Feargus O'Sullivan is a contributing writer to CityLab, covering Europe. His writing focuses on housing, gentrification and social change, infrastructure, urban policy, and national cultures. He has previously contributed to The Guardian, The Times, The Financial Times, and Next City, among other publications.
Kanepi, Estonia’s new symbol is pretty dope.
Hey, wouldn’t it be cool to have, like, a marijuana leaf as the logo of your city? The small town of Kanepi, Estonia, has decided that, yes, it totally would.
A modest settlement not far from the Russian border, Kanepi released new official logos this week that featuring a proud green Cannabis Sativa leaf. A symbol normally adorning head shops and the walls of dorm rooms will now grace the town’s official signage and municipal stationery.
What makes Kanepi’s choice odder is that it is not in fact some ultra-liberal enlave, or a town populated entirely by teenagers. It’s a trim, far-flung community out in the Estonian boondocks, in a country where cannabis remains illegal.
Kanepi’s choice of the stoner stamp stems from its unusual name, which is actually a hair’s breadth from the Estonian word for cannabis, kanepit. This is no coincidence. The town is so named because its fields once produced a lot of hemp destined to make oil, rope, and canvas (a fabric whose name has the same root as cannabis). “Today the cannabis leaf is seen primarily as a recreational drug” Kanepi council member Andrus Seeme pointed out to AFP, “but in fact, hemp-type cannabis has been used in practical ways for years and it has hundreds of uses.” Kanepi may be thinking of promoting itself as a hemp hub—the plant is still a cash crop in Estonia, and the town already has hemp-based businesses, including a bakery which uses the (non-intoxicating) seeds and a concrete factory that uses the fibers.
But, as with so many of the world’s odd and delightful things, the real explanation for the Estonian embrace of the leafy logo is “the internet told them to do it.” When Kanepi incorporated with several villages last year to become a municipality, it also launched an online poll (advisory rather than binding) to choose a flag and associated heraldry. This process was open to non-residents, so the pot logo racked up 12,000 votes (in a town of just 5,000), blowing away all other contenders.
Still, the vote to formally approve the logo was close, Reuters reports: Nine town council members voted for it; eight just said no.