Boulder nonprofit working on marijuana sign language

DENVER -- The deaf community in Colorado has an unusual problem with marijuana.

How do you sign "endocannabinoid?"

In Dank's Denver dispensary, budtenders are ready to help, but for some placing an order is more complicated.

Larry Littleton is deaf and a certified interpreter demonstrating the difficulties, as he wrote out an order for the person behind the counter.

"I believe that it's important for a patient to be empowered and when we don't have communication access," said Littleton.

Even among other deaf people, American Sign Language isn't up to weed. That's where a Boulder nonprofit, ECS Therapy Center is stepping in to help create new cannabis-related vocabulary of signs for the deaf community.

Regina Nelson is bringing together interpreters and deaf professionals to compile a video glossary.

"If this is the best sign for marijuana," she said, showing a sign that looks like holding a joint to her mouth, "it's really not appropriate to cannabis and cannabis oil and these other things."

Nelson hopes to finish the glossary next year and as it goes into informal use, she says she hopes to eventually petition the Sign Language Academy to add it to the official lexicon.  

"As a social scientist language is what normalizes things and so to help empower the deaf community to develop language around this is what will help normalize medical cannabis use," she said.

The group of volunteers is touring grows and dispensaries this week to learn about the industry and hoping to make it more ADA friendly. At a recent medical marijuana conference in which Littleton spoke, he said, the need was painfully obvious.

"There was no interpreters offered, no real-time captions offered and no way to understand what was being presented," said Littleton. "It’s important to be able to communicate. That’s the bottom line."

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