Skip Stone started Stashlogix in 2015 in large part to help keep marijuana out of the hands of children.
Stone's Boulder, CO-based company began importing discreet, combination-locked travel bags in which people could store their pharmaceuticals, cannabis-infused edibles, and other potentially dangerous products.
His products, he tells Reason, were about "giving parents and people an option to be safe and secure."
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) felt much differently. In April, they issued a binding order informing Stashlogix their lock bags were drug paraphernalia and prohibited them from entering the country. Customs also seized $12,000 worth of Stashlogix's cases coming through the Port of Longbeach, CA for good measure.
The reason given the company for this seizure were two reviews of their product posted on marijuana-themed blogs, Weedblog and Stoner Mom, which praised Stashlogix for the ease and convenience with which their bags kept weed out of the hands of kids.
"These cases are a weight off this mother's shoulders. Knowing my stuff is locked away responsibly helps me sleep easy," reads the review from Stoner Mom. Weed Blog said, "every responsible marijuana user does everything that they can to keep marijuana away from children. Stashlogix's locked containers it goes on to say were an "important safeguard."
It was these reviews, as well as Stashlogix's inclusion of an odor-reducing pack with each container, that led customs to determine that the company's "primary intended use" for its products was linked to drug use, and therefore ran afoul of U.S. drug paraphernalia laws.
The logic offends Stone, because federal authorities are deeming his product "drug paraphernalia" specifically without taking into account the many alternative uses for his product. "Our website doesn't say anything about cannabis on it," he says. "It can be used for anything. I keep a coin collection in it. My kids keep their marble collection in it."
The April order is only the latest is a number of frustrating and contradictory interactions he and Stashlogix have had with Customs, Stone says.
In August 2016, when a shipment of Stashlogix cases was held by CBP, Stone said he sought clarification and got permission for the cases to come into the country. The process, however, included six months of silence and delays from customs officials. Despite repeated calls from Stashlogix employees, Customs would not say if or when they would decide on the legality of the company's product.
"We called them a couple times, asking. Are you going to get back to us on this? We want to make some business decisions based on what customs is going to do," Stone says. "They wouldn't tell us, they wouldn't tell us how long they'd take, they wouldn't tell us how long they had to respond to us."
With no clarification coming, Stone says he decided to go ahead and order more cases from abroad. One order shipped by boat made it through customs without incident. The other shipped by air, Customs seized.
Without the ability to import their product, Stone says, "We've had to lay off all but two of us…the person that managed our bookkeeping and inventory we laid off. The person that did shipping and fulfillment is gone. The person that did sales and marketing is gone."
The company is scrambling to find a U.S. manufacturer, but America's high-cost labor market would require the cases be reinvented to make them competitive.
The government's treatment of Stashlogix is a smaller story in the greater arc of the drug war, a telling example of how prohibition operates on the ground level. In an attempt to keep drugs out of the hands of children, the government has decided to go after a product which by all accounts was pretty good at keeping drugs out of the hands of children.
Meanwhile, Tupperware containers, plastic bags, and aluminum foil continue to pour undeterred into this country.