Why was marijuana made illegal? Its illegality was (and still is) largely due to 1 person; Harry Anslinger. As I’m the product of a black father and Filipino mother, I took great offense in discovering Anslinger’s testimony to Congress in 1937 when he stated “…most users were Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers.” These words made it a personal endeavor of mine to seek a positive change in the law. Granted, cannabis should be illegal in some respects, but certainly not by the means it was made so in 1937. Today, we have to look to the future as nearly 50% of the US has accepted cannabis as a medicine and more states are looking to legalize it altogether. #CannabisDesignResearch examines different ways we can address and reintegrate cannabis to our society that show a great potential for products made of hemp and cannabis but also provides a safer alternative to other more dangerous drugs on the market today. The war on drugs has clearly done more harm than good.
In studying this topic, I chose to address a comparison with skydiving as it provides one of the greatest highs without drugs but remains a perfectly legal, recreational endeavor when compared to sitting on a couch to enjoy cannabis. Like most highs, there are risks. For skydiving and completing a registration form and waiver, you are basically acknowledging those risks prior to committing what may be your first, and maybe last, act of personal choice. Industrial design plays a significant role with this extreme sport be it with the design of the transportation involved to the actual gear used for parachuting. Industrial design can also play a role with a plant, according to the DEA, that has been responsible for zero deaths from overdose.
The DEA’s position is that “smoked marijuana is not medicine”. However, it could be argued that the act of smoking cannabis actually reduces the chance of overdosing on it. By contrast, the adult stomach has an average capacity of 1 liter and is the most common method of absorption for over-the-counter drugs. Industrial design plays a role with over-the-counter medicines by addressing the user-interface for the storage of the medicine, materials used for packaging, as well as the design of the packaging.
If you maintain an active lifestyle, chances are you are just as likely to suffer effects similar to having consumed cannabis because of a head injury, if you play football or any other recreational sports, regardless of your age. Industrial design plays a significant role in all aspects of every popular sport played in America and can be equally beneficial to making cannabis, a non-lethal plant, safe to consume.
This graphic compares the most preferred alcoholic beverage in America versus the most common illicit drug in America. As a large-scale industrial process, beer-making is quite energy intensive and uses a great deal of potable water, itself a scarce resource in most parts of the world and even today in America's western states. As the world population continues to grow, energy and water use will become more scrutinized. At the very least, growing cannabis requires significantly less energy and water all the while maintaining the ability to gainfully employ the same types of people necessary to make beer. Additionally, farmers can redirect crops from beer to food sources like wheat, corn, and soy. As a business model, small or large, growing cannabis presents opportunities to use plant matter for bioplastic / biofuel applications and also incorporate irrigation loops that could recover and reuse water while also taking advantage of the post-consumer waste for repackaging.
If (according to the DEA, FDA, and ONDCP) marijuana has such a high potential for abuse and has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States then why are we spending the time, money, and resources to synthesize it? With more people going to jail for drugs, the annual cost of incarceration exceeds a year of education at an Ivy League school in some states.
As previously mentioned, the DEA unequivocally states that no cases of cannabis overdose have ever been reported. As such, the FDA’s Safe Use Initiative should be a guiding doctrine for the legalization of hemp and marijuana. But, instead, we continue to annually spend over $14 billion to keep a plant illegal simply because it is NOT a medicine. Legalization of cannabis would be an extreme cost-saving measure where we could instead focus budgets on addressing issues like education and drug abuse intervention that is now going to the militarization of police forces raiding homes...because of a plant.
As Florida already has an existing infrastructure to manage alcohol and tobacco, the challenge to legalize cannabis in this state could be as simple as adding the words “hemp and marijuana” to the bureaus responsible for managing alcohol and tobacco. Adding 109 people assigned to manage hemp for industrial purposes (textile, paper, biofuel, and building material) and 109 people to manage marijuana for medical/recreational consumption, legalized marijuana and hemp for the state of Florida could create 218 jobs (or multiplied by 50, America could have 10,900 new jobs). Geographically, Florida also takes advantage of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean for access to international trade routes while also being a part of the contiguous United States with the promise of global legalization and has begun with Uruguay leading that political shift.
Money raised from legalized cannabis and hemp could go directly towards programs that educate people about alcohol / drug abuse, provide treatment, and prevention.
Florida's Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco could play a critical role in transitioning hemp and cannabis to legal status by adopting plant identification techniques based on a process developed by researchers at the University of Minnesota. Hemp is illegal primarily because it looks like cannabis. The law is highly critical of cannabis because of the effects it has on our bodies yet we are not free from fossil fuels which, when burned, are significantly more damaging to our bodies and environment with longer lasting effects beyond the span of generations. How much longer is it sustainable where it costs more to incarcerate people (mostly minorities) for a non-lethal plant instead of having them as law abiding taxpayers? This cannabis design research seeks to be forward thinking beyond the legalization of hemp and cannabis with three objectives: remove the criminal element, create jobs, and to hopefully put America on a path which embraces sustainability.
These sketches explore conceptual tools to be used by law enforcement. Assuming that there are otherwise law-abiding growers wishing to comply with state and federal regulations, they take a sample of cannabis to test potency and assigns a DNA-related commerce identification number. This will allow growers to have the necessary information to track their product which could also be used for any other marketing purposes.
This concept is not unlike a field sobriety test that will measure the patterns of a subject’s brain to determine if a person is actively under the influence of cannabis. This non-intrusive scanner would be used on/around the head. A user-interface would be provided by a handheld smart device. Participants would then be able to track changes in cognitive function which may also help to discourage abuse and, at a minimum, aid the user in determining levels of impairment that may inhibit normal function. As car manufacturers are exploring concepts to produce autonomous vehicles, such a product could also be integrated with a user's vehicular function such that impairment could encourage the autonomous feature.
When it comes to industry stakeholders, NASCAR could benefit from recent legislation allowing the cultivation of hemp in states like Kentucky which will soon see hemp and cannabis-based projects where the plant has been banned since 1970.
According to Richard Parnas, a Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Connecticut and a founding partner of RPM Sustainable Technologies (http://rpmst.com/Mission.html), an acre of hemp would yield, under ideal conditions, 30 gallons of biodiesel. The Kentucky Speedway was built on 1,000 acres of land which could, theoretically, generate 30,000 gallons of locally-sourced biodiesel! Mr. Parnas noted that it would only require about 18 weeks to set-up a facility to convert hemp to biodiesel. This is not including the amount of biodiesel which could also be created from used FOG (fats, oil, greases) from the on-site food service facilities.
Cannabis Design Research

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." -MLK

This research is part of an essential fix for a financial drain on our government. We have spent the last 70+ years criminalizing a simple plant with minimal change on the demand for it regardless of its illegality with a high cost of lives lost, diminished livelihoods, and a significant amount of wasted money.

Proper regulation so consumers know what they are getting would make cannabis and hemp assets to our economy instead of the current heavy burden they are on government resources.

Jerry D. Elmore
Industrial Design with a creative passion Tallahassee, FL