hemp embassy One almost never sees potent cannabis plants flowering in public and while this was a common sight almost everywhere only 80 years ago, it is now banned in most corners of the earth. Until recently, the Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museums in Amsterdam and Barcelona, the Cannabis College in Amsterdam, the Hemp Museum in Berlin, and the Museo Della Civilta Contadina in Bologna were the only places in the world either solely devoted to the heyday of cannabis, or actually permitted to display real cannabis plants.
Where cannabis is finally allowed to be cannabis again
One almost never sees potent cannabis plants flowering in public and while this was a common sight almost everywhere only 80 years ago, it is now banned in most corners of the earth. Until recently, the Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museums in Amsterdam and Barcelona, the Cannabis College in Amsterdam, the Hemp Museum in Berlin, and the Museo Della Civilta Contadina in Bologna were the only places in the world either solely devoted to the heyday of cannabis, or actually permitted to display real cannabis plants. Alongside countless cannabis-related exhibits at the Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum and the Cannabis College, visitors to these centres can admire actual potent flowering cannabis plants, while the other museums only display industrial hemp exhibits or are forced by law to do without living cannabis altogether.
Potent cannabis flowers are not always illegal
Recently, Vienna joined the exclusive club of cities home to a cannabis information centre, with the opening of the Hanfbotschaft (“Hemp Embassy”) at Esterhazygasse 34, not far from Mariahilferstraße in the 7th District, the most popular shopping street in Vienna. The exhibition’s website and flyers advertise a public cannabis flower show featuring numerous strains in full bloom cultivated by renowned breeders. To this day, many Austrians believe that it is legal in Austria to cultivate non-flowering cannabis plants and that they only become illegal as soon as the plants flower.
But, in fact, flowering cannabis plants are legal as long as the flowers are not used in the ‘production of addictive substances’, as the law describes it. The legislation does not, however, in any way explicitly mention flowering and non-flowering plants. Instead, it merely defines for what purpose cannabis may not be cultivated. That means that anyone cultivating flowering plants to show them to others, without smoking the flowers, selling them, or otherwise commercialising them, is operating within the confines of the law. When asked about this in January of this year, the Austrian Minister of Home Affairs responded as follows,
“Austrian case law does not qualify the emergence of flowers and seed heads on hemp plants as the production of addictive substances. Only the harvest of cultivated flowers and seed heads from plants permitted for non-commercial purposes represents the production addictive substances under the law.”
The activists of the hemp museum association didn’t need telling twice and they struck while the iron was hot, opening the first Hemp Embassy in Austria. As explained on its homepage, the aim of the association is,
“To show the public that cannabis is not “a” substance, but rather constitutes – similar to wine culture – a true diversity of colours, shapes and aromas. The time has come to end the distinction between good (growing) and bad (flowering) cannabis plants. The blossoms are the natural development of every cannabis plant and form the basis for the extraction and production of seeds, medicine and stimulants. It’s ultimately impossible to prohibit a plant created by nature. On the other hand, it’s certainly possible in an enlightened society for people to develop and maintain a sensible policy for the use of cannabis.”
Eight display cases of flowering cannabis
On 16 September 2015, the first Hemp Embassy in Austria opened featuring highly potent plants, which awaited the large opening party from behind the glass of eight display cases. One of these cases displayed Sensi Seed’s legendary Northern Lights strain, which had already blossomed for five weeks before the opening. The seven most spectacular specimens, including Northern Lights, are displayed individually, each under a 600 Watt lamp in a small area, giving them sufficient room to produced large, strong flowers. Each display case has been provided with detailed information on the THC and CBD content of the plant contained therein, the flowering period, the genetic origins of the strain, and the seed bank. In addition, a cord invites visitors to take a good sniff of each plant’s specific aroma. A pull on the Northern Lights cord releases an intoxicating honey-musk scent with mild juniper-berry notes through a small air hole in the side of the security glass of the display case. The friendly guide explains to interested visitors that this crystalline beauty is actually already overripe and will soon be harvested.
Everything is within the limits of the law
Here, unlike in the case of illegal plants cultivated for flower production, everything is within the confines of Austrian law. A solicitor is present during the harvest to oversee the whole process, after which the plants are transported to a waste incineration facility where they are destroyed. The solicitor documents and verifies the harvest, transport and destruction on site to comply with the legal requirement that the flowers are not used for the production of drugs. So far, public prosecutors have not intervened, but according to local media reports they are allegedly investigating the legality of the project. With a view to being as transparent as possible, the flowering process is overseen by webcams. Even the slightest chance that the Hemp Embassy Vienna could be accused of allowing its cannabis to end up in a private joint, or even on the black market, must be nipped in the bud to ensure that the seriousness of the project is not jeopardised. There is even a full smoking ban in effect on the premises, as it is precisely the smoking of cannabis that is surrounded by the false information, prohibitions, fear, and preconceptions that stand in the way of the potential of this forbidden plant. Prejudices will be given no credence at the Hemp Embassy Vienna, in the hope that the association’s normalisation efforts will succeed. The focus of the exhibition is not on growing techniques, equipment, or use as a recreational substance, but the plant in all its glory.
The Hemp Embassy Vienna also thoroughly showcases medicinal cannabis and in particular, the medicinal strain bred by the team is something to be very proud of. This strain contains over 9% CBD and just as much THC, meaning it would be perfect for medicinal purposes – if it did not have to be destroyed, that is. In addition to a great deal of information on medicinal cannabis, the Hemp Embassy Vienna’s friendly team provides plenty of information and materials on the Austrian cannabis culture, decriminalisation, legalisation campaigns, and events. The Hemp Embassy Vienna also has a small museum shop that sells legal hemp delicacies, books and accessories.
The Hemp Embassy Vienna is open to visitors from all over the world, from 12 noon to 8pm, Monday to Saturday. A visit is well worth it and is even free of charge.
Hemp Embassy Vienna
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday, 12 noon to 8pm
U-Bahn metro station: U3 Zieglergasse