As an increasing number of states legalize adult-use cannabis, the plant and its ancillary products have become hot topics in pop culture and commerce. From celebrities such as Seth Rogen releasing lines of marijuana products to free joints being used as motivation to get a Covid-19 jab, weed is becoming increasingly accepted and popularized in America. However, as is the case with most thriving markets, there are a variety of corporations that hope to capitalize on this popularity without considering the quality or safety of their products. This is especially true when it comes to glass pipes as an undoubtedly increased number of people start to consume cannabis and look for affordable pieces. As a result, many people feel inclined to purchase the inexpensive pipes that are often found online or in local smoke shops. However, cheap mass-produced import glass pieces are generally of far lower quality than their American-made counterparts and can often wreak serious consequences on the user’s health.
One of the more superficial concerns when buying import glass is the fact that many of these pieces are of low quality. Many imported glass pieces seem to be quite affordably priced based on their size and design. However, in these cases, one is more likely to receive quality that more closely reflects what they paid rather than reaping the benefits of an unexpected bargain. One of the biggest issues people who purchase imported pieces are likely to face is a lack of durability. For example, many importers will try to minimize the costs of production by using sub-par materials and producing thinly blown glass. Additionally, these pieces seldom undergo a quality control process, which leaves a strong potential for the export and sale of defective merchandise. One way that improper attention to craftsmanship and quality control can lead to poor quality pipes is through an increased risk that glass stringers will not be melted in completely. In a quality glass piece, the stringers will be melted in completely, leaving a smooth surface across the glass. However, poor quality glass will often have visible ridges where the stringers were incompletely fused to the surface of the pipe. While this degrades the aesthetic appeal of a piece, one might wonder why this matters on a practical level. The issue with insufficiently fused stringers is that glass is not as strong when angles and dramatic differences in wall thickness are present. Therefore, if a pipe has been incompletely melted together, it is more likely to crack.
Another issue that is rampant in import glass that impacts the durability of the finished products is improper annealing. Annealing is a process where glass is heated to a certain point then slowly and carefully cooled to relieve internal stresses. This process creates a far stronger finished product that will not shatter if exposed to temperature changes or slight mechanical shock or stress. Import glass is often improperly annealed, or not annealed at all. This means that imported pipes are more susceptible to breakage from the flame used to smoke cannabis or even setting it down at the wrong angle. One might argue that this issue in particular might be persuasive when deciding whether to buy American-made or import glass, as there are very few people who would want to buy a piece that will likely break after minimal use.
Another issue regarding both safety and durability applies to efforts to work around American import regulations. According to U. S. Customs, any pipe that contains more than two holes is classified as drug paraphernalia. To avoid their products being seized, importers will often sink the bowl of a pipe without blowing a hole in the bottom. After the pieces have successfully been exported to the U. S., distributors drill out the holes. While this process might seem innocuous, it presents a variety of issues for the consumer. Firstly, the process of drilling a hole creates the risk of small glass shards and dust being trapped in the piece. While most of the remnants from process can be removed by thoroughly cleaning the piece before use, it also has drastic effects on the quality and durability of the glass. For example, the process of drilling a hole in the glass greatly increases the risk of fractures which might later lead to spontaneous shattering.
Another issue with cheap, mass-produced import glass is the issue of how foreign production companies achieve the bright colors often seen on these pieces. While the art of glass blowing has evolved to the point that there is a wide range of brilliant colors available, some of these are not accessible to offshore glass companies. Therefore, as a means of competing with the colors available in America, many manufacturers have been found to use paint on the inside of their pipes to imitate the bright glass colors available domestically. As one might assume, paint contains a variety of volatile organics and petrochemicals that, while safe when the paint is used for its intended purpose, one would not necessarily want to inhale.
Another reason to buy American glass is because of the effort and artistry that goes into the domestic industry. It might be tempting to buy a cheap imported piece off the internet or from the local discount smoke shop. However, to do so means supporting corporations that do not give proper consideration to the quality or safety of their products. Additionally, many imported pipes are replicas of original designs by independent artists. Therefore, in buying imported glass, one is not only risking buyer’s remorse and health issues but possibly supporting artistic plagiarism. Foreign glass manufacturers make millions by churning out sub-par glass with little to no quality control. In contrast, many American glass manufacturers have stringent quality control standards, make their products with safe materials, and respect their work as an art form. If the risks stated above are not sufficient reasons to buy American-made glass, one might argue that this is. Quality and safety aside, choosing to buy American glass is a choice to support individuals and glass blowing as an art form rather than financing corporations and poorly-regulated mass-production.