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Colorado Nonprofit Aims to Translate Vocabulary of Legal Weed Into Sign Language

Boulder-based Sign of the Times will bring cannabis-related sign language education to the deaf community, with goal of enhancing access to dispensaries and jobs.

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Photo via U.S. Air Force/ Kyle Johnson

As cannabis legalization spreads like wildfire from state to state, the once-demonized plant is finding its place in America’s cultural mainstream. But while baby boomers and senior citizens are now experiencing the wonders of legal weed, other communities have been left out entirely.

According to a new report from Westword, in an effort to bring all of the benefits of herb to the hearing impaired, a Boulder, Colorado-based marijuana education nonprofit known as the eCS Therapy Center is launching a new initiative titled Sign of the Times, with plans to offer education for deaf people and sign language translators on how to best communicate using the cannabis industry’s increasingly complex and constantly changing terminology.

“Language changes society, and it normalizes things," eCS Therapy president Dr. Regina Nelson told Westword. "I think it’s really exciting to be empowering other people through language to be able to communicate about cannabis and hemp."

By translating names of specific cannabinoids, types of concentrates, and general dispensary processes into sign language, Dr. Nelson and her co-workers hope that they can push the legal weed industry closer to federal standards enforced by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Sign of the Times translators will tour local dispensaries and formulate the new language directly off of real-world necessities.

“We just want to make cannabis companies ADA-compliant," said Dr. Nelson. "What’s really great about doing this is it allows this certified deaf interpretation team to put together a really great video glossary around this [cannabis] terminology, but then, it also allows for teaching other deaf interpreters, so that this service becomes available to patients who go in to see their doctor."

eCS hopes to begin presenting the Sign of the Times curriculum to the deaf community by early 2019, but without federal nonprofit funding thanks to weed’s Schedule I status under the Controlled Substances Act, eCS relies on private funding to pay for cannabis education initiatives like this one.

“We want [interpreters] to have all the tools and resources they need," Dr. Nelson told Westword. "This is a social-service project and a community-driven project. We are looking to provide those resources for free to other nonprofits and those within the cannabis industry."

Visit the Sign of the Times website to learn more about the initiative or to donate to the project.