It is unknown whether the Trump administration approved Rodman's trip, but having a company that describes itself as “a digital currency [that] is an alternative payment network for cannabis users, merchants and industry professionals” being a sponsor makes the situation a bit more hazy. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has expressed clear views against the use and sale of marijuana.
The Rodman sponsorship clearly was a publicity stunt, and a successful one at that. The currency's value has jumped 60 percent since Monday, according to CNN.
Gaining greater notice was the bet Paddy Power, an Irish betting website, made when it sponsored some of Rodman's previous trips. They stopped in 2013, because of worldwide scrutiny and condemnation of the North Korean regime. “We reviewed the project and, with the benefit of hindsight, recognized that we got this one wrong,” Paddy Power said at the time.
PotCoin, for its part, is spinning the sponsorship as an opportunity to contribute to international peace. In a statement, the company wrote that Rodman has visited the country four times, and is in “the very rare position to be able to claim longtime friendships with both the Supreme Leader of North Korea, as well as with the current President of the United States.”
What, exactly, Rodman might accomplish is unclear, though the release also quotes Rodman’s longtime agent Darren Prince as saying, “Anyone who knows Dennis knows he’s trying to use his relationship to open the line of communication and send a message of peace and understanding.”
PotCoin first appeared in 2014, right around the time that Colorado opened its first retail cannabis stores. The concept was simple: PotCoin was supposed to let people buy and sell marijuana anonymously, without cash. Early indications suggested that this might be a thing: At least one dispensary installed an ATM linked to the "currency."
An alternative currency was thought necessary because federal law still prohibits the sale of marijuana, and money gained through such sales cannot cross state lines, including through federally insured banks. But the concept never truly caught on, with marijuana growers and retailers mostly still dealing in cash.
Eventually, a new set of administrators took over the currency. In 2016, the developers of PotWallet (Pay Pal for pot) signed on. A new investor poured some money into the idea, allowing leaders to spend more on IT. A mobile app is in the works.
Even so, the service seems to be struggling to corner the market. As one professor told Leafly in 2016, PotCoin needs to gain many, many more users (particularly merchants) for it to take off. “I'm a little leery of the service,” said Shad Ewart, a business professor who teaches a course on the business of pot. “They need to get more merchants on board. If they do that, the people will follow. Because why would I want PotCoins if I can’t use them?”