Boulder Nonprofit Wants to Teach Cannabis and Dispensary Sign Language

How do you say "hash oil" in sign language?
How do you say "hash oil" in sign language?
For those new to using cannabis, learning all the slang and scientific terms around the plant can be tough — but imagine how hard it'd be to learn "cannabinoid" if you couldn't hear at all?

Dr. Regina Nelson, president of cannabis education nonprofit eCS Therapy Center, will spearhead a new project dubbed “Sign of the Times," which aims to bring cannabis-related sign language to deaf people. Nelson, a longtime medical marijuana activist, will meet with a team of certified deaf interpreters in Denver next month to discuss their upcoming platform.

Nelson says the interpreters will tour several dispensaries in the area, which will help show them how to contextualize cannabis language for the deaf. “Language changes society, and it normalizes things," Nelson explains. "I think it’s really exciting to be empowering other people through language to be able to communicate about cannabis and hemp."

The development of this new language will change the way deaf people have been marginalized in the cannabis industry, Nelson believes, hoping her program will start a snowball effect in both the cannabis industry and doctors' offices.

“We just want to make cannabis companies ADA-compliant," adds Nelson, referring to the Americans With Disabilities Act. "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," she says. "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."
click to enlarge Dr. Regina Nelson runs a cannabis education nonprofit in Boulder. - COURTESY OF REGINA NELSON
Dr. Regina Nelson runs a cannabis education nonprofit in Boulder.
Courtesy of Regina Nelson
Nelson became actively involved with cannabis when she was a teen, but became serious about medical marijuana nine years ago, when she was working toward her Ph.D.

“I really didn’t know the validity of this plant. I think what drew me in was the endocannabinoid system,” she remembers.

Nelson may be an expert in cannabis, teaching endocannabinoid classes to health-care professionals and consulting for cannabis businesses — but she admits that she hasn’t worked with the deaf before. Still, the Boulder-based doctor noticed a void in services for the hearing-impaired, so she started looking for help.

The biggest hurdle for Sign of the Times has been funding, according to Nelson. The eCS Therapy Center operates as a nonprofit organization, so Nelson abstains from applying for government funding, because of the plant's Schedule I status with the federal government. To raise money for the project, Nelson says her team has relied on private business investments.

‘We are hoping to raise money for the people who are working for the deaf community. We want them to have all the tools and resources they need," she says. "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."

Nelson expects Sign of the Times to reach the deaf community by early next year. To learn more about the project and how to help, check out the Sign of the Times website.
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Tiffany Bergeron is a contributor for Westword's marijuana section and has been published numerous times in Sensi Magazine's Denver/Boulder Edition. She currently writes about Boulder's cannabis scene.