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Fabled Hemp Museum Needs Permanent Home  0

by Tim Perkins
Lack of museum sites and facilities threatens many private collections.

Richard Davis Smiling
Richard Davis

Richard Davis drove up and down the state of California in his brown pickup truck throughout the 1990s with a big marijuana stalk tied to its shell and a collection of informational displays plus a few historical artifacts, and setting up his Mendocino Mobile Marijuana Museum at hemp rallies, public hearings and, most famously, poised in front of a Madera courthouse where three men were on trial for planting industrial hemp in front of TV news cameras — more than a year before state voters legalized medical marijuana.

Every day as the trial went on, the judge had to instruct the jury not to be influenced by his museum and not to talk about the case or read anything about the case that might be in the display. Davis wasn’t in Madera to talk about the trial but to make sure that everyone who walked by learned something about hemp and the founding of the American republic and how cannabis hemp could save the world.

He continued to make and collect thousands of items over two and a half decades, including a warehouse capacity display of his cannabis museum in West LA that was open at irregular times, by the time he passed away. Now Richard Davis’ fabled museum truck has been lost and the rest of his collection sits in a storage locker with nowhere to go and no one to see it.

Just before he passed away, Davis and his partner, Brenda Kershenbaum, called up long-time friend and fellow activist Chris Conrad who, along with his wife Mikki Norris, had toured the country since the late 1980s and given presentations with Davis, author Jack Herer, Cannabis Action Network, college hemp clubs and countless others. Davis asked Conrad to help preserve his collection and Conrad, who has curated cannabis museums in Amsterdam and Oakland CA and has his own collection, was quick to agree.

“Unfortunately, it’s been slow going ever since,” Conrad recently told “It opened a whole can of worms and we came to realize that things are approaching a critical point. We know of numerous people who gathered their own collections of memorabilia and artifacts and storing them away, and when they pass on their families might not even know the importance of preserving that history.”

Conrad is now on the Board of the 420 Archive, a non-profit organization, working with other well-known collectors Michael Krawitz Donnie Wirtshafter is on a quest for resources to try to capture, preserve and exhibit some of these lost treasures.

“A lot of us are in the same situation,” said Conrad. “We have collections and archives that need to be cataloged, preserved and given a home where researchers and the public can have access to this amazing and suppressed part of history. Basically, what we need is someone who has a location available or other ways to support this important work before these records are lost forever.”

The 420 Archive is a grant, donor and volunteer supported non-profit organization that does other important work, including preserving cannabis archives and collecting personal oral histories of the cannabis outlaw community, medical marijuana patients, and the reform movement.

For more information contact Tim Perkins or Joe Hoover.

The Transnational Origins of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937  0

By David A. Guba, Jr.


Image - Marijuana revenue stamp 1937 issue
Signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on 2 August 1937, the Marijuana Tax Act, the country’s first federal anti-cannabis law, required all persons cultivating, importing, or selling cannabis for whatever purposes to register with the IRS and pay an occupational tax of $1 per ounce. The Act also stipulated that anyone caught with unregistered or untaxed marijuana would be punished with a fine of up to $2000 and/or imprisonment for up to 5 years. For the past eight decades, historians of anti-drug laws in the United States routinely have presented the history of the Marijuana Tax Act as a homegrown story firmly rooted in the post-Prohibition, anti-immigration politics of 1930s America and the personal, possibly conspiratorial ambitions of Harry J. Anslinger, the Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and the Act’s primary proponent. But recent research into the intellectual origins of the Marijuana Tax Act reveals a history rooted in a centuries-long transnational circulation of ideas about cannabis and its intoxicating effects originating outside of the United States.


In his book Home Grown: Marijuana and the Origins of Mexico’s War on Drugs (2012), historian Isaac Campos helped detach the history of America’s “War on Drugs” from its national moorings by convincingly showing that popular perceptions of marijuana as a “killer weed” first developed in Mexico during the late 19th century and later spread to southwestern states in the U.S during the early 20th. In fact, the Mexican government became so convinced that marijuana incited violent criminality in users that it passed a federal marijuana ban in 1920, some 17 years before Harry J. Anslinger and his Federal Bureau of Narcotics followed suit and successfully pushed their Marijuana Tax Act through Congress. By inverting the traditional historical narrative of America’s War on Drugs, Campos reveals that negative popular perceptions of marijuana that spawned the country’s anti-drug crusade in the 1930s originated outside the United States and well before the 20th century.


A closer look at the Congressional hearings on the Marijuana Tax Act in late April of 1937 as well as Harry J. Anslinger’s anti-marijuana propaganda from the mid-1930s reveals that America’s anti-drug crusaders were not only influenced by ideas about the “killer weed” originating from Mexico but also drew heavily from myths about the evils of hashish emanating from 19th century France. In his testimony to the Ways and Means Committee on 27 April 1937, Anslinger relayed a brief and inaccurate account of the French myth of the Ismaili Assassins and their supposed use of hashish to transform their disciples into blood-thirsty murderers. “In Persia, a thousand years before Christ,” Anslinger declared, “there was a religious and military order founded which was called the Assassins and they derived their name from the drug called hashish which is now known in this country as marihuana. They were noted for their acts of cruelty, and the word ‘assassin’ very aptly describes the drug.”1 Anslinger reiterated this point in an article in The American Magazine published in July 1937 entitled “Marijuana: Assassin of Youth” and employed this motif of hashish-crazed assassins in a propaganda film of the same title released in the fall of 1937.2 The message of this (mis)information was abundantly clear—marijuana use threatened to transform America’s youth into drug-crazed assassins.


This myth of the medieval cult of hashish-using Islamic assassins originated in the prejudiced imagination of 19th century French scholars and scientists. In 1809, famed Orientalist Antoine-Isaac Silvestre de Sacy delivered a lecture at the Institut de France on a sect of Ismaili assassins first introduced to Europe by Marco Polo’s famous 14th century travelogue. During his talk, Sacy argued that the French word “assassin” derived from the Arabic term al-Hashishiyya (Hachichin in French and “Hashish-Eater” in English) used by contemporary chroniclers in the Islamic World to describe the sect and its supposed use of hashish. But Sacy based his conclusions on biased sources and Orientalized fantasies rather than facts and thus inaccurately portrayed hashish as an evil intoxicant used by the Ismaili sect to transform disciples into blindly obedient murderers. In fact, no conclusive evidence existed then or exists now that links the sect of Ismaili assassins to hashish. And as Marshall Hodgson, Bernard Lewis and Farhad Daftary have shown, when the term is used in extant Arabic (and often Sunni) sources it “is used only in its abusive, figurative sense of ‘low-class rabble’ and ‘irreligious social outcasts'” rather than as a practical designation of the sect’s practices. Despite the inaccuracies in Sacy’s contentions, French, European, and American scholars publishing throughout the 19th and 20th centuries widely accepted his specious conclusions and routinely cited his work when discussing the sect, hashish or the Islamic world. And through their repeated and uncritical references to Sacy’s work, these scholars steadily transformed the myth of the Haschischin into a fait prouvé, or proven fact, that linked hashish to assassination and codified both as essentially evil and “Oriental.”


When Harry J. Anslinger and his Bureau launched their propaganda campaign against marijuana and successfully pushed the Tax Act through Congress in 1937, they drew heavily from negative and prejudiced perceptions of the drug emanating from 19th century Latin America and Europe to convince American lawmakers of the urgency and necessity of establishing severe proscriptions against marijuana use. As lawmakers today reevaluate the nation’s drug laws and move towards a more rational, public health-oriented approach to drug regulations, it is imperative that they and the citizenry understand the complex historical processes that produced and legitimated the nation’s failed War on Drugs so that similar failures can be avoided in the future.

David A. Guba, Jr. is a PhD Candidate at Temple University and is presently writing a dissertation on the history of hashish in 19th century France. He is currently an Adjunct Instructor at Temple University and a Lecturer at the Universtié d’Angers in France. One can other find samples of his research and writing at his web site.


  1. Harry J. Anslinger, Testimony to the Ways and Means Committee of the House of Representatives (27 April 1937). It should be noted that the Ismaili sect existed in Persia and Syria between 1090 and
  2. Harry J. Anslinger with Courtney Ryley Cooper, “Marihuana: Assassin of Youth,” The American Magazine 124:1 (July 1937); Assassin of Youth (Marihuana), directed by Elmer Clifton (BCM Productions, 1937).
    This film was the third on three anti-marijuana films released in coordination with the Federal Bureau of Narcotics in 1936 and 1937; Reefer Madness (1936) is the most famous of this trilogy.
  3. Quotation from Farhad Daftary, The Ismā’īlīs: Their History and Doctrines, 2nd Edition (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007) 10, 24.


Oakland Museum of CA looks at marijuana in the state  0

Oakland MuseumThe first-ever exhibition at a major metropolitan museum to focus on marijuana in California today opens April 16 and runs through September 25, 2016 at the Oakland Museum of California. Altered State: Marijuana in California, sponsored in part by the Oakland Museum Women’s Board, is part of the statewide discussions leading up to the November election, when a legalization voter initiative is expected to be on the state ballot.

“We hope this exhibit encourages people to think critically about marijuana, the research available on it, and how it is presented in the media,” said Associate Curator of Natural Sciences Sarah Seiter. “Our goal is that this exhibition will help people have informed conversations with their families and friends about what type of marijuana policy is right for California.” The museum is located at 1000 Oak Street, at 10th Street, in Oakland, one block from the Lake Merritt BART station and not far from the historic Oaksterdam District that Oaksterdam University and launched the 2010 legalization initiative was on the state ballot, Prop 19.

420 Archives Board Member Honored at Emerald Cup  0

Chris Conrad - Winner of the Emerald Cup Lifetime Achievement Award420 Archives Board Member Chris Conrad and his wife, Mikki Norris, received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2015 Emerald Cup in Sonoma County, California, and gave a shout out to the 420 Archive during his acceptance speech and urged people to participate in and support its oral histories project.

The couple has been a key player in the reform movement for 27 years and was at the center of many reforms; helping launch the modern hemp industries and first president of the Hemp Industry Association, the passage of the first medical marijuana law Prop 215, working on the first law immunizing cannabis sales SB 420, cited in major state Supreme Court rulings and author and publisher of landmark books from Hemp: Lifeline to the Future to Shattered Lives: Portraits from America’s Drug War to Cannabis Yields and Dosage. They designed and curated the Hash, Marihuana and Hemp Museum from 1993 into the first decade of this Century. Conrad is a professor at Oaksterdam University and curator of the Oaksterdam Cannabis Museum and the US Hemp Museum. His latest book is The Newbie’s Guide to Cannabis and the Industry with Jeremy Daw.

Call for Volunteers to Serve on 420 Archive Oral History Advisory Committee


The 420 Archive is a new 501c3 Nonprofit organization with a national board. The mission is to collect & preserve the history, activism and culture surrounding the prohibition of cannabis in the United States. We are currently looking for volunteers to serve on Oral History Advisory Committee and to help collect oral histories. The 420 Archive is collecting a variety of oral histories from activists, policy makers, medical cannabis patents, and industry professionals. The organization itself is incorporated in California but board members are located throughout the U.S.


If you would like to be part of this very unique archive and help fill gaps in the historical record on the U.S. cannabis history please contact Joe Hoover if you would like to advise or help in this project.