis culture
OCMA's exhibit is meant to entertain as well as inform. So curators put together a tribute to cannabis culture, from Beatniks jiving about grass in the 60s, to The Dude abiding on the big screen. The gallery also includes edibles, vaporizers and bongs. "And we'll be stocking the museum's vending machine with snacks related to the munchies, like Cheetos and Funyuns," added Seiter.
3. Cannabis confessional
Behind a black curtain in the exhibit lies the "Cannabis Confessional," where patrons can anonymously reveal their feelings about and experiences with cannabis. Here's a sampling of the comments left by visitors when OCMA tested out the booth in the summer of 2015:
"I smoked every day for the past 20 years and it's the only thing that calms my brain."
"Weed has gotten too strong! It was more fun when 1 puff didn't render me stooo-ped."
"My girlfriend smokes every day and I wish she didn't. It makes me not want to start a family with her. But I love her."
4. Much more
The exhibit also includes a criminal history of cannabis, an art instillation using projections of waves to distort time and space, and more. The exhibit runs through September 25. Here's the museum's official promo.