Hash in Greece

In 1932, the French author Francis Carco (1886-1958) who worked for various newspapers, was given the assignment to write about two of his favourite topics: prostitution and drugs in the Mediterranean. For his reportages, he successively visited the slums of Barcelona, Athens, Izmir, Istanbul, Beirut, Alexandria and Cairo.

Hash café in Piraeus

His travel report “Haschisch” is exhibited in the Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum. It is about a hash café in Piraeus, the harbour of Athens and begins like this: “I was in the company of a policeman and we walked along the quays of Piraeus one dark blue evening, when I suddenly got the idea to visit a hash café. They had told me that hash cafés were widespread in Greece. I even had a few addresses. My companion smiled. ‘You know’, he said, ‘that the cafés you mentioned are now closed. We are waging a ruthless war… however…’”

Sweet daydreams

After an eventful taxi ride, the two men arrive at a shabby house belonging to a greybeard, who does not know anything and even calls the police. Francis Carco and his personal guide decide to try their luck elsewhere and score hash in the vicinity of the station. They land up in a shack next to the railway. A Sicilian lives there who offers them a tsimbouki (the Greek word for water pipe). At first, the Frenchman felt nothing at all. After three drags, however the effect of hash kicks in. The policeman offered him an orange: “There is no better antidote.” But Francis Carco was already completely intoxicated. “I experienced the sound of the guitar as if it came from another world. It filled me with sweet daydreams. (…) And when I opened my eyes, I saw a simple drawing of the Acropolis on the wall, to me it was so amazing that I really thought I was there. I needed more oranges.”

Threat to society

Cannabis already became illegal in Greece in 1890. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a ban on the import, sale and use of hash because of “the direct threat to society”. Despite this ban, the cultivation of cannabis was widespread in the more isolated countryside. Around 1915, the production of hash was the most important source of income for farmers on the Greek peninsula Peloponnesos according to the French adventurer and writer Henry de Monfreid (“Hashish: A Smuggler’s Tale”, 1933). Each farm had its own variety and just like wine, there were good and bad years.

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On display here: 

Many of the displays in our museums are devoted to the cultural aspect of cannabis use. Pipes and smoking devices from all over the world demonstrate how different cultures have imbibed marijuana and hashish: they illustrate the various ways to smoke weed.

"Marijuana is a useful catalyst for specific optical and aural aesthetic perceptions. I apprehended the structure of certain pieces of jazz and classical music in a new manner under the influence of marijuana, and these apprehensions have remained valid."

Cannabis has a long history as an aid or complement to inspiration in art, philosophy, music and most other kinds of creative human endeavour. Art and cannabis go well together.