Cannabis Design Research


The Devil Weed

Why was marijuana made illegal? I initially learned that cannabis' illegality was largely due to 1 person named Harry Anslinger. As I’m the product of a black father and Filipino mother, I couldn’t help but to take offense from 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 to seek a change in the law. Why? Because I believe in the power of good design. Designers know that if the original of something to be mass-produced is of a poor quality, the copies being made will be of equally poor quality. And post-production efforts to rectify a poorly made object can be costly. The laws which govern us are no different and the mold which originally made marijuana illegal almost 3 generations ago, and replicated across 50 states, is evident to have been fundamentally flawed.

Skydiving provides one of the greatest highs without drugs. Like most highs, there are risks. By 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, 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 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. As the world population continues to grow, energy and water 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 incorporate 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 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 the tune of over $14 billion to keep a plant illegal simply because it is NOT a medicine.

As Florida already has an existing infrastructure to manage alcohol and tobacco, the challenge could be as simple as adding the words “hemp and marijuana” to the bureaus responsible for managing alcohol and tobacco. With 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 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.

Money raised from legalized cannabis and hemp could go directly towards programs that educate people about alcohol and drug abuse, provide treatment, and prevention. This will also present job opportunities for design policy advocates to collaborate with graphic designers.

Using Florida as a test state, the Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco will play a critical role in transitioning hemp and cannabis to legal status based on a process developed by researchers at the University of Minnesota. This 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. 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?

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 turning to autonomous vehicles, such a product could also be integrated with a user's vehicular function such that impairment could encourage the autonomous feature.





About The Author: 

With 5 years of design consulting experience, I have learned to seek positive change where necessary. 

My process of discovery through design research and applied knowledge using the latest tools in computer aided design have broadened my understanding on how change can increase profits from a desire to know more.

My interests in renewable and sustainable technologies further develop a greater appreciation for the planet we live on as we seek better ways of living now for the future.


· Honorable Mention in IHA Student Design Competition (2000)

· Selectee for InDesign Magazine Student Design Competition (2001)

· Honorable Mention in Design Resource Institute’s International Design with Memory Competition (2002)

· King of the Boards, Core.77 1-Hour Design Challenge (2009)

I'd like to thank Jerry for allowing me to share his work. He is a welcome addition to the team of writers for this site.  I definitely look forward to what he is working on right now for his 1st post.

 Please check out his other stellar work Jerry's Porfolio and his Twitter account.