Canadian glass community protests maker of $13,000 bong

Tokyo Smoke, an upstart global cannabis brand, attempted this week to expand their horizons by developing a $13,000 3D-printed water pipe and sharing it with the world in a video released by VICE Media. However, comments made by Tokyo Smoke’s founder and CEO in the video have caused some commotion in Canada’s high-end glass scene.

The video, as well as the Tokyo Smoke brand, was soon pilloried online by hundreds of angry commenters. It wasn’t so much the design of their bong—though there were comments about that too—as it was the way the men characterized the rich history of glass pipes and the glass-blowing community (or seemingly in their minds, the lack thereof).

Josephson starts the video by outlining a general interest statement. “What we’re interested in is really about how design affects bigger picture issues,” he said. “In this case, I think that marijuana culture has been unthoughtful.”

Gertner chimed in next. “There’s only ever been one pipe, only ever been one bong. It’s like you can smoke out of this small glass dragon or our larger format glass dragon,” he said.

The video goes back to Josephson, who then states, “for a culture that claims to be so based in creativity and liberal thought, I was just sort of like ‘this doesn’t make sense.’”

“What if we created something you want to display to people—that you can be proud of?” Gertner adds and points out that people can be excited about their alcohol collection, “but why can’t we have the same phenomenon with marijuana?”

The remarks of the two men seem to have set off an Internet fire-storm. As of the time of writing, there were over 750 one-star reviews on Tokyo Smoke’s Facebook page, a #tokyojoke hashtag on Instagram and thousands of negative comments on the VICE video.

Lift spoke to Toronto glassblower Michael Shulman to hear out some of his concerns about the video. “I’d say pipe makers are pushing the envelope,” Shulman told Lift, adding that it was “foolish” for the duo to imply that pipe makers have been uncreative. According to Shulman, it’s “clear they did no research into the scene.” In the end, $13,000 for a pipe is not overly expensive for a pipe in today’s high-end glass scene, he said.

Time will tell if this will cause lasting harm to Tokyo Smoke’s plans of global domination; in a recent talk in Toronto, Gertner said that he wanted his company to claim 1% of all global cannabis sales. Tokyo Smoke released a statement on their Facebook page soon after the comments started.

“We inadvertently insulted a community we respect and for that we are truly sorry.” the statement reads.

“Our goal with this collaboration was to see how we could use new materials and manufacturing processes to build something beautiful. Our goal will always be to provide opportunities for creativity in the cannabis space. Creatives have helped shape the industry to where it currently is and will play a huge role in how we collectively move forward. In our excitement about stainless steel and aerospace technology, we disparaged some of those creatives and we apologize.”

UPDATE, APR 30th: We spoke with Alan Gertner of Tokyo Smoke to hear about what has been on his mind since this incident unfolded.

“I’m personally incredibly sorry for disrespecting any part of the cannabis community. I only get to do this because of the incredible work and culture that has brought us to this point. My grandma was in the industry, my father, and now me. This is really in my blood. And I hate the possibility that anyone would feel that I don’t believe in inclusion. We and I are pro-cannabis, pro-learning and growing, and becoming better however we can.

We at Tokyo Smoke were incredibly lucky to have a couple people and activists come down on Saturday and have a thoughtful, caring, and open discussion with us. And it’s part of why I’m so grateful for the cannabis community in that it can be so warm, inviting and thoughtful. We were really lucky to talk about how we can continue to go on this journey together, and how Tokyo Smoke can support the journey that we all want to go on.”

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