This Nonprofit is Creating Sign Language for Cannabis Terms

ECS Therapy is creating sign language for cannabis terms so the deaf community can join


As the legal marijuana industry grows, many people are working to ensure that it becomes as accessible as possible. And that doesn’t mean simply making it legal or opening more stores.

It also includes making sure that there’s a common vocabulary that lets everyone in the broad cannabis community communicate with one another. To that end, a nonprofit group based in Boulder, Colorado is now working to establish a new sign language lexicon related to cannabis.

Cannabis-Related Sign Language

Boulder-based ECS Therapy is leading the effort to create cannabis-related sign language. They hope that doing so will make it possible for everyone to have equally easy access to legal weed—regardless of physical ability or language.

To create new terms, signs, and gestures, ECS Therapy is working with a team of interpreters and deaf professionals. Additionally, the group of volunteers is touring cannabis grow facilities and retail dispensaries.

The hope is to become intimately familiar with the ins and outs of the legal cannabis industry. That knowledge, combined with firsthand experience and expertise in sign language, could give them the tools they need to establish a working set of sign language for all things cannabis.

Currently, the group is in its early stages. According to local news sources in Denver, they are currently in the middle of developing new signs and gestures.

The group’s goal is reportedly to create a video glossary of all the new terms they come up with. More specifically, they hope to have the glossary completed at some point next year.

From there, the group said it plans to petition the Sign Language Academy. That petition will hopefully move the new terms into the official sign language lexicon.

Increasing Accessibility, Normalizing Marijuana

For the folks working on the project, it’s a two-way street. Most immediately, building a new, cannabis-related sign language vocabulary will make marijuana more accessible.

In particular, the language could make it much easier for cannabis consumers to shop at dispensaries where budtenders speak sign language.

This could have especially important implications for medical marijuana patients. In many cases, deaf patients face additional challenges when it comes to getting the types of cannabis or cannabis products they need. But a cannabis sign language could fix that problem.

According to ECS Therapy and their partners, establishing cannabis-related sign language will also help the larger marijuana community.

“As a social scientist, language is what normalizes things,” said Regina Nelson, a leader in the sign language project. “So to help empower the deaf community to develop language around this is what will help normalize medical cannabis use.”

Nelson and others working on the project also said that they are facing some unexpected challenges. For example, there are already many gestures that exist within cannabis culture. But many times, these gestures may still be inadequate for a more codified, universal language.

Volunteers pointed to the colloquial gesture of acting like you’re holding a joint. In pop culture, most people probably understand that as a sign for smoking a joint, and by extension, for cannabis consumption in general.

But this gesture fails to speak to other more specific forms of cannabis, such as THC cartridges or cannabis oils. ECS Therapy and their partners hope to create a sign language that is comprehensive and accessible, and that is flexible enough to account for the full range of legal marijuana.

" Nick Lindsey : Nick is a Green Rush Daily writer reporting on all things cannabis. He currently lives in New York City.."