New ‘Miss Marijuana’ beauty pageant faces accusations of sexism and transphobia

There’s a new beauty pageant targeting the cannabis industry that’s causing controversy and accusations of transphobia and sexism due to its requirements for contestants to be “unwed” and “natural born” women.

According to its official website, Miss Marijuana 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.” But is she a pot smoker? Not necessarily, says pageant founder Howard Baer in an interview with the Georgia Straight. “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.

The winning “girl” gets $25,000 and a car, and of course the title, Miss Marijuana. And yes, they have to be “girls” in the traditional sense of the word. The pageant unashamedly displays the requirements that “contestants must be between 18 and 30, single (unmarried), natural born woman” noticeably on the front page of its website.

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Once accepted, contestants will upload photos of themselves to the pageant’s website and be voted on by the general public. The top 53 winners, one for each American state and one from Canada, will be invited to the pageant itself in Las Vegas. That event, which the pageant’s Facebook page says will happen sometime in “Spring 2019”, will include swimsuit and eveningwear competitions, as well as a “personal interview question”. “It’ll be a fashion show, it’ll be a concert—lotta fun, I hope,” said Baer.

Despite the outdated eligibility standards, which one might think would turn many off in the progressively-minded cannabis industry, Baer claims that over 5,200 contestants have applied so far. “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 like one, but we have over 500 from there now.”

Baer spoke to the Straight about why he insists on the discriminatory rules for his pageant. “The biggest reason for [requiring that women be unwed]” said Baer, “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 for his restriction against the involvement of transgender women in the pageant, Baer’s answer was more blatant. “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 said.

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“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.”

“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.”

The pageant was originally announced in 2014 but, according to Baer, didn’t come to fruition at the time because there was little 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.”

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Although the pageant has a small social media presence, with its page having just under 4,000 Facebook followers as of this writing, Baer appears to be using it to heavily promote his other marijuana businesses and products, including a line of pageant-branded marijuana beauty products. He owns a cannabis-oriented social media site called Marijuana Selfies and the Smoke 10 clothing line. He also has hopes to take the Miss Marijuana pageant international and says he already owns the Miss Marijuana web domains 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.”

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