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A Visit to the Cannabis Museum in Boston, MA

In Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood, there is a dispensary where a unique experience awaits the curious consumer. Named one of the best dispensaries in Boston by Thrillist, Seed is an adult-use cannabis retail establishment, and what makes this dispensary special is the Core Social Justice Cannabis Museum located inside the shop. Visiting the museum is free (but you must be at least 21), so both customers and interested individuals are welcome to enter and peruse the collection of exhibits, thoughtfully assembled by a team of diverse curators on a mission to end the injustices of cannabis prohibition and the war on drugs.


The Museum

American Warden: One of the first exhibits visitors encounter is the startling “American Warden” display. American Warden provides a critical examination of the severe levels of incarceration in the United States, emphasizing the devastating and unjust outcomes of cannabis prohibition for thousands of Americans. The visual draws attention to the racially oppressive and disturbingly extreme nature of American carceralism by pointing out that the US imprisons 25% of the world’s inmates, despite the fact that the US population makes up only 5% of the Earth’s human inhabitants. The exhibit depicts the rate of incarceration among black, Latino, and white American men born after 2001, with faceless figures dressed in orange and posed for their mugshots. The statistics portrayed in the visual representation convey the striking reality of racial injustice in the American carceral system, and the exhibit culminates with your own face reflected in a mirror to punctuate the alarming fact that any American male born after 2001 has a 1 in 13 chance spending time behind bars, regardless of his race.


Paraphernalia Collection: Affixed to the adjoining wall is a circular display spread with various donated bongs, pipes, vapes, rolling papers, and lighters. This exhibit highlights the rights violations involved in cannabis policing. Paraphernalia is a gateway to being searched by the police, which, but for the paraphernalia would not be legal under the fourth amendment of the US constitution. Under the fourth amendment, Americans are protected against government search and seizure of their own property or person. However, the constitutionally-protected reasonable expectation of privacy can be overridden if law-enforcement claim that they have probable cause, and the presence of paraphernalia (or even the purported smell of cannabis) is enough to undermine this right.

The exhibit also to highlights how people from differing cultures or backgrounds can adopt distinctive methods for consuming cannabis. The appearance of one’s paraphernalia can signal where you are from and the traditions associated with cannabis consumption in your community. Because of this attachment between consumption and cultural identity, paraphernalia can facilitate social bonding across cultural lines. When two individuals identify common paraphernalia and realize that they can share in the cannabis ritual, a camaraderie can be established that transcends language and other cultural barriers.


Terpene Wall: This interactive exhibit features a wall of laboratory flasks from which guests can sample the smells of different terpenes, with each bottle accompanied by a placard containing information about the terpene’s scent profile and its presence in botanicals beyond cannabis. Visitors are invited to approach the wall and sample the smells of some common terpenes associated with sativa and indica strains, like limonene, pinene, caryophyllene, linalool, and myrcene. The installation provides information about how terpenes give fragrance to cannabis, and how they can impact our mood like aromatherapy to achieve different effects, each strain being characterized by a specific psychoactive personality based on its terpene profile. The terpene wall also informs visitors about the entourage effect, a sort of synergism that occurs and when terpenes buffer the psychoactive properties of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to create unique high experiences that the individual compounds would not produce used in isolation.

> Learn more about the effects of terpenes.


Jail Cell: Visitors of the cannabis museum also have the opportunity to sit in a jail cell made of real jail doors from the Massachusetts Belmont Jail, and there is a placard detailing the interesting story of the doors’ original use for sheltering homeless individuals needing work in the town of Belmont during the industrial recession of the late 1800s. Inside the cell, a video plays that tells the tragic story of Jawara McIntosh (known in the music industry as Tosh1). As a practitioner of the Rastafari faith, Jawara was a devoted advocate for legalization who was unfortunately sentenced to six-months in the Bergen County Jail on cannabis-related charges in 2017. Shortly after incarceration, peace-loving Jawara was brutally attacked and beaten into a coma. His injuries were so severe that he spent over 500 days in a hospital, during which time his family was devastated by the struggle to gain access to visit him in his critical condition because of his status as a prisoner. The ordeal left Jawara significantly disabled for the rest of his life, and in 2020, the musician and father of five died at the early age of forty. Through Jawara’s story, the installation illuminates the inhumanity of the carceral system, and honors the memory of the prisoners and their families who have been victims of the cruel drug war that continues to criminalize non-violent individuals.

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“Black Market” Cultivation: A replica of a makeshift black market cultivation structure houses the premises’ resident Cannabis sativa plants, and the exhibit informs viewers about the history of illicit cultivation and its effects on cannabis plant genetics. The shed-like installation is meant to resemble the illicit grow houses often used by prohibition growers, who may also use basements, attics, other creative alternative spaces to avoid persecution. The exhibit explains the evolution of cultivation technologies, such as powerful indoor grow-lighting and hydroponic systems, and guests further learn about the downstream effect of prohibition and the black market on current cannabis THC levels. As a direct result of prohibition, modern cannabis plants’ THC levels are drastically elevated in comparison to plants that existed before the 1970s. Because of the plant’s historically illicit status, cannabis products came to demand a high price, which drove consumers and sellers to desire plants that were as potent as possible. Breeders became obsessed with the idea of maximizing THC, and this has contributed to the levels of THC in the plants as they are now, which have risen from maximum levels of around 5% in the 1970s to levels of up to 30% in today’s plants!



The Dispensary

Seed cannabis museum welcomes guests to not only browse a fascinating collection of installations, but also to browse an extensive menu of products. The original bar from the building’s former life as a bowling alley and nightclub serves as the counter where guests can order from an array of options. Next to the bar, guests can examine buds from various strains along a counter, where flowers are displayed in clear boxes covered by a magnifying glass top, so customers can more thoroughly compare and appreciate the properties of different breeds. One of the shop’s unique offerings is a selection of stylish “stash boxes.” The bundles contain various products like joints, edibles, and tinctures themed for whatever experience you are looking for in your cannabis product, with boxes like “sleep,” “sex,” or “starter pack.” Discounts on spotlighted brands are featured on a rotating basis, and the store also offers every day discounts for medical patients, veterans, and people in financial hardship.

>> Find a dispensary near you. 



If you are unable to visit the cannabis museum in-person, you can still participate in one of the museum’s exhibits from your own computer. The Cannfessional is an interactive platform where you can share your own cannabis story. The purpose of the exhibit is to capture the plurality of individuals who commune with the plant, as well as their experiences of the benefits associated with cannabis consumption. By sharing our unique and diverse experiences, we move toward breaking down the stigma and shame associated with cannabis use. Curators also hope to gain inspiration from others’ experiences for new installations, so your voice can also play a role in the future of the museum. If you do find yourself in Boston, whether you are a local or a cannabis tourist, you do not want to miss what the Seed dispensary and Core Social Justice Cannabis Museum has to offer to the cannabis experience.

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