Offensive ‘Meatgate’ Incident Outrages Cannabis Activists

Doesn’t that charcuterie display look appetizing, hygienic and not at all sexist? Wait, no it doesn’t. (Photo from social media)

Cannabis activists are calling for a boycott of Altai Brands after the edibles company made the disastrous decision to serve charcuterie off the body of a live, nearly nude woman during a private party held while the Marijuana Business Conference took place in Las Vegas last week.

As photos of the model—clad only in a towel and bikini—draped with deli meats circulated on social media, the cannabis community responded with calls to eradicate sexism within the fledgling cannabis industry.

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Cannabis media quickly picked up the story, pointing out that the ugly incident is an unfortunate example of the pervasive sexism found throughout society. Literally treating a woman like a piece of meat sparked revulsion and condemnation all over the internets. Blogger Aliza at HerCannaLife wrote, “Women are not simply adornments in the cannabis industry. We are business owners, executives, venture capitalists and angel investors. We are educated consumers who can speak loudly with our pocketbooks.”

Magnolia Oakland Executive Director and longtime activist Debby Goldsberry took the company to task online, stating: “It’s time for marijuana conferences to recognize the discrimination faced by women in marijuana workplaces. These events should be dedicated safe spaces, where each person’s rights are protected. Harassment prevention has to be a focus, starting with statements from the dais and in the event programs about how actions like Altai’s will not be tolerated.”

Ophelia Chong, founder of Stock Pot Images, reacted with disgust to the display, commenting that “the cannabis industry is an old and new one, with the old being the growers, the patients, the activists, the underground, the ones on the ground who set the path for the people just entering, me being one of them. I believe that the objectification of women in the cannabis industry is now part of the ‘old’; we have a chance now to set the foundation for an industry that is inclusive and respectful of both genders, not to objectify or stereotype.”

(Join Ophelia and Lorna Shannon from Women of Weed Street tonight for a podcast on the topic of sexism in the cannabis industry.)

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Cannadad Brandon Krenzler wrote, “What happened in Vegas, did not stay in Vegas, as so many people in attendance were perturbed by the exhibition. I hope the rest of the up and coming cannabis brands and entities will take lesson from the social media outcry and respect the decency and sanctity of women, as we all together, forge a new frontier.”

Still rebounding after fraud allegations made earlier this year, the staff at Altai Brands is no doubt mortified over how the ‘Meatgate’ scandal has continued to unfold, threatening the image of their brand and potentially jeopardizing retail accounts. A winner of multiple HIGH TIMES Cannabis Cup awards for their gourmet, low-dose cannabis-infused candies and chocolates, Altai invested millions in a state-of-the-art production facility in Monterey County and soon brokered a lucrative deal to distribute Colorado-based Dixie Elixirs brand in the California marketplace.

The company has apologized profusely, and responded to inquiries for comment with these statements:

“Altai Brands sincerely regrets a poor decision we made during a private event in Las Vegas by having a professional model act as a physical server for charcuterie. It did not demonstrate the respect that we have for all women.  We pride ourselves on representing California cannabis culture at its finest and we are committed to maintaining a community that recognizes and values the inherent dignity of every person, by fostering sensitivity, understanding and mutual respect of our customers, employees and partners.  The team at Altai is dedicated to making sure that all future events meet our high standards that reflect the core values we live each and every day.  Again, we would like to apologize to the community and hope to demonstrate our firm dedication to respectful treatment of all and to assure everyone this will never happen again.”

“This experience has been humbling and eye opening and I personally take full responsibility and apologize to all attendees, customers, the cannabis community, and the females in my life.  I could try to explain what we were thinking but that would be pointless as there is no excuse – it was a bad choice and it was offensive.  If I can see anything positive coming out of this situation it is that it has opened up an important dialogue.  Our focus right now is on the enormity of having offended people whom we deeply respect and making whatever amends we can.  I have heard your voice and it has made a personal impact on me.  I will continue to listen and am actively engaged in seeking ways to increase awareness and support of women’s rights and concerns.” 

 –Robert Weakley, CEO of Altai Brands 

Whether or not cannabis activists will accept the apology remains to be seen, but it’s clear that the company will be examining their conduct closely moving forward.

See also: Marijuana Mavens: How Women Hold the Key to Ending Cannabis Prohibition

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