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Burn One for Bernie: Piping Up in Politics?

Is pot paraphernalia the next big thing in political campaigning or just another excuse to diss progress?

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Cannabis is sooo political. Sometimes even the smallest, 'Hey, I’m educated, pro-pot, and I vote' wave in the direction of the 'establishment' can spark shit. Or in the case of a Bernie Sanders clay pipe drama, go viral.

You've probably seen the "Burn One for Bernie" meme on social media featuring the pipe with Bernie's face on it. Well, it’s a real pipe and it’s made by clay artist extraordinaire Ariel Zimman of RELM STUDIOS and founder of the Stonedware Company in Portland and sales are through the roof.

“For sure the exposure helped me donate way more than I was ever planning on being able to donate to Bernie or other charities we are now looking to donate to as well,” says Zimman. “I was selling these one at a time at craft shows. The idea was not to make a giant profit off of this product.”

Zimman originally pledged 10 percent of Bernie pipe sales to Sanders' presidential campaign, quickly reaching the maximum individual donation limit. Cool huh? You would think. But because Ariel's pipe went viral, it showed up on the hater radar and people began to nitpick the ethics and legalities of 'burning one for Bernie. '

The Center for Public Integrity stated that selling pipes to raise campaign funds was probably illegal as it was unofficial fundraising with unlicensed products rather than a strict individual donation. Really? The most she could possibly raise this way is $2,700.00. People are threatening to file official complaints. Online, the promo pipes have been compared to corporate influence on a political candidate. I shit you not.

I call bullshit and propose the real issue isn't the fundraising aspect. People are finding cash across the nation to show crazy hair a bit of support. No, the real issue here is the medium. I wouldn’t be writing this about the ‘Beans for Bernie’ coffee cup. Folks are upset that cannabis is making inroads into normal mainstream culture. People are becoming vocal and assertive in their advocacy against prohibition and yeah, they don't like that.

Massive mega corporations that fund billion dollar brainwashing election campaigns have too much say in our political process. That is not the same thing as a small business owner letting folks know what she is going to do with the money she makes from selling a single promotional item. Calm the fuck down. Selling that pot pipe gives Ariel no extra votes, no extra influence, no lobbyists, no PACs. She remains a small American business owner making handcrafted American goods with one vote and one voice.

Ariel, a former attendee of Boston’s School of the Museum of Fine Arts and a graduate of Tufts University, is just happy people are talking about pottery. The Bernie pipe has been great exposure for Zimman, but she isn’t sure if it will become a permanent piece in her collection. “Being an artist I’m more interested in making unique one-of-a-kind pieces as opposed to many of the same production piece. I have deep political views but that’s not where my only interests lie so we’ll see,” says Zimman.

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The heart of Stonedware's collection is a range of ‘geopipes’ that offer a new artsy perspective on the pot pipe experience. Zimman has no plans to begin a line of presidential hopeful pipes, but she’s sure someone will jump on that bandwagon soon enough.

Pot paraphernalia needs to lose its stigma if it’s to help cure illnesses and improve the quality of American life for all. And if sticking a candidate’s face on a pipe brings a whole new demographic into the political process how is that bad?

So I say burn a shitload for Bernie and don’t forget to vote! 

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