Recent Cannabis-Emoji Study Shows how the DEA Still Doesn’t Get It

The Drug Enforcement Administration commonly referred to as the DEA stated it’d cracked the code to determine what types of emojis young teens and adults are using to discuss when it comes to buying and selling black market drugs.

Despite this, the federal agency doesn’t seem to have the tightest grasp on the jargon—overlooking from a new directory for parents, for instance, common emojis that are used in place of cannabis.

The agency even seems very much bewildered, as there are several meanings of its drug emoji handbook that show different signs used for the same group of drugs.

The agency also discovered that the emojis 💣 and 💥—which is interpreted to mean “bomb ass stuff”—are utilized often enough in black market drug sales to garner attention on a government-produced booklet for parents.

And one might ponder what Canadians have to say about the leading U.S. drug enforcement agency symbolizing the maple leaf emoji as a “universal symbol for drugs,” given its close ties to the nation as the focal point of its country’s flag.

In any case, the agency states that it’s One Pill Can Kill Movement “offers a chance for the media, parents, teachers, professors, and community institutions to promote awareness about fake prescription drugs.”

“Do you comprehend the connotation behind certain emojis? Emojis were initially created to convey an emotion, occasion, or activity, though have recently morphed into a language of its own,” the agency expresses. “Criminal groups, like drug traffickers, have witnessed and are using emojis to buy and sell fake pills and other black market drugs via social media and through bitcoin.”

DEA’s connection guide “is designed to grant parents, caregivers, and influencers a greater sense of how this emoji language is being used in confluence with black market drugs.”

It did admit, however, that “this guide is not all-inclusive” and the emoji pamphlet is “a representative illustration.”

DEA Administrator Anne Milgram expressed the new efforts regarding emoji drug talk at a press conference back in December.

“Criminal drug grids are now front and center on Facebook and Twitter,” she expressed. “Known emojis and code phrases are being widely utilized as signals on the world wide web, in the online buying and selling of fatal drugs like fentanyl and fentanyl-backed counterfeit pills. That indicates that these deadly pills are reaching our neighborhoods faster, easier, and cheaper than ever before. Today, these substances are just one click away.”

A presentation on the emoji data also enclosed a slide on which criminal outfits most commonly use social media networks. Snapchat took home the gold, followed by Facebook Messenger (not Facebook, we guess…), Instagram (owned by Facebook…), Facebook (is Facebook…), TikTok, and YouTube. Hilariously, the last two slides had their logos erroneously swapped. So TikTube and YouTok we’re guessing. Gosh-dangit, all of that new-fangled technology.

While the DEA’s attempt to interpret youth emoji trends has a high level of cringe—how does the agency leave out 🍃 and 🌳 as shorthand for cannabis altogether?

Notably, however, adolescent use of black market drugs—from cannabis to OxyContin—“decreased incredibly” in 2021, according to a federally funded survey released late last year.

“Emojis, on their own, ought not to be indicative of black market activity, but paired with a behavior change; change in appearance, or significant decrease/increase in income should be a notion to start an essential dialogue,” DEA expressed.

As the DEA continues to work to combat black market drug trafficking, in part by understanding emojis, it is also working to advance research into currently controlled substances like cannabis, magic mushrooms, and Molly (MDMA.)

Let’s hope the DEA gets a bit less cringe in 2022.

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