The Bong Side of the Law: Hitman vs. Starbucks
Developing cannabis markets will have their hiccups, but few folks in the industry who don’t touch the plant have seen the trials many glassblowers have faced. Last week Evol Glass of Oregon lost a default judgment to Starbucks around their Dabuccino collaboration line with California’s Hitman Glass. The decision comes after a long history of of criminal action against glassblowers, but also represents a potential change in action from the criminal side of things to the civil courts.
As early as the 1970s, the glass vendors of Shakedown Street outside Grateful Dead shows were harassed for their creations, some pushing beads at first glance, but under the next tapestry was a world of fun. The 1980s saw much of the same, the early part of the decade featured all of the ceramic bongs of Bourbon Street being swept from The Big Easy.
While federal law hasn’t changed, the scene has very much rebuilt from its most crippled days in the early 2000s. Most actions against glass artists have come at the hyper-local, one might even say parking lot, level, but 2003 saw the largest action ever taken against the scene and hit glassblowers in Eugene, Oregon exceptionally hard.
On that fateful day it wasn’t a concert promoter or wonky local sheriff telling folks that they had to pack out, it was the Drug Enforcement Administration and they insisted you stay. In what to this day would be the largest paraphernalia action they’ve ever taken, DEA Agents swept through Eugene, Oregon and many other locations throughout the nation arresting 55 individuals in total. The only defendant to see prison that day was Tommy Chong, who accepted a plea bargain in a successful attempt to keep his family from seeing time. Others swept up in the action included many apprentices of the legendary Bob Snodgrass, including the Jerome Baker Designs team.
Since then the industry has rebuilt itself. While the first year was rough, the skill sets didn’t go anywhere and heady pieces quickly got back in the mix everywhere. Things being back in full swing in the grey market progressed to the industry mega-shows we see now, riding the tide of a changing sentiment around cannabis in the U.S.
While the recent decision against Evol and Hitman will in no way affect as many folks as Operation Pipe Dreams, some think it will have its place in glass blowing history. One major West Coast collector believes there will be positives to take from the incident,.
“It will drive innovations, not copies. Many artists have shown creative ways, Ryno, Mueller, Certo, and others are finding ways to be unique and with function,” the collector who preferred not to be identified said. “They’re working in collectives together learning, teaching off of each other and they hear and they’ve seen, they saw the need to be unique and not knock off others. Sometimes people are the examples for others. Evol and Hitman will be that for this generation, as pipe dream was for the previous. There are warnings to follow, others are just doing it, and the Chinese glass will knock it all off anyway.”
The glass scene outside North America has also seen its own problems over the years, including a string of fire bombings in Dublin, Ireland in 2010.
The case against Evol and Hitman is ongoing. Hopefully the laws around these pieces of functional art will soon catch up to those surrounding the substances people are using them for.
Do you side with Starbucks or Hitman?