June 16 - September 15, 2019

Q&A with the Co-Curators


Cannabis use generates strong, often divided opinions, but its story is undeniably significant. With installation for our upcoming exhibition underway, we sat down with the co-curators (Eric Stanley and Brian Applegarth) for a little Q&A:

Eric Stanley, Associate Director and Curator of History, Museum of Sonoma County 

Brian Applegarth, Guest Co-Curator


How was this exhibition conceived and developed?

Eric: We've been considering this exhibition for about eight years. Before and after the legalization of medicinal marijuana in 1996, Sonoma County has played a significant role with dispensaries, medical marijuana advocates, activists, and others in a rapidly evolving environment. The exhibition was conceived to capture the story of what lies behind or beneath these rapid changes, which were decades in the making. No matter where you stand on cannabis, it’s important to know the evolution of this issue.

Brian: I met Eric a few years ago at a historian event in Occidental. We spoke about the interesting cannabis legacy of Sonoma County and how rich it was in content and culture. Time passed, things evolved, and now the time is right to share this history with our Sonoma community and the greater bay area. It was developed in collaboration with cannabis pioneers, legendary activists, and counter-culture historians throughout the Bay Area. The story of cannabis is a journey that shares the cultural fabric of northern California.


Why is it Important for the Museum to present this exhibition?

Brian: Cannabis was strongly stigmatized. The rapid innovation in this multi-billion dollar industry, combined with lingering stigmas that still exist, creates a wide gap of misunderstanding in communities. Information is power and this exhibition shares about the many roles that cannabis has, does, and will play in our communities. Sonoma is defined by its close relationship with nature, agricultural roots, and experimental communities. Cannabis as a symbol and a plant, has shaped our northern California culture and this exhibit provides context around its journey and influence.

Eric: The thing is, cannabis has a fascinating history and legacy. While it has been part of human history for thousands of years, in the last 125 years it has gone from legal to illegal in California and back again. California was both a leader in its prohibition, and in its legalization—with Sonoma County playing a role in the cannabis saga. Understanding the ups and downs, the back and forth, the controversies and the context that have driven these changes is the only way to have a clear view of where we are now. My hope is that this exhibition gives visitors greater perspective on the issue of cannabis- something that is part of our society in new ways and in the news on a daily basis.


What impact would you like this exhibition to have on its visitors?

Brian: I would like this exhibit to open minds and re-frame the cannabis conversation through fact based historical and cultural education.

Eric: We’re not advocating a side, or taking a position in this exhibition, but trying to tell a story that is worth telling and that is relevant now. What we are saying is that this is an important issue, one that we need to understand and discuss. The Museum is a great forum-- a place to take the long-view and talk about our history and culture.