PRESENTATION OF A LIVING LEGEND: BEN DRONKERS
In the late sixties, Ben Dronkers worked on merchant ships that took him from his home town of Rotterdam to exotic places around the world and his passion for travel was born.
The early years
In the early seventies he decided to try his luck with designing and making unique garments for his own shop, Ben’s Fashion. Purchasing the material for this unique clothing in Turkey, Afghanistan and Pakistan, he discovered the many benefits of the hemp plant, since a number of garments were made of the plant’s fibre. In addition to hemp fabric, Ben also purchased cannabis for personal use in Turkey, Afghanistan and Pakistan. He thinks back with a smile: “I asked the farmers about the cannabis fields and they gave a knowing laugh. One of them gave me a handful of cannabis seeds as a gift and told me that the seeds were very important. This led me to save them, to learn more about the properties of seeds from different regions, and to collect even more cannabis seeds.”
Exceptional new hybrids
Ben Dronkers travelled the world collecting many wonderful genotypes of the cannabis plant: first-class cultivated varieties and discovering the many uses of this exceptional plant. His travels took him from the Hindu Kush and the Himalayas to South-East Asia and it was around the mid-eighties that Ben’s passion developed from collecting cannabis seeds to cultivating them. Using his extensive collection of Indica and Sativa seeds as a point of departure, he began cross-breeding them in order to combine the genes of different cultivars into new cannabis hybrids. This has led him to the creation of one of the world’s leading seed banks: Sensi Seeds whose menu includes strains such as Black Domina, Fruity Juice and the world famous Jack Herer.
Opening of the Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum
It was in 1985 that Ben Dronkers opened the world’s first museum devoted to cannabis in the heart of Amsterdam together with help of Grow-Guru Ed Rosenthal: the Hash info Museum, later to be known as the Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum.
As Dronkers stated, “Through the Museum, we wanted to provide people with information about what hash, marijuana and hemp can do. Not simply the role of cannabis in Amsterdam’s coffeeshops, but its status as an essential, renewable resource and a global cultural and natural phenomenon.”
The museum has never moved, and has since its inauguration welcomed more than one million visitors, leading to its expansion with the Hemp Gallery, also in Amsterdam, and in 2012, to the opening of world’s largest Cannabis-related museum in the Spanish city of Barcelona.
The history of the Cannabis sativa L. plant is long, and its applications varied, but current perception and knowledge is often surrounded by myths and half-truths. The Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum qualifies these often one-sided views by objectively exhibiting the rich history and the almost endless possibilities of this unique plant. Visitors learn about the diverse and often unexpected uses of hemp based on five basic areas: medicinal, industrial, spiritual, cultural and recreational uses of the plant.
The Museum informs, digs up forgotten or hidden stories and knowledge, corrects or confirms stereotypes, creates food for thought, surprises and baffles.
Reviving the Hemp Industry
Not content to merely talk about the wonderful things that hemp is capable of, Ben Dronkers founded HempFlax in 1994, a company in the north of Holland dedicated to growing and processing industrial hemp. Over the following years he invested tens of millions of euros in this courageous and ultimately successful bid to revive the once-thriving Dutch hemp industry. Today HempFlax is at the forefront of industrial Hemp, responsible for several innovative designs and techniques now being used throughout Europe.
As Ben Dronkers enters his 60s, it is doubtful that he will rest on his laurels. His dedication to the marvelous multifaceted plant cannabis Sativa L. spurs him on to new challenges each year. Though many of his ideas are now a thriving reality, there are always new possibilities to explore for this cannabis entrepreneur.