This article by Lorena Cupcaje was originally published on Weedmaps, and appears here with permission.
If you're thumbing through your phone's emoji keyboard looking for a pot leaf to text to your friend, keep swiping. You'll have to settle for a more abstract representation like a puff of smoke because the process behind adding a new emoji is more complicated than you think.
— Jeremy Burge (@jeremyburge) April 21, 2020
In 1987, engineers from Apple and Xerox started brainstorming how to encode characters so that each language's letter or symbol fit a standardized width and storage space. Four years later, the Unicode Consortium was founded, with representatives from most major tech companies sitting on the Board of Directors.
To this day, this group — which now includes representatives from UC Berkeley, the government of Bangladesh and more — oversees all additions to the Unicode alphabet.
In 2009, a group of engineers petitioned the Unicode Consortium to adopt “emoji,” a group of over six hundred characters that were widely used in mobile text messaging systems across Japan. The nonprofit approved the prototypical group emoji — which included cat faces, lunar symbols, zodiac signs, etc. — making them accessible on all operating platforms.
After the addition of emoji keyboards to Apple's iOs and Google's Android, worldwide use of the colorful characters exploded, opening up new communication possibilities as users created their own combinations and attributed their own symbolic meanings. But why, still, isn't there a weed emoji?
Encuentra este artículo en Español en El Planteo: ¿Por Qué No Existe un Emoji de Marihuana?
How to request new emojis
Each year, the Unicode Consortium has expanded their available options, adding new characters (like the taco) and allowing modifications of previous emojis (like turning a baseball into a softball or allowing you to change the skin color and gender of a surfer). Anyone, from nonprofits to businesses to individuals, can suggest a new emoji if they're willing to go through the arduous application process.
A proposal to add a weed emoji has to be remarkably detailed, and could easily be rejected simply for not following the correct format. You need to prove the importance of the new emoji, point by point, and include proposed artwork, which presents its own set of difficulties: would a weed emoji depict a cannabis leaf, nug, joint, pipe, blunt or bong?
To be accepted, the Unicode Technical Committee (or UTC) would have to agree on a rigorous set of standards. Is the emoji already in …