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These marijuana pipes are detailed with 22K gold


Soon after marijuana was legalized in Oregon, Ariel Zimman started asking herself why she was still hiding her pipe away in a drawer after smoking.

"Why do you need to hide the pipe too?" She asked. "The act of smoking is no longer this illicit act."

It didn't take much reflection for her to realize what the issue was less about the marijuana and more about the pipe itself.

"I don't have tie-dye tapestries in my house - why have a rainbow hippie pipe sitting in my table?" she asked herself.

So Zimman, a ceramics artist, decided to solve her own problem. She began making cannabis pipes out of ceramics - an art form she's been doing since she was in third grade and has a degree in from School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University. After college, she moved to Portland, Oregon to work in the ceramics industry, eventually opening her own ceramic housewares business, Relm Studio.

Q&A with Ariel Zimman: Gender discrimination in the cannabis industry

Then in 2015, right as the presidential primaries kicked into gear, she made a ceramic pipe with the Bernie Sanders logo on it.

"That was a wild time," she said with a laugh.

A photo of the Sanders pipe started making its way around the internet. She did an interview, and that interview ended up on the first page of reddit.

"I was literally in the corner hiding," she said "because people were emailing me wanting one."

Zimman sold 800 pieces in the first two days, making every pipe by hand. And while the sudden publicity was overwhelming, it paid off. Zimman donated $2500 to the Sanders campaign, another chunk of money to Planned Parenthood and paid off all her student loans.

"As an artist I thought I would never be able to do that," she explained. "So Bernie helped at least one person pay off their student loan debt!"

After the Sanders pipe went viral, her fledgling side project - now called "Stonedware" - was on the map.

"Someone said to me the other day that it's like meeting a celebrity," Zimman recounted. "And I was like 'no I'm just a humble pipe maker!'"

Making marijuana pipes isn't all fun and games, though. While her business is perfectly legal in Oregon, it is still federally illegal to manufacture drug paraphernalia, a category which includes her marijuana pipes. While she isn't selling any marijuana itself, the proximity of her product to the plant has created issues for her that other small business owners may not have to deal with.

Q&A with Ariel Zimman: How hard is it to own a cannabis business when the industry is federally illegal? [video]

Her credit union, for example, told her to not accept any payments from companies or individuals that earned their money from the sale of marijuana. So selling directly to dispensaries isn't an option.

"Luckily for me, most dispensaries have a parent company they work under," Zimman said, explaining that if the parent company cuts the check it works around that rule.

Also one of her credit card processing companies cut her off suddenly, after years of use.

"They just wrote me an email being like 'you violated our terms of service, we're cutting you off,'" she said, shaking her head. "I live kind of with a low level anxiety at all points that one of the services I use to run my business will sometime be shut down."

Those worries, she says, are part of owning a marijuana-adjacent business. And despite the constant pivoting, she says its worth it.

"It's cool to be part of something that's changing, and to be able to be part of changing people's mentality and perception of cannabis," she said. "And also empowering women in particular to say 'yeah, I smoke wed and there's nothing wrong with that.' It's kind been seen as a dude bro thing for a long time, and that's not just the case."

As she travels more to get word out about her product, Zimman is changing perceptions. At art shows in Chicago or New York, she says she constantly has people coming up to her to look at her products, and when she explains them, the responses she gets are across the board.

"They say the weirdest things to me, like 'you don't smoke weed!'" she explained. Some customers tell her she's too professional or put together to be a 'pot smoker.'

"I'm like this is the issue right here," said said incredulously. "I am professional and I am put together and I run my business and I'm confident, strong woman. And I smoke weed!"

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