This week, its council ratified the online decision in a narrow vote, officially adopting the leaf as the centerpiece for its new flag.
“Today, the cannabis leaf is seen primarily as a recreational drug, but in fact, hemp-type cannabis has been used in practical ways for years and it has hundreds of uses,” said Andrus Seeme, Kanepi's mayor.
Residents of Kanepi would know. The name of their town is derived from the Estonian word for hemp, a plant in the cannabis family that is typically grown for its fiber and seeds. Unlike marijuana, hemp has very low levels of THC, and thus, no mind-altering side effects. Its fibers are often used for making rope; in Estonia, it is not an uncommon to find it in a garden. In the region, it has historically been used to make hemp butter, oil and other old-fashioned local foodstuffs. It is illegal to sell marijuana in Estonia, although possession of small amounts is only a misdemeanor.
Kristel Abel doesn't live in Kanepi, but she has driven through several times on her way to visit family. So when the vote was opened to the public, she said “it was an opportunity you cannot miss.” She voted in favor of what she called “the obvious, winning choice,” even if it was “probably not very adult behavior.”
“I thought that the reaction of the mayor was great,” she told The Washington Post. “He accepted the public vote [and] said that even though more people voted than there are people in Kanepi, they must care for the place.”
Abel said that in Estonia, they use "kanep" to mean both industrial hemp and marijuana. But regardless of which one the flag is supposed to represent, not everyone was thrilled with the outcome.
“I must say that I am not for the fact that we will be marching under this kind of flag,” council member Arno Kakk, who voted against the flag, told Reuters.