A video of a woman since identified as Alison Ettel calling the cops on an 8-year-old black girl selling water on her stoop went viral with the hashtag #PermitPatty last weekend. Jordan Rogers was hoping to sell cold bottled water to baseball fans heading to AT&T Park for the San Francisco Giants vs. the San Diego Padres last Friday. The girl’s mother, Erin Austin, was outside their apartment building with her daughter and captured “Permit Patty” making the call to police to report the child selling water without a permit. Ettel ducks behind a wall while on the phone to try to avoid being recorded. “You can hide all you want. The whole world gonna see you, boo,” Austin says. Ettel comes out from her hiding spot, saying, “Yeah. Illegally selling water without a permit? Yeah.”
The whole world responded with a firestorm on social media. Given recent events of black people having the cops called on them for sitting in a Starbucks, BBQing in a park, napping in a dorm room while studying for finals, or just not waving, collective outrage at what The Root described as “Calling Police on Black People For No Damn Reason” is at an all-time high. Heavy was quick to report on the story with an article titled “Alison Ettel, ‘Permit Patty’: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know,” which identified Ettel as co-owner of a Bay Area cannabis company, TreatWell, which peddles cannabis tinctures for people and pets.
The irony of a white woman who sells marijuana calling the police on a black child for selling water was not lost on anyone. Especially given the fact that Ettel stated herself to SFGate.com in an article titled “Pot For Your Pup?” that her cannabis business was growing despite the fact that, under federal law, her products are illegal. “It’s kind of like ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’” Ettel said. “We haven’t gotten any pushback yet.”
Speaking to HuffPost, Ettel insisted that her calling the police on a child for selling water was not racially motivated. She also claimed she only “pretended” to call the police. She told HuffPost that the incident began because Rogers and Austin were “screaming about what they were selling. It was literally nonstop. It was every two seconds, ‘Come and buy my water.’” Ettel said she had the windows of her office open. When asked why she didn’t close the windows, she said it was too hot, and closing them would not have stopped the noise.
The backlash from the cannabis community was swift, with at least three Bay Area retailers announcing that they will no longer carry TreatWell products because of the #PermitPatty incident. Magnolia Oakland announced in an Instagram post that it would donate all profits from remaining TreatWell inventory to a local non-profit that provides opportunities to young women of color. Ettel was also dropped from a documentary currently in production about women in the cannabis industry due to her “racist and divisive actions,” film producers stated in an Instagram post.
One good thing to come from all this? Some pretty great memes—and a very good skewering of the situation from SNL’s Cecily Strong.