Etsy's Adorable, Handmade Drug Paraphernalia

By Lacy LeBlanc 08/14/12

By cutting out the middleman, the DIY site provides a "fluffy black market" for drugs and their artisanal accoutrements.

"A ceramic stoneware bong that also holds
your favorite scooby snacks."
Photo via

Etsy is a craft site that takes the middleman out of the equation by bringing buyers and sellers into direct contact, helping many niche markets to thrive. It's ideal if you're in dire need of a monogrammed muffin tin or an iPhone case embroidered with owls—but the missing middleman has also allowed suppliers of illegal substances, from drugs to human body parts, to reach avid consumers. Largely unbeknownst to its devoted DIY-loving community, the online artisanal clearinghouse has risked becoming the fluffiest black market on the Internet—something closer to its shadowy counterpart, Silk Road. Last week the Etsy team blogged about their extensive research into which items are appropriate for sellers to list. “Smokeables”: no. Tobacco-only pipes: yes. Human organs (or parts of them): no. Patterns for making your own penis, embroidered vulvas, and human hair and teeth: yes. Porn: no. Fetishdollies BDSM greeting cards: yes.

But despite Etsy amping up their regulations, there are many loopholes. Previously, “drug-like substances” were banned. Now, in a restriction more reminiscent of the FDA than a craft site, sellers can still offer certain substances, but can’t make claims about their curative properties. Also, Etsy isn’t responsible for what sellers choose to list in their shop, and although they send out emails to offending parties, they largely rely on members to police themselves, requesting that buyers and sellers report each others' transgressions. This allows many sellers of illicit substances or paraphernalia a free pass—unless a rival “tobacco pipe” maker reports them to the Marketplace Integrity Team for un-craftsman-like behavior.

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