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BLK MKT cannabis brand sparks controversy over racist marketing

January 20, 2020
Wedding Crasher by BLK MKT. Photo courtesy of GTEC Holdings Ltd./GlobeNewsWire

A booth slogan at Vancouver’s Lift & Co. trade show last week sparked controversy over racism and diversity in the cannabis sector.

At its centre was a booth from BLK MKT, an adult-use brand launched in early December by LP GTEC Holdings, with large text on one side reading “Once You Go BLK…”

Lift & Co itself tweeted advertisements for the booth, including the slogan, and a hail of angry responses followed accusing the company of being complicit in advertising that was both racist and sexualized.

(The term “Once you go black, you never go back” is widely understood to be sexual and refer to sexual stereotypes about Black men.)

Thanks to the brand name, the new debate attached itself to arguments over the term “black market,” ongoing for several years in the cannabis sector.

On one side of that debate, a number of Black Canadians—ranging from industry insiders like Danielle “Miz D” Jackson to Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard—have expressed discomfort with the term.

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Such opponents have taken issue with what they see as implied connection to Black communities, and Senator Bernard told the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science, and Technology in April 2018, “I believe that term sends a subliminal message which may contribute to unconscious bias in the criminalization of cannabis.”

Those who use the term believe it has no racial implications in its roots, which date back to medieval language.

As with the debate over the term “black market” itself, in arguments over the BLK MKT slogan, the company had no shortage of defenders, who believed the slogan was harmless, edgy, or funny.

As debate raged, a secondary discussion opened about whether the slogan was effectively advertising the brand by drawing attention to it, however negative.

Some argued all publicity is good publicity, but parent company GTEC Holdings evidently felt concerned enough about the debate that they released a corporate statement arguing, “while it should be obvious, we would highlight that this brand has absolutely nothing to do with race.”

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The statement—itself criticized by many in the sector—went on to highlight the company’s diversity and complain “it is surprising and ironic that some people have been seeking to characterize our company as ‘nothing but white men.’”

The statement argued those who had criticized the slogan were nothing more than “a group of individuals on Twitter,” but the company went on to announce it would no longer use the slogan in the future.

Nonetheless, the misstep may still have done the company damage among those who feel it perpetuated racism, provoking some consumers who trusted the company to write them off.

Hill Knowlton National Cannabis Sector Lead Omar Yar Khan, who had just published a piece arguing lack of boardroom diversity was constraining businesses in the cannabis industry prior to Lift, said “The fact that someone thought this branding was a good idea might prove my point.” (Full disclosure: Omar Khan is a consultant for Leafly.)

Meanwhile, others speculated GTEC Holdings will make changes in their marketing department following the outcry.

Jesse B. Staniforth's Bio Image

Jesse B. Staniforth

Jesse B. Staniforth is the editor of the free cannabis-industry
newsletter WeedWeek Canada. He also reports on Indigenous issues,
cybersecurity, and food safety.

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  • Fillip Phta

    Bunch of overly sensitive life long victims and virtue signalers. Sad and disgusting what our society has become. There isn’t a public announcement that exists that doesn’t have some whiney 24/7 twatter putting their unwanted 2 cents in.
    What using an incorrect and offensive to white people slogan is now off the

  • John Thomas

    I think the problem is many in the marijuana industry are coming from
    an outlaw culture with no rules. — It’s a whole, new world, folks.
    Time to clean up your acts.

    • James M. Page

      John:read the book of Ecclesiastes. My paraphrase:”Ain’t nothin’ new under the sun.”

  • Nerdelbaum Frink

    This is the definition of garbage journalism. Tweets are not news, nor do they reflect any type of wider sentiment. This is literally the death of journalism, and this site is perpetuating it.

  • Chubb Hubb

    PC cry babies gonna cry best to ignore them and let Dave Chappelle roast them .

    • James M. Page

      All I gotta ask is”what would Jesus&Chip do”?haHaHAHA!

  • Roy Logan

    People need to grow a thicker skin or stay inside. In other words GROW UP.

    • jacqualine george

      👍, people these days are so sensitive.

  • Jammer

    lol

  • Lawrence Munroe

    Well I am not offended ,it better be something to write home about is all I can say .

  • Darkcloud

    The hall monitors will show up
    in every industry and eat you alive if you let them. “Black Friday”, “Black Market”are legitimate, non racist established terms that have nothing to do with any ethnicity or people’s skin color. Do not let the word “black” become verboten, language is a powerful tool and can be twisted to someone else’s reality so “black” means racist and being “white” means racist. Can’t win, can’t get out of the game…

  • Elmer Wilson

    Black Market n their slogan as once u go black. Is now becoming a racist issue. I don’t know why everything they put out. U will always have those few out there calling it racist. When u really sit n think about it, the ones that bring it up. R the racist people, it gives them something to whine about n a way to swindle the market. It racist, it’s getting so bad out there. Whenever they can throw the race card in, all hell breaks out. N it’s really pathetic, because it has nothing to do with it. Like the Confederate flags r racial, how it was a war. For the sake of everyone, u really need to stop with this racist bull. U twist it all out of proportion n causes more grief than anything else. Why just leave the dead horse lay, instead of finding ways not to get along. It’s getting so out of hand, it makes me sick to my stomach. People need to start to love one another, throw out all this racist bull. N just see how it goes, I bet the world would be a better place. If u start getting along, instead of fighting all the time. It’s getting old n so immature. It’s time to grow up people n just get along with your fellow Brothers n sisters. Seek peace n stop going out to find a fight n just try to get along with your fellow mankind. Please

  • john

    Their whole existence revolves around race. These companies and people in general need to stop caving in to these lifelong victims. Show some backbone because if you don’t it will never end. These whiners should look in the mirror to see who is responsible for their failures in life. And yes blacks can be racist and many are more so than we evil white people are.

  • pete

    this is freaking idiotic and you notice how most of the people that have a problem with it are white. I personally think these people have nothing better to do then going around getting offended by everything they see.. I think its a great name and slogan. it obviously has nothing to do with race.. I feel sorry for these idiots.. its like they have nothing better to do then to find things to bitch about.. grow up and get a life you loony losers

  • Randallpiz

    Nope, this is as stupid as putting cannabis in cereal boxes. It’s just fucking asinine.

  • Randallpiz

    If you need a gimmick, your weed is probably shit anyway.

  • surfpipe

    Humor is dead….

  • Yourmuddashuddaswallowedyou

    Dumb.

  • TurkeyBoi

    You lose credibility when you post articles like this. Clearly, these tweeters never suffered a day in their lives.

  • Melody Richardson

    This is the first time I’ve ever heard of “black market” being called “racist.” Seriously? All it means is that it’s underground. Next thing you know, they’ll be saying “white lie” is racist. This shit is why we’re called snowflakes. Get over it.

  • DARREN

    Stupid is how libtards think…p.c. B.S.

  • Michael

    Some folks bitch & moan about just about everything under the sun……
    It’s just a common play on words that has become part of our culture. This is about, (not quite) as significant as a nat crossing the street. There are SO many life & death issues that people choose to ignore…… It’s just SAD…… 🤯 Question, did the complaining party actually try the product, and if so, did they go back????? just sayin 🤔🙄😎

  • C Wayne Lyon

    I know a LOT of conservative types that are close to supporting freedom with marijuana, but they always withdraw a bit when they see stuff like this story. It’s a mix of nonsense, which they worry is a sign that marijuana will damage society, and the typical cries “racism” for the purpose of shutting down debate.

    Stereotypes aren’t always racist. And, racist stereotypes aren’t always considered “evil” by leftists. Leftists consider it racist to assume that an Asian is smart, but it’s acceptable to say that white men are all land thieves, rapists, and mass murderers.

    Racism doesn’t really matter to the angry people of this article. They would do a lot more for fighting racism, as well as putting on a good face for marijuana supporters, by practicing good judgment AND an equal application of outrage. Stop using EVERY excuse to cry “racism,” and stop accepting the unbalanced use of racist stereotypes.

  • Tim Coleman

    You know I come to this site to see news about the legality of weed here in PA , I like to learn about the straigns many of I will likely never see , it is highly still illegal for me to smoke weed , I’ve been smoking since 13 not gonna stop any time soon . I do not however come here to see nasty racial articles with one goal , to devide , I am so tired of all this race shit , and live the shit every day as the worst treated minority ever on this land , I am a middle-aged white man with a jewish sounding last name , who is on disability for mental illness , do you really think I need to learn more about discrimination ? I just want to smoke weed , and I have smoked with all colors and in truth the only color of people I wont smoke with are the green people , because they already had too much and are gonna name my couch ” Ralth ” .

  • James Metuzka

    Geez c’mon really.!! Get over it or go back to Zimbabwe

  • Michelle

    F.Y.I. I AM WHITE I NEVER HAVE SEEN COLOR NOR I HAVE I EVER THOUGHT TO LABEL ATTRIBUTES, THIS IS BULLSHIT EVER SINCE JR. HIGH THERE HAS BEEN TAUGHT OR COPIED HATE “your pretty cool for a white girl” “I usually don’t like white but your different” I knew this wasn’t right we are in 2020 my friends it’s time we move on there is a show called “THE S%&! WHITE PEOPLE DO” I haven’t heard NUFFIN bout that. I’m not judging I’m just saying. So sad that people can’t find something to do with thier life except feeling pity for themselves. CRY ME A RIVER. IF NO ONE LOVES YOU, GOD LOVES YOU,

    John 1:19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry

    Only way to reduce hate and judgement would be to educate our next generation through him and in him and with him we will find humbleness to not find joy in materials but in a embracing love in a peacefull life…knowing you will always find a way through adversity with a calm and collected desicions to best benefit not only ones self but also loved one close and just pray for enemies a those who lost in spirit…💁‍♀️ ✏🗒

  • Michael Baker

    give me a fuckin break black peoples rights have nothing to do with the weed industry all we need now is jewish people to start protesting over kosher kush. “it’s a friend friend with weed is a friend indeed” NO COLOR NO RACE !!!!!!!!!