California Cannabis Oral History Project

Over the last fifty years, few places in the world could match the economic and cultural impact of California. And in no other realm is that impact more clearly seen than in the state’s primary cash crop: cannabis. From pioneering breeding techniques and the development of groundbreaking strands to a production volume that dwarfed every state in the union, California has long stood as the epicenter of American cannabis. The wave of legalization in recent years has finally brought this important industry out of the shadows. In doing so, it has also opened the door to develop a true historical record on cannabis in the Golden State.

The California Cannabis Oral History Project seeks to take the first step in creating that historical record by conducting in-depth interviews with the principal growers of the state’s cannabis industry. The project is a partnership between the 420 Archive, a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of cannabis history, and Oral History Center at UC Berkeley, one of the nation’s leading oral history offices that has stood at the forefront in documenting the history of California and the West for over the last 60 years. Through the firsthand accounts of the growers themselves, the interviews will provide a detailed history of the state’s cannabis industry, tracing its origins, development, and evolution over the last five decades. Such firsthand accounts will offer important insight on topics ranging from cannabis culture and world-renown breeding techniques to the long fight against prohibition and the changing market that resulted. Moreover, these oral histories will ultimately serve as the foundation for The 420 Archive Collection at UC Berkeley, an unprecedented compilation of interviews, media recordings, ephemera, and other material on the history of California cannabis that will be housed at the famed Bancroft Library.

Learn about Project Coordinator/Oral Historian Todd Holmes

Project Details

Oral History

  • Each interview will be video recorded, transcribed, and preserved at The BancroftLibrary of UC Berkeley
  • Digital copies of the transcripts, upon approval of the interviewee, will be made publicly accessible through the Oral History Center’s online archive.


  • Both the Oral History Center and 420 Archive will cooperate fully with organizations such as Mendocino’s Origins Council who seek to use these interviews in their efforts to obtain an appellations designation for specific cannabis regions of California.
  • OHC interviews were used in the successful effort to obtain such historic designation for the wine industry of Napa Valley

Larger Collection

  • The interviews of this project will be part of The 420 Archive Collection at The Bancroft Library
  • The collection will be composed of additional oral histories, media recordings, and other material collected by the 420 Archive organization. Additionally, the collection will offer a home for further donations by growers, activists, and other organizations.

Support The Project

The OHC is an independent research unit of The Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley. As a soft-money center, all OHC projects are funded by donations and outside support.

OHC is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization – All donations are tax-deductible.