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Cannabis museum opens in Dunedin

Friday 4 Oct 2013 4:36 p.m.

New Zealand's first dedicated cannabis museum has opened its doors the public in Dunedin today.

Dubbed Whakamana, the one-room museum will record the history of cannabis use in New Zealand and use a mannequin to show onlookers how to smoke 'spots'.

Exhibits are expected to change often – bi-monthly or quarterly – with the current centrepiece an exhibit on the history of cannabis law reform activism at the University of Otago.

Whakamana will also operate a small library with around 100 books – many, about cannabis, cannot be found in Kiwi libraries.

Museum director Abe Gray – a perennial cannabis law reform activist – says the museum has been set up to tackle a taboo in New Zealand culture.

"New Zealand has the highest rate of consumption of cannabis in Western countries, per population, but it's also very taboo," he says.

"It's not talked about even though the majority of the population uses it or has had some experience with it."

Mr Gray says his key aim is to destigmatise the issue and "educate the public".

That includes an educational display about 'spotting', a method of smoking cannabis only seen in New Zealand.

"Foreign visitors have never heard of it before," he says. "You heat two knifes on the electric element and you squeeze a little tiny piece of cannabis – or a spot – in between.

"When smoke is released the person taking the spot stands over it with a little tube, or a plastic bottle with the bottom cut off, and captures the smoke and inhales it."

Dunedin police are aware of Mr Gray's plans, but are not able to do anything to prevent it.

"The museum does not appear to be outside the law," Senior Sergeant Darryl Lennane says. "However the police's position is that they support safe and drug-free communities.

"The experience of police is that cannabis is a drug that creates a significant level of social harm in our communities and often has a strong connection to organised criminal activities."

Mr Gray is assuring the operation will stay legal too and is promising no cannabis will be sold, available or smoked on site.

"It's not that, it's just an information centre and a media centre of activists," he says.

"That would be the last thing that we would do, there are many other places where that happens in Dunedin so that's not really our goal."

The museum can be found at a house known as the 'Legalise Cannabis House' on David St, South Dunedin.

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