Dennis Rodman's North Korea trip is backed by a digital currency for weed
Posted June 13
Dennis Rodman is back in North Korea with another offbeat sponsor.
The former NBA star teamed up with online betting firm Paddy Power for a series of trips to the isolated nation in 2013. This time around, he's gone in with the backing of PotCoin, a digital currency for the cannabis industry.
"Headed back to North Korea. Thank you PotCoin.com for sponsoring my mission," Rodman tweeted Tuesday before taking a flight from Beijing to Pyongyang, the North Korean capital.
It's not clear exactly what Rodman is hoping to achieve with his latest visit to one of the world's most repressive regimes. For PotCoin, the goal appears to be publicity.
It posted a statement on its website touting its association with the "historic trip," saying Rodman is in "the very rare position to be able to claim long-time friendships" with both North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Trump. (Rodman was a contestant on "Celebrity Apprentice.")
But PotCoin didn't say what the trip has to to do with a bitcoin-like digital currency aimed at transactions between legal marijuana users and merchants.
The company's statement quoted Rodman as saying that "the folks at PotCoin ... realized the importance of this trip and made it all possible for me." The flamboyant Hall of Famer wore a t-shirt emblazoned with the PotCoin logo during his flight to Pyongyang.
PotCoin didn't respond to a request seeking further comment.
The digital currency was launched in early 2014 in an effort to provide the legal cannabis industry, which was being shunned by banks, with a secure way to make and receive payments.
One of its founders told the HuffPost at the time that it aimed to gain acceptance "from growers and dispensaries in Colorado or Vancouver, to cafes in Amsterdam."
The Rodman link appears to have already sent PotCoin soaring: the currency's value has jumped more than 60% since Monday to around 17 U.S. cents, according to industry website CoinMarketCap.com.
Related: Dennis Rodman hopes to do 'something pretty positive' in North Korea
The controversy surrounding Rodman's past trips to North Korea eventually became too hot to handle for Paddy Power, his previous sponsor.
The Irish betting website ended its relationship with him in December 2013 as criticism mounted, saying it was responding to "the worldwide scrutiny and condemnation of the North Korean regime in recent weeks." That included the news that the regime, which has been widely criticized for its human rights abuses, had executed Kim's own uncle.
Related: U.S. lawmakers want to ban American tourists from North Korea
"We reviewed the project and, with the benefit of hindsight, recognized that we got this one wrong," Paddy Power said at the time.
Rodman's next visit after that, in January 2014, included the surreal sight of him singing "Happy Birthday" to Kim at a basketball game and a bizarre interview on CNN.
He checked into rehab soon after his return.