This article originally appeared on Straight Cannabis.
A new North American beauty pageant targeting the cannabis industry has just opened for applications—but only for “unwed” and “natural born” females between the ages 18 to 30.
And its founder thinks it’s going to be huge.
According to the official site, Miss Marijuana, or Miss MJ, is “the type of girl all the guys want, and all the girls want to be friends with” and the platform “gives you the opportunity to be the activist you’ve always dreamed of.”
Up for grabs is the crown and title of Miss Marijuana, $25,000, and a car—but not the branded Jeep Rubicon posted on the site, because that’s just to show applicants what a car looks like.
If accepted, contestants will upload a profile to be digitally polled by the general public. The online voting will take place for six to seven weeks and the 53 women with the highest votes—one for each American state and one from Canada—will then proceed to the final contest in Los Vegas, Nevada. The finale will include one “personal interview question”, and two catwalks—in a swimsuit and an evening gown.
“It’ll be a fashion show, it’ll be a concert—lotta fun, I hope,” says Howard Baer, the pageant’s founder, to the Georgia Straight on the phone.
“We have so many signed up from Canada that it looks like we may have to break it up into provinces. Originally, we were going to do it just as one, but we have over 500 from there now.”
Baer says the pageant has surpassed 5,200 interested contestants.
Outdated eligibility standards
While the site says “Miss Marijuana provides an equal opportunity for any woman interested” including models, experienced beauty pageant contestants, and “non-models” aspiring to break into industry—the guidelines exclude anyone married, or gender-fluid and non-conforming.
When asked about the specifications, Baer calls the single, or unwed, prerequisite a “normal” criterion for Miss or Ms pageants.
“The biggest reason for that is because when you’re working with married women in particular, these days it’s probably the same…we want her to be able to travel for the next year, and be at the dispensaries…events and so forth,” he says. “It’s pretty hard for a married woman to do that. She doesn’t have the freedom to do that.”
As far as contestants needed to be “naturally born women”, Baer says that’s more of a “personal thing”.
“In my mind…I’ve got a 14-year-old granddaughter…and the way things are, particularly with the transgenders, you’ve really don’t know what you have,” he says, trailing into a story he recently read about a transgender woman charged with assault in the U.K.
“He worked his way into women’s events, and what not. So, they sent him to jail, and in England there is a jail for transgenders specifically, and he raped two women there.”
The woman Baer is referring to is Karen White—a 52-year-old transgender woman sentenced to life for sexually assaulting two inmates in New Hall prison in Wakefield, West Yorkshire. The assaults took place in September and October of 2017 after White had been arrested on suspicion of stabbing a neighbor.
When asked how that incident related back to his beauty pageant, Baer said: “I don’t want the girls to be nervous about somebody that is in their room with them. The only one that allows that now is Miss Universe. I’ve read good and bad about it. I’ve read they’re regretting it. I’ve read that they’re not. But the majority of them [pageants] are not and I want to go with what I think is the normal thing to do.”
He adds: “I don’t want to put the girls in a position that they feel uncomfortable, because there are going to be a lot of young girls there and I just don’t want to do that.”
However, when others have tried to promote events solely for “women born women”, they have met fierce resistance from the trans community. Trans people have won major victories with legislation in Canada guaranteeing freedom from discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender expression.
Moreover, school districts have also introduced measures to prevent bullying of trans kids.
These outdated standards are nothing new for beauty competitions. In fact, they harken back to the 1930s when contestants were asked to shield their faces for the bathing suit portion—opting either for a bag or a mask that looked like a cheap knockoff prop from the Hannibal Lecter franchise. The intention was to draw attention away from the face so judges could better focus on the women’s bodies. Questions about the validity and relevance of these rules are becoming increasingly poignant in the diversifying North American culture, but with legalization Baer sees this as an opportunity to reinvigorate the old rituals.
“I bought the domain eight, nine, ten years ago, or something like that. The timing wasn’t right for it. The timing is right now, so we’re doing it.”
A now-outdated press release shows an attempt at hosting the pageant in 2014. When asked why it never came to fruition, Baer says it didn’t get enough interest.
“Now that cannabis in the U.S. is becoming legalized, and in Canada, it’s a whole different story. We get 50, 60, 70 girls signing up every day and we’re not even promoting it other than a little bit on Facebook.”
A quick check validates the event’s dismal lack of social media presence. The pageant’s Twitter page has only garnered a couple hundred followers with seemingly no interactions, while the official Facebook page has fewer than 4,000 likes and followers.
Capitalizing on a legalization trend
Under the name Papa Baer Productions, Baer has several other businesses relating to the cannabis space. One is a social media platform titled MarijuanaSelfies, a polling-based website entirely populated by cellphone pictures of young, attractive, and half-naked women posing with weed. Users upload selfies that can then be voted on for weekly cash prizes. Baer also has a clothing line launched in 2017 called Smoke 10, which is described as “the first full clothing line dedicated strictly to the cannabis industry”.
“What drew me to it [the cannabis industry] was that I started buying domains about 10 or 12 years ago, and we took some of those domains and made them into sites. And we just kept expanding,” he says. Baer clarifies that he has no personal attachment to cannabis, but owns nearly 230 weed-related domains, including Miss Marijuana for every country in the Miss World pageant.
“Chile, Peru, I own all of them. If this works out, I’ll take it international in the next year or two years. It’ll become an international pageant.”
What exactly about Miss Marijuana relates cannabis? Not much, according to Baer.
Considering the U.S. currently operates as a puzzle of various stages of legality, he says “the girls” don’t have to admit to smoking weed or even know much about the plant to be eligible.
“A lot of the girls ask me about that. There is no use of the product in the pageant; there is no requirement of anybody. They just have to be pro-marijuana. In other words, they can’t be against it. They have to be advocates,” he says.
“We’re not going to be smoking; we’re not going to have it [pot] on-site. I don’t want the responsibility. And I don’t want the girls to feel like they have to do something they don’t want to do. It’s a name. It’s a brand name.”
While Baer says the pageant won’t have any weed on-site, or promote its use, he did take the opportunity to promote the pageant’s new CBD beauty line, which includes cannabis infused gummies, serums, and moisturizers. And the prize packs for both Miss MJ and the three runners-up apparently contain products from the top brands in the industry.
“That’s [beauty products] launching in a couple of weeks. Excellent products.”