Over the years, attitudes toward drugs have changed. Hemp was a huge cash crop, being used for clothing, before it was outlawed. Doctors used to prescribe opium and heroine as remedies for pain and nervousness. The “coca” in Coca-Cola came form coca leaves used to make cocaine. There are museums around the world dedicated to chronicling the ups and down of drugs.
Jesús Malverde is the unofficial “patron saint” of drug smugglers, or “narcos.” Members of the Mexican drug industry refer to him as St. Jesus Malverde. They pray to him hoping for protection and good crops. The problem is that the Catholic Church did not make him a saint, nor is there any evidence that he ever existed. Nevertheless, Mexico City’s Museo del Enervantes de la Secretaria de la Defensa Nacional has an entire display dedicated to him. One can also see the stuffed German Shepard, Zayaqui, who came to fame as the best drug-sniffing dog in Mexico. Zayaqui, who died in 2008, was responsible for discovering over 8,000 pounds of marijuana.
Mexico’s Defense Ministry is located on Mexico City’s north side. The Museo del Enervantes lies deep inside the building. It is not open to the general public. The government had to do this because visitors were leaving with “samples.” Admittance now is through “knowing somebody who knows somebody.”
The museum is noted for its collection of narco culture memorabilia. Gold-plated phones, gold-plated handguns and automatic rifles, help the visitor see a little of the narco culture. The museum also has a very complete selection of different types marijuana, cocaine, and meth-amphetamines, as well as displays on how they are secretly smuggled across borders.
Approximately 2400 miles northeast of this museum, one would come upon the Drug Enforcement Administration Museum and Visitors Center in Arlington, VA. The DEA has no shrines to St. Jesús Malverde, nor do they have caches of gold-plated weapons. What they do have, however, is a no-nonsense approach to the War on Drugs. There is exhibits called “Illegal Drugs in America,” “Good Medicine, Bad Behavior”…opioid addiction, and “Drugs: Costs and Consequences.” The DEA Museum has an Educational Foundation and a Gift Shop. Even though the Gift Shop doesn’t sell drugs, they do offer a wide variety DEA paraphernalia including hats, badges, patches, windbreakers, golf bags, coffee mugs, key chains, and watches. All of them proudly bearing the DEA logo.
A short leap across the pond brings the visitor to not one, but two Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museums, one in Amsterdam, and the other in Barcelona. Both are run by the same organization and feature identical displays. A key difference is that the facility in Amsterdam is the oldest museum in the world dedicated solely to marijuana/hemp.
The theme of these museums seems to be “Hemp Is Our Friend.” Admission is about $9.25 USD, with children under 13 admitted free when visiting with an adult. The display “Cannabis in Cartoons” points out that when Popeye the Sailor was first drawn in 1929, spinach was slang for marijuana. There is a display on the history of hemp, and its importance to trade and industry. The museums have one of the world’s largest collections of hash pipes. Exhibits on medical marijuana show cannabis’ healthy side. There is even a display on how to0 make your own hash. This is a user-friendly place.
From Mexico City to Washington to Amsterdam and Barcelona, drug museums have different takes on narcotics.