Operation Pipe Dreams 2.0 how Etsy & PayPal Raided American Glass Stores
Update: though there are some stores still selling on the platform ever more are reporting shut down.
For some it’s a bad memory and for others it’s a repeating history lesson. In 2003 Attorney General John Ashcroft under the Bush Administration raided American glass manufacturers in an operation called pipe dreams. The sting shut down glass artists as well as placed famed comedian and actor Tommy Chong in prison for 9 months.
Fast forward 13 years and many independent artists feel completely comfortable selling glass products online. They serve a community of medical marijuana patients as well as those who enjoy legal recreational cannabis. Let’s not forget that most of these products are still sold for tobacco use only. It’s not always easy to replace your favorite pipe and not just because of sentimental reasons. People may not live near head shops or other places where they can procure a safe quality product.
Many American glass artists woke up today (August 15th) to find their stores shut down or digitally “raided” by Etsy and PayPal. Store owners were no longer able to sell their wares on the platform. Artists report that the terms and conditions put forth by PayPal a large banking service forbid pipes and with its market dominance Etsy caved. Glass artists paid a significant amount of their earnings over the years to the platform and spent a lot of time marketing their wares. Most report year over year growth in sales. Glass entrepreneurs relied heavily on Pinterest Instagram and Wanelo to send customers over to Etsy and their digital stores. Years of seller fees, glowing customer reviews, and marketing made no difference in the end.
This will certainly have a dramatic impact on the independent artists who relied on the platform’s services. Their customers expect to find them on the service and they are dependent on it as a distributor. Once again American financial institutions' practices and the regulations they have to follow are harming the cannabis industry. The impact on consumers in most urban environments may seem limited, but with imported glass of dubious composition flooding the market and no connection to the artists it’s buyer beware.