In the beginning, the tech gods created the emoji keyboard. The new technology blessed humanity with a method of expression even further removed from in-person conversation—a series of symbols and images for the moments when autocorrected words fail.
Since the first emoji was created in 1999, over 3,000 emojis have populated the pictogram universe, according to stats from the Unicode Consortium. Apple’s emoji keyboard has expanded to fit the needs of their users by including items such as the trans flag, interracial couples, prosthetic limbs, and even a dodo bird.
But there’s a glaring hole in this otherwise diverse emoji keyboard: pot.
Though cannabis is becoming legal all over the country and many Americans (about one in three, actually) now live in states where it’s hard to step out of your house without encountering cannabis at some level, cannabis-enthusiasts are still forced to substitute weed with various leafy plants and vegetables when talking about cannabis. The broccoli emoji (🥦,) herb emoji (🌿,) and the Christmas tree emoji (🎄) are just some of the many green things on Apple’s keyboard that have been adopted by the ever-resourceful cannabis community.
But there’s actually a reason cannabis isn’t on your keyboard yet—and it isn’t just because somebody at Apple hates weed. It’s because Apple only includes legal substances in the emoji keyboard. So, while you’ll see plenty of potentially harmful substances there (like pills, alcohol, and a cigarette,) you won’t find an emoji for cannabis until recreational marijuana is legal at a federal level. Even then, Apple is known for being extremely safe, so they may refrain from creating a cannabis emoji until it is legal in other countries where their products are used.
In a nutshell, the odds of the elusive cannabis leaf making an appearance on your keyboard anytime soon are low, which is bad news for those who deal with cannabis every day—particularly the thousands of people in the cannabis industry using social media for marketing.
But it’s not impossible.
Multiple petitions can be found online championing the emergence of the cannabis emoji, and there are some pretty creative ideas out there. One petitioner has suggested a smiley face emoji with a crown of weed, and others have suggested a heart-eyes emoji with a cannabis leaf in each heart. Whatever the idea is, all petitioners agree that it’s high time we the people had cannabis in pictogram discourse.
One particularly articulate pot-emoji-activist’s petition letter on Change.org reads:
“Social acceptance of cannabis is at an all-time high (pun intended). The world is ready for a cannabis-leaf emoji. The cannabis industry is tired of using maple leaves, flames, and puffs of smoke to illustrate our passions and ideas… The truth is, emojis are more than just fun pictures. Emojis offer a sense of identity and inclusion.”
These petitions are addressed to The Unicode Consortium, a nonprofit that creates the standard coding behind each emoji. If you’re familiar with coding, though, you may opt to submit an emoji proposal to Unicode directly by filling out their proposal form online.
Be forewarned: According to those who have done it before, the process of creating a proposal will likely take you more than a day. It’s also very unlikely that your proposal is accepted. Since Spring of 2018, six cannabis leaf emoji submissions have been declined by Unicode. But, with every submission, it will be harder for them to ignore the demand for it.
The cannabis emoji will always be something of a white whale. Sure, you can find a close substitute, but until Apple adds it to the emoji keyboard, you’ll never be able to say exactly what you mean. As weed becomes legal throughout the country and more people join the ever-growing cannabis industry, though, the pressure to accept weed as part of the pictogram universe may just push tech companies over the edge—and texting could get a whole lot more dank.
Elissa Esher is Assistant Editor at GreenState. Her work has also appeared in The Boston Guardian, Brooklyn Paper, Religion Unplugged, and Iridescent Women. Send inquiries and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.