Cannabis serves dual purposes – as a medicinal aid and a muse for creative endeavors. According to Marcelle Frey, the American entrepreneur who, alongside her husband Robert Frey (owner of multiple fashion clubs in Las Vegas), established a permanent museum solely devoted to marijuana, both aspects hold significant value in life. Located in New York City’s vibrant Soho district, the House of Cannabis (THC NYC for short) spans five floors of a historic building. For just $45, visitors can indulge in 10 immersive experiences, explore a curated store showcasing cannabis-inspired products, and unwind at the inviting cafe. This one-of-a-kind museum opened its doors in April, marking a significant milestone following the legalization of recreational marijuana use in New York two years ago.
THC NYC is far from your average museum experience. The journey begins with Disorientation, an immersive documentary that encapsulates the 6,000-year history of cannabis and its influence on our culture. In just under two and a half minutes, it covers over 400 milestones. What’s intriguing is the screen’s subtle brilliance, intentionally slowing down our minds, captivating us for a few seconds longer than the norm.
Next, Euphorium awaits. Here, you’re invited to recline on a gigantic vinyl record while donning oversized headphones. The melodies that emanate from different music genres associated with cannabis envelop you, including the infamous Because I Got High by Afroman.
Prepare to be mesmerized in The Hypnodrome, where visionary artist Benjamin Gordon artfully captures the essence of an altered state of consciousness. But it’s not just about seeing and hearing; you can even smell the distinct fragrance of various types of marijuana and learn about the cultivation process.
Part of the museum’s mission is to educate people about the effects of the “war on drugs,” initiated in 1971 by President Richard Nixon, who also created the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). This initiative sparked significant controversy because people saw it as a discriminatory political instrument aimed at minority groups, particularly black communities. It also led to a notable surge in incarceration rates. According to a study by the Human Rights Observatory, the number of drug-related arrests increased from 376,000 in 1980 to over 1,370,000 in 2007, reaching a peak of 1,650,000 in 2018. Aapproximately 80% of these arrests were for drug possession rather than sale. According to the National Center on Drug Abuse, nearly 318,000 individuals are arrested each year in the United States for marijuana possession.
“The war on drugs is a war on people,” reads one of the signs in the education room. “The war on drugs tears families apart,” says another sign that details how suspicion of drug use can lead to children being placed in foster care and families evicted from public housing.
The House of Cannabis says 30% of its employees are former drug offenders hired through A Second U Foundation. The museum also has a dedicated room for community events on marijuana regulation and similar topics. According to The Center for American Progress, legalizing marijuana has the potential to save the US government a staggering $7.7 billion each year in law enforcement expenses, while also generating $6 billion in tax revenue.
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