Heady glass pipes are powerful things. For many glass collectors, their pipe is the conversation piece in the living room, the nucleus of social gatherings, and possibly the only piece of art they get to regularly touch, feel, and use, as a useful tool and serving as “functional glass art”. What is heady glass? Heady glass is often colorful and beautifully designed high-end glassware. But these interactive originalities are more than just fancy smoking apparatuses or status-affirming trophies to show off to friends. They are works of fine art; they are the vessels of self-expression for hundreds of glass art pioneers across the country. They are also the means by which these artists make a living, with some of the higher-profile artists selling pieces for thousands of dollars each.
Some may believe that heady glass is nothing more than a fad. However the importance of heady glass seems to be, if anything, on the rise. In fact, it is now evident that these pipes are gaining importance in a completely new way – they’re becoming involved in what some would consider money laundering.
In states where marijuana is legal, growers and sellers still have lots of hurdles with their business. Even if they do everything correctly and by the books, there is tremendous difficulty regarding profits and cash management. As long as the federal government considers cannabis illegal, banks simply refuse to work with ‘dirty’ weed money, because state and community banks are licensed, overseen and regulated by Uncle Sam. How are honest business owners supposed to get around this dealing with all this cash?
That’s where high-end glass pipes come in. Marijuana entrepreneurs who are shunned from all the legitimate financial institutions have turned to buying and selling expensive functional art pieces. Most of the initial transactions happen off the books like among friends, at trade shows, or between connoisseurs who meet online. Once the pipe is re-sold, it is a legal product with appropriate receipts, paperwork, and taxes and just like that, the money is washed clean.
One California businessman who deals in marijuana concentrates recently showed a BuzzFeed reporter his extremely impressive glass collection, and shared some insight about the current state of the industry.
“You can use [glass] to launder money. You go to a gallery, see something for thirty thousand bucks, make a deal, and then sell it off and just make a stipulation that whoever pays you, must pay with a check. I could trade half of these pipes within a day or two, if I wanted to.”
Unlike other assets that may be used to more or less launder money, such as sports cars and mansions, pipes are very subtle. They are compact and can be easily transported in a padded case. Most of these pipes are also completely unique, one-of-a-kind pieces, making them harder to be stolen and resold. Furthermore, the value of these pieces can fluctuate dramatically, making it easier to conceal what’s really happening. Some pieces worth $2,000 just a couple years ago are now worth over $10,000.
Phil Martin, one of the partners who runs a Los Angeles seeds and extracts company called Moxie 710, told BuzzFeed:
“A lot of people like to buy up glass companies because it’s really hard for the government to see, to understand it. They don’t understand that you can buy glass really cheap and then sell it for a high price — they just don’t understand it — so it’s a lot easier for people to put their money in there, launder it, and get it legally back out of the glass company. And that happens a lot.”
We can only speculate how much of the laundering is actually accomplished with glass pipes. There is certainly a lot of money laundering happening in the cannabis industry using the normal age-old methods – restaurants, liquor stores, and other small businesses.
Since cannabis is still illegal under federal law, the fate of state-level experiments with legalization is still in question. Depending on who wins the White House in 2016, many bankers believe the current state of legal weed could quickly come to an end. So in the meantime, high-end glass artists are finding themselves in an oddly crucial position: they’re more or less manufacturing a form of gold bullion for the cannabis industry.
Check out BuzzFeed’s article on the subject: http://www.buzzfeed.com/amandachicagolewis/weed-businesses-cant-put-their-money-in-banks-so-they-put-th