How The Federal Government Showed Me The Importance Of Bitcoin
The government’s overreach in taking my website was a hands-on experience that taught me why Bitcoin was necessary.
Jason Harris is a world-class American glass artist and founder of Jerome Baker Designs, a leading functional glass company founded in 2003 and based in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The feds seized my website JeromeBaker.com during Operation Pipe Dreams, which was a federal effort to bring those of us selling bongs and pipes across state lines to justice. It was 2003. There were not a lot of website seizures going on. The internet didn’t really start in earnest until 1996. There wasn’t a lot of regulation out there at first. Porn was big on the internet. And then, buying and selling drug paraphernalia caught on.
During Operation Pipe Dreams, when 55 of us were arrested including Tommy Chong, they seized my website. A Quicktime-animated American flag was placed on my website. It was a pixelated graphic, and they made it so it looked like it was flying in the wind. It read: “This website is property of the United States Department of Justice.”
It was the new equivalent of seizing my car or boat. Instead, they seized my website. I bought it back from somebody for $700. It’s like getting an old car back that got seized by the police. I feel incredibly blessed to be operating off the original domain.
Attorney General John Ashcroft stated at the time: “With the advent of the internet, the illegal drug paraphernalia industry has exploded. The drug paraphernalia business is now accessible in anyone’s home with a computer and internet access. And in homes across America we know that children and young adults are the fastest-growing internet users. Quite simply, the illegal drug paraphernalia industry has invaded the homes of families across the country without their knowledge … Today, the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force … has taken decisive steps to dismantle the illegal drug paraphernalia industry by attacking their physical, financial and internet infrastructures.”
This experience led me early on to become interested in bitcoin. I started taking bitcoin when it was probably at about $600. It was attractive to me because I could do business with different parts of the world and not be banned. Ask anyone in the cannabis industry: you’re constantly having to deal with account closures, app closures, etc. I know those in the bitcoin industry experience the same. Bitcoin was also attractive to me, because I enjoy the “gray area” quality of it.
Being able to be part of the original Silk Road, being able to be attractive to people that wanted to buy things online without being noticed, all go hand-in-hand with what I do: making bongs. I did have an inkling the bitcoin price was going to explode, so I was promoting it as much as possible as a payment method on JeromeBaker.com.
I don’t blow glass anymore, unless for a special purpose. For a time, one such special purpose was for customers who paid in bitcoin. I’d blow them a Slyme Bubbler for one bitcoin. They would send bitcoin to Jerome Baker Designs’ public bitcoin address and email a shipping address. I still remember my last bitcoin purchase for a custom piece. The price was $700.
I don’t see the same viability for other cryptocurrencies that I do with bitcoin. I accept bitcoin at my business. You can buy products with bitcoin. Tesla accepted bitcoin for a time, and I am sure they will again. Ethereum and other altcoins are more about speculation. Bitcoin has volume and velocity, and it holds value.
To me, bitcoin is the ability to be a mover and a shaker, and empowers anyone to hold a separate account with value and not have to worry about it being shut down. Bitcoin is a great currency for all markets, as we’ve seen. It not only lends itself well to high-risk industries, as had been a big part of its story, but also for nation-states looking to protect their own population’s from currency devaluation. Bitcoin is a biblical algorithm. It has changed humanity forever.
This is a guest post by Jason Harris. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.