On Tuesday, Dennis Rodman arrived in North Korea for his latest visit to the Asian dictatorship, and raised eyebrows for any number of reasons. Many felt that the visit is nothing but a frivolous ego trip, or that it’s inherently immoral to lend one’s celebrity to a regime as violent and destabilizing as that of North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. As Rodman released early photos from the trip, however, another aspect of the story quickly took center stage: What the hell is that on Rodman’s T-shirt?
It turns out that Rodman’s trip was sponsored by a little-known cryptocurrency called “Potcoin,” which has created a flurry of interest, mostly online. The value of a Potcoin, which fluctuates just like the value of a bitcoin, is currently around 15 cents — low, but still much better than the 1-2 cents it maintained before this PR stunt. Every cryptocurrency started out at zero at some point, bitcoin included, so it’s worth asking: What is Potcoin, and what makes it unique?
From a technical perspective, nothing at all. Potcoin is literally bitcoin for pot, just another of the alternative cryptocurrencies collectively called “altcoins.” That is, Potcoin is bitcoin, and the creators for some reason suggest that users should use it only for pot and pot-related activities.
The digital currency’s inventors obviously have no way to stop users from buying things other than cannabis, or from storing funds made through other activities, or indeed from using it to facilitate their illegal cannabis business, which Potcoin makes very clear is not in the spirit of what they’re trying to do.
The problem is that none of this makes any sense. Use-specific cryptocurrencies don’t have any advantages over ones that pitch themselves to everyone, really, with the whole idea being to create an economy large and thriving enough to wash out small periods of volatility with overall, average stability. That is made far more difficult when you limit your user-base to a few tens of thousands of people, for no real advantage to those people. And, if the government ever did want to investigate legal pot dispensaries, collecting all the industry’s transactions under a single roof, without much other traffic to wash it out, would make it a lot easier for cops to figure out who’s who.
The arguments about why the pot industry should use Potcoin to store their money are simply arguments that the pot industry should use any cryptocurrency to store their money. There just aren’t any good, unique ideas behind Potcoin. Don’t believe me? Check out this hilariously boring promotional video full of the most generic business speak you’re likely to find. “When everyone has access to a global market,” says the company explicitly arguing that former criminals should hide their past and current gains from the police, “great ideas flourish.”
Pretty deep stuff.
At the end of the day, making and promoting a new cryptocurrency isn’t the worst idea, since even a tiny portion of bitcoin’s success could make a person fabulously wealthy. (As a side note: It is not currently known whether Rodman is an investor in Potcoin, but we would not be surprised.) There are already altcoins available, of course, from ether to Dogecoin, but there could still be room for a new challenger with an unusually high profile — like, for instance, one that uses an unusual PR stunt to get its name on the nightly news.
Anyway, Potcoin is almost certainly a doomed enterprise, and strong evidence of just how mainstream bitcoin has become. Still, if Potcoin does end up overcoming its flawed concept to secure itself a place as a reliable altcoin, it could prove that celebrity really is the most powerful force in the world today. With Rodman ostensibly in North Korea to broker a lasting peace, that isn’t actually such a pessimistic idea, at all.