In 2009, a computer genius known as Satoshi Nakamoto launched the first transaction of Bitcoin, a completely decentralized electronic currency. During the last five years, the crypto-currency went through ups and downs, but it’s also true that it gained a sort of immortality, bringing to light countless altcoins – that is to say, virtual independent coins.
On January 2014 one of the latest altcoins was created, thanks to the stoned minds of Hasoshi, Mr Jones and SMoKeMoN514 (nicknames of the founders). The trio founded PotCoin, an altcoin with the same concept of BitCoin, but with only one product to sell and buy: weed.
PotCoin was born as a community with a hobby in common – smoking marijuana – and a specific mission in mind: to find a new source of funding that differs from the banking system, to fight against money laundering , to take a stand against the restrictive rules of Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and to help the weed dispensaries carry on their commercial deals without encountering dangers and prejudices.
The PotCoin family tries to offer something more than the simple weed’s trade. As Huber Chaniewski explained- a guy from Colorado, known as Mad PotCoin, who usually has fun making video on YouTube about the PotCoin’s world- the first activity of the group was a charity campaign for The Snoop Youth Football League. By ‘Snoop’ I mean the Pot Master Snoop Dogg, who founded a non-profit organization that gives the possibility to 5-13 year-old children from the ghetto to take part in football and cheerleader teams.
The community, which was just one month old, succeeded in raising enough PotCoins to change them in 500 dollars ready to spend. “I spent my first potcoins for charity because this crypto-currency was such a new thing that sellers would have never accepted it,” said Hubert.
When I first opened the PotCoin website, I spent some time on it, in order to understand exactly what it was all about. When it comes to technology and cryptography, I’m not the most prepared person to speak with. That’s why I immediately joined the Reddit community of PotCoin, the real heart of the community – that publishes tutorials and articulate comments and where users can answer to all your questions.
While wandering on Reddit, I was helped by Mr Coin and Mad Coin, who opened my eyes on this never-heard subject. At the beginning I thought it was something delirious but at the end the crypto-weed online trade revealed to be easier than expected.
Mr Coin explained me that there are different ways to buy the potcoins: “If you already own some bitcoins, you can change them with potcoins on many websites of exchange rate, for example my favorites are https://www.mintpal.com/ and https://www.cryptsy.com/. If you are like the majority of people and don’t have bitcoins but still want to buy check out www.buy-pot.org where you can buy potcoins with credit card, google wallet, and soon paypal. Or for those who just want a little taste of it, they can check out the faucet located at @ http://fairpool.co.vu/PotCoinFaucet/ which gives out small amounts for free each day donated by members.”
The mining, instead, is another story. As Mad Coin said, this process needs a certain technical computer knowledge. “If you want to start mining, you should be ready to do intense research and spend some time on it”.
In few words, all you need to do in order to buy or sell marijuana with potcoins is downloading your virtual wallet. To sum up, you have three possibilities to fill your wallet with potcoins: accept payments with potcoins, buy potcoins by using bitcoins or American dollars, or mine to create new potcoins. There is no tax for transactions and operations, which seem to be more rapid than Bitcoin ones – that can last up to one hour, or even more.
But here we are not just talking about selling and buying weed – something that you can do in a simple coffee shop or in a medical dispensary – but about giving a new face to the industry of legal marijuana.
Currently, there are 21 American states that legalized the use of marijuana for a medical purpose – only Washington and Colorado authorized the recreational use – which caused a negative boomerang effect: a series of robberies and crime that heavily hit the marijuana dispensaries. Moreover, many banks are not eager for granting loans, opening accounts or having something to do with anyone in the marijuana business, because the use of soft drugs is still illegal on a federal level.
On February 2014, the Obama’s Administration emanated some guide lines for banks. They specified that credit institutes would not be condemned in case of providing services to legal marijuana businesses in the States where it is licit. However, Frank Keating, President of the American Bankers Association, answered with a blunt NO, saying that the possession and the distribution of marijuana still breaches the federal law.
The scenery of American weed is a sort of modern western. You have to fight against crime, provide an alternative to banks, defeat the centralized system of currency and give a new face to marijuana commerce.
In all this story, Hasoshi, Mr. Jones and SMoKeMoN514 seem to be the new weed avengers, ready to ransom the figure of the lazy junkie. The three defined themselves as the “high-functioning pothead” that will change things. And as Bob Marley used to say, “alcohol make you drunk man, herb is more of a consciousness.”
To get a bit more into the PotCoin world, I decided to interview two of the founders of PotCoin, who recently came up to light with their real names: Joef Yalle and Nick Iversen, respectively Mr Jones and SMoKeMoN514
Laura: To begin with, Why did you create PotCoin? What did you want to achieve?
SMoKeMoN514: We created potcoin because we saw a problem that was happening in the newly legalized industry in the united states, and we realized that a crypto currency designed for the Cannabis industry would benefit everyone involved.
Mr Jones: There was a distinct opening in the market for an industry specific alt-coin. It was a matter of insticts rather than long term vision at the point of conception.
Who would benefit from PotCoin and How?
SMoKeMoN514: Potcoin can be used by anyone anywhere in the world that has access to a computer or a smart phone. People benefit from it because you can send potcoins for free to anyone in the world anonymously and its instant and secure. The people who would benefit the most are people who are sick and can’t leave their house. It enables them to pay instantly for marijuana online and have it delivered to their home.
Mr Jones: PotCoin benefits everyone! It also forms a global community with each coin holder, a participant anchored in this new economy. Cannabis, Hemp and financial industries, to our users and supporters–everyone can entrust PotCoin to extend credibility, stability and security to this exponentially growing market and community.
What are the main obstacles you are facing and you want to overcome?
SMoKeMoN514: Since this is a very new industry there are many new rules and regulation that may come into places, this will force us to adapt. We are very forward thinking and we know we can help the legalization of marijuana and be part of the great changes that are coming.
Mr Jones: General Evil, code bugs, twitter trolls.
Many people could be suspicious of crypto-currency, especially if it entails the change of money for soft drugs. How do you gain trust among your users?
SMoKeMoN514: Potcoin was design to support the legal marijuana industry and the medical marijuana industry. We want to work directly with dispensaries to give them the tools and help to use crypto currencies.
Mr Jones: By doing what we say we are going to do, and by doing as well as possible. This means that this must be run like a business, and tech company etc. We have milestones like every other start up. And we are reaching them with style and class.
Speaking about trust, how is your security policy in terms of money transactions?
SMoKeMoN514: More secure than credit cards and as secure or even more secure than most online banking.
Mr Jones: The trust is in the network. A large network will essentially create more trust, more confirmations. Our system is as secure, or more so, than Bitcoin. SHA256 is strong but Scrypt is the present…and the future is just waiting for us to come.
In Italy, since the use of soft drugs is illegal, we didn’t have media coverage about PotCoin, which was launched already more than 2 months ago. Are you going to expand your business also in Europe where marijuana is legal, or decriminalised?
SMoKeMoN514: We have people from all over the world downloading the potcoin wallet and the community is growing like crazy every day. We will be expanding the business to places that are legal first and focussing on them, but we plan to go worldwide when it becomes legal in every country. We believe marijuana is not a thing, but it’s a multi-functional plant that can help change the world in many ways. Potcoin is not just a crypto currency it’s a community
Mr Jones: We are on a global mission. We are young, and do not run before we can walk. Interest and enquiries are coming in every day, Japan, South America, Netherlands, UK, Mexico, and Hawaii. Our users (wallet holders) are approaching 1 million. This is a very serious business, we are ready.
This article was written in Italian by Laura Zuffi and published on the online magazine Motherboard. It was then translated by Martina Forlani, a third-year student of interpretation and translation at the ‘Scuola Superiore per Mediatori Linguistici Carlo Bo‘.