Unique Cannabis Positive Designs
It’s all well and good to acknowledge that the War on Drugs has had a very damaging effect on the public perception of pot, but now that the truth about this wonderful medicine is coming out, how do we turn that perception around?
My answer is to offer cannabis positive designs that people can wear or use in the public domain to help spread the message that we are entering a new era for this medicine. Cannabis users have been silenced by bogus policies and brutal policing, but its time to find our voice.
Indeed, once people know it is safe to speak about cannabis what I hear is not just talking, but laughing, singing, and shouting for joy over a natural substance that can aid sleep and control pain, thereby giving people’s lives back to them.
This is no small thing.
If cannabis was a pharma product it would be splashed across every news media and celebrated as a medical breakthrough.
Creation in Prohibition Culture
The fact that this plant has had to fight its way out from under the many layers of lies and myths, out from the depths of the penitentiary system, proves that its effectiveness is more powerful than the system that has tried to suppress it. Welcome back to the public sphere Mary Jane, our prodigal daughter, we’re so happy you are here!
In the midst of this prohibition culture, it wasn’t an easy decision to create pro-cannabis gear. The system as it stands tolerates reproductions of the old drop-out stoner image because it’s a very negative depiction. Artists are allowed to write songs about guns, gangs and ganja because it maintains the criminal stereotype that the War on Drugs is designed to police.
But my aim is to create alternative images that challenge and break those old stereotypes in order to turn the public perception of the mighty bud around. What follows is the story behind each of these designs.
EOA is Dope!
E.O.A. is East of Adelaide in London (Canada) — the “bad” part of town and the area where I live. The perception held by Londoners is that all crime, violence, drugs and prostitution in the city happens EOA.
They feel that It’s a dangerous and unsavory place, which is why houses here sell for about 20% less than the rest of the city. Personally, I love EOA. In fact, I think “EOA is Dope.” I’m comfortable with the fact that it’s a working class neighborhood that doesn’t have a lot of bling and I wouldn’t live anywhere else.
In fact, I think my fellow EOA inhabitants are pretty solid folks and the area has a lot to offer to those not blinded by bias.
The idea for this first design came from my ruminations on the way other Londoners disparaged EOA for being immersed in druggie street culture. As I took on the new commitment to turn negative perceptions about cannabis around I thought, where else better to start than my own backyard?
If naysayers think that EOA is about dope, I’m going to agree by playing on the double meaning of this word. In this way I could use their negative attitude as fodder for a little joke while displaying my true belief that living EOA is actually awesome!
London, New York, LA…
EOA became my gateway drug t shirt to other larger and more illustrious cities.
I worked with some classic design concepts such as enclosing the leaf in a circle. I also chose a grittier degraded font to align the city name with a tough urban image.
In comparison, the rest of the wording was clean and up-beat to mimic the tension between the old negative and newer more positive meanings of the word “dope.”
I was happy with how this turned out and with the amount of complexity that such a simple design could capture so I figured, why not extend that to another of my favorites places, NYC?
Honestly, I thought it was hilarious to extend a design from little nowhere EOA in London Canada to the Big Apple USA. It was kind of an insane leap, but design-wise it worked as well as conceptually. “NYC is Dope” makes a tongue-in-cheek homage to its predecessor, the “I Love NY” campaign. It puts pot in the same basket as people’s admiration for the Big A which functioned well to create the positive image I wanted.
It might seem like a no-brainer to then add Los Angeles to this developing line of designs but the idea didn’t strike me until I watched Lady Gaga Five Foot Two which was shot mostly on the west coast.
I consider Gaga the queen of “turning norms around,” making people think a different way about things and people who are underestimated and shamed.
Yet, “LA is Dope” fell flat for me until I added “City of Angels,” which pulled in the idea of a city full of angels working for social justice Lady Gaga-style but who were anything but angelic.
This created the humorous undertone that was present in the other two designs and that supports a positive reading of the message. I plan to continue developing this design for other locations.
Dare to Cure with Cannabis
The “Dare to Cure with Cannabis” design is also built on a “turn around” strategy. I first came in contact with the D.A.R.E. to say no to drugs campaign when I was a homeless youth in Toronto.
People from this organization would roam the streets in vans looking for people, such as myself, to educate about the dangers of drugs. It irked me that they put cannabis on the same level as heroin, only somewhat worse because it supposedly offered a deceptively friendly introduction to hardcore drug addiction.
Being right there in the midst of friends’ daily struggles with addictions, I knew this organization’s cornerstone premise about marijuana was hogwash.
Fast-forward to the present moment and I now plainly see how these folks were playing into the myth-making system that demonized marijuana in support of the War on Drugs. Yet it wasn’t just this history that informed my choice to use the word “Dare” in this design. I also wanted to dare people who were currently struggling with pain, anxiety, and other addictions-causing chronic illness to step out of their comfort zone and consider medical marijuana.
That, and I just really want to experience walking down the street one day and having someone stroll past me with a big “Cure with Cannabis” written across their chest. I am looking forward to stopping that stranger for a high-five.
For the design, I once again played with a background architecture of the circle, but this time made up entirely of tiny blooms since most of the medicine comes from the cannabis flower.
I wanted people to literally be able to see through the word “Cure” to the plant underneath to strengthen that association.
To finish it off, I gave it more of a classic look by drawing on 1940s painted hardboard ads for the idea of rendering every word in a different font, different size, and different alignment.
And of course the word “Cannabis” had to be rendered in some ridiculously happy type.
Like the designs that came before it, “Dreamtime” is configured around the marijuana leaf, but this time I wanted to foreground it as a container of magical experience.
I used the leaf to cut out a piece of the moonlit night sky so that both the leaf and the sky dominated the design at the same time.
This is the same principle as an optical illusion where one must focus on one form or the other in order to see it clearly but the two parts are really inter-dependent.
I also made the individual leaves thinner and feathery to suggest the dreamcatcher made by some First Nations peoples and the fact that using different medicines for spiritual journeys has a long-standing history in these lands.
While I want to challenge the old stoner stereotype, I don’t want to vilify recreational use, THC, or feeling high because it is still medicinal to reduce stress, relax, daydream, or pursue creative arts.
For this reason I intensified the moon and made it central as a type of guide through uncharted territory and night explorations. It’s important and healthy to be able to dream and for many, cannabis administered in a variety of formats is the path to a deeper soul nourishing sleep.
Most designers and graphic artists have some kind of freehand work they enjoy doing and for me its always been cartooning. This is a happy, playful style of drawing and I wanted to use its principles to make a cannabis positive image that was more general and broadly inclusive than my earlier designs.
I was looking for something that could speak for people who grow marijuana as well as for folks improving the quality of their lives through using it. At this point in time, anything that has a pot leaf on it is going to be political, but I wanted it to be more like a hashtag popping up in your Instagram account than a bop over the head with a protester’s sign.
I chose a cartoon style to make the “Weed Life” image lighthearted and fun. The scribbled lines inside the leaf and informal font work with the child-like simplicity of having just a single 4-letter word, yet the image conveys a lot.
Cannabis life can be a life with less pain, better sleep, lower anxiety, and an overall better state of mind, body and soul.
Attaching a marijuana leaf to the word “Life” is an acknowledgment that quality of life matters, that we are on a healing journey, and that there is joy in this exploration.
It also acknowledges the wide demographic of users, from seniors finding a reprieve from Parkinson’s tremors to children managing autism.
More to Come…
I will be posting more designs in this section as they are added to my store. I plan on writing another post soon that adds in designs inspired by cannabis use but not directly picturing or naming marijuana. Also, up-coming are product reviews and the presentation of some pretty cool merchandise. If you liked this post please subscribe so that you don’t miss the next ones and you are welcome to leave comments below.