In Old Berlin’s world-famous Nicholas’ Quarter, visitors can learn about hemp, cannabis and even see legal plants in person. Right next to Berlin’s oldest church, with almost 700 years of history, the Berlin Hempmuseum opened its doors in the historical center of the capital on Dec. 6, 1994. For 23 years now, the history of the cannabis plant and the boundless potential of the still-outlawed plant are being presented to visitors from all over the world in the context of one unique permanent and many changing exhibitions. The hemp museum is the only one of its kind in Germany, and one of only four in the world: Amsterdam, Berlin, Bologna, and Barcelona. The exhibition, which covers all aspects of the cannabis plant, spans almost 300 square meters. As a state approved and public sponsored museum, the Hanfmuseum regularly takes part in official city events like the “Long Night of the Museums,” the “Berlin Fairy-tale days,” as well as the “Historale” taking place in the Nicholas Quarter.
German Pipeweed in the 19th Century — Almost Like the Hobbits
In the Federal Republic of Germany, hemp was cultivated until 1981, and in the former GDR hemp production lasted until 1989. The historical hemp cultivation primarily served the extraction of fibers and seeds, but the psychoactive effect was already known to our great-grandfathers. Thus, hemp flowers in northern Germany were called “strong Tobak,” in the south the buds were known as “Knaster.” The name comes from “knistern,” which means crackling, as the seeds pop in the pipe while smoking and crackle. Wilhelm Busch, the world-famous poet from northern Germany, presented this historical fact dramatically in his 1864 comic “Der Krischan mit der Piepe” (“Krischan with the pipe”) and gave the readers a lesson in terms of prevention and protection of minors at the same time. The story tells of a ten-year-old boy who secretly smokes the father’s “Knaster” pipe. He gets dizzy and starts to hallucinate. The parents react with care, boiling a strong coffee to soothe the overdosed child. In the end, it goes well again and the moral of the story is:
- The parents should never keep their stash unobserved, better hide it
- Children should leave their fingers off papa’s stash if they find it
- Panic is out of place
Of course, the exhibition is also dedicated to its use for building and insulating materials, cellulite use and paper production, seed and nutrition production, and the numerous medical possibilities offered by the three cannabis types: Sativa, Indica and Ruderalis. Those who find the way to the Mühlendamm 5 can book a guided tour — in German or English — that explains and illustrates processing machines, hemp spindles, medieval garments, old hemp pipes. The exhibits display numerous historical and new objects of the centuries-old hemp culture with vivid authentically.
In the Hempmuseum, Berlin’s only legal cannabis plants are shown. The Museum Association “Hanf e.V”. obtained an exceptional permission for the cultivation of certified fibre hemp plants for exhibition purposes. Growing cultivation hemp with less than 0.3% THC still requires a special government permit that is only available to full-time farmers. Private individuals and non-agricultural companies cannot grow any of the EU-certified fibre-hemp strains.
Cannabis history in the Hempmuseum — does that fit together?
The last hemp farmer of the Federal Republic of Germany, Martin Butter, was forced to close and sell his company in 1981 after a decade of legal trouble fighting the government’s general hemp ban. In his book “The White Gold of the Batschka” Butter writes about old hemp cultivation techniques and revenge on the EU guidelines for the cultivation of hemp. Due to rigorous provisions on THC content, our ancestor’s strains are banned today.
Since the approved EU varieties are also the basis for all strains recently approved in the USA, this restriction of natural diversity also applies to the United States. The arbitrary nature of this classification can be seen in the current regulations in Switzerland. Unlike in the EU, THC content up to 1% is defined as fibre hemp, while it is an “addictive drug” or “Marijuana” elsewhere. Since the re-legalization of hemp cultivation, European hemp farmers are no longer allowed to produce their own seed. Hemp farmers in the EU must obtain their seeds from specialized seed producers, most of them operating in France or Italy.
The seed producers are very keen to keep the THC content low through selection. If hemp farmers were able to produce their own seeds again and freely select strains from the historical genetic pool according to soil and climate conditions, the artificially low THC content would hardly be guaranteed. In the south of Germany, fibre hemp strains could produce their original 3% THC after a few generations of growing. That is why varieties such as one CBD-rich “Fedora”-strain are banned from the EU seed catalog, because in some samples THC content above 0.5% was found.
Specific information and knowledge about the German and international hemp history are not conveyed on Google or in another analogue or digital source, but only in Berlin’s Hempmuseum. If you wish to deepen the knowledge acquired after the exhibition, or simply want to drink a cup of coffee or tea, you will find a thematic reading café and room for artists on the lower floor of the historic building. Here, artists are also given the opportunity to exhibit their works, and the museum’s visitors will be able to find thematic videos. A final visit at the Museum’s Gift Shop rounds off the visit. Roasted hemp seeds, an informative book, hempy souvenirs or a Hempmuseum shirt are a perfect and novel souvenir for the loved ones at home as well as the necessary support for the museum’s Director Rolf “Rollo” Ebbinghaus and his supporting team of idealist and activists.
10178 Berlin-Mitte, Germany
Open: Tue-Fri: 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
Sat./Sun: 12 a.m.-8 p.m.
Closed on Monday
Exhibit photos come courtesy of the Hanfmuseum
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