Alison Ettel is the woman who called police on a elementary school-age San Francisco girl hoping to sell water to baseball fans in front of her apartment building Friday. Erin Austin, the mom of 8-year-old Jordan Rogers, captured it on her cell phone and posted it to Instagram. Ettel, who can be seen on her phone calling police, tries to hide when she realizes she’s being recorded by the Austin.
Now known virally as #PermitPatty, Ettel has two master’s degrees, one in urban planning, was an equity trader, a Brookings Institution researcher and CEO of a medical marijuana business.
Rather she was. Ettel resigned Tuesday from the cannabis company she founded, Treatwell. In a statement sent to Heavy late Tuesday afternoon, company spokesperson Cynthia Gonzalez said, “…she has resigned, effective immediately.”
Ettel, 44, has been described as not unlike so-called #BBQBecky, the woman who called police on a black family having a cookout in a park in Oakland, who too was a well-educated white woman calling police on black people doing ordinary every day things.
But Ettel claims she asked politely for Rogers & Austin to sell the water more quietly: “Please, I’m trying to work. You’re screaming, you’re yelling,” Ettel told NBC’s Today Show. Austin says that never happened. She says Ettel “just came out and demanded to see a permit from an 8-year-old.”
There’s a lot more to this story. Here’s what you need to know:
1. An 8-Year-Old Selling Water to Baseball Fans Had the Police Called on Her by Ettel, Who Herself Runs a Cannabis Business That Exists in a Legal Gray Area
A woman named Raj on Twitter, whose cousin is the little girl, said her cousin lives near AT&T Park where the San Francisco Giants played the San Diego Padres Friday. The girl, with a big smile and a rolling cooler, announced, “Cold water $2. Cold water $2” hoping to sell water to baseball fans.
Her mother was outside their apartment building with her daughter when Ettel began phoning the police. When the mother began capturing Ettel calling cops, she tried to hide by ducking down around a concrete wall on the sidewalk. When the mom said, “…you can hide all you want. The whole world gonna see you, boo,” Ettel comes from her hiding spot and says, “Yeah. Illegally selling water without a permit? Yeah.”
Late Saturday afternoon, the mom who posted the video of Ettel updated, and thanked, folks for their support. And apparently, the police never showed up.
“I’m trying to read all the messages and reply to all the positive and supportive souls in this world 🌍 THANK YOU FOR SHOWING US ITS NOT ALL BAD!!! If you would like to support my daughter all funds sent to my cashapp will be for her!! $ladyesowavy FYI SFPD did NOT show up.”
The Huffington Post spoke to Ettel who said she was “pretending” to call the police.
“They were screaming about what they were selling,” she told HuffPo. “It was literally nonstop. It was every two seconds, ‘Come and buy my water.’ It was continuous and it wasn’t a soft voice, it was screaming.”
Ettel said she suffered for hours with the screaming and “snapped.” She said it stressed her out and now, she claims, she’s getting threats and feels “discriminated against.”
“It was stupid,” she told HuffPo. “I completely regret that I handled that so poorly. It was completely stress-related, and I should have never confronted her. That was a mistake, a complete mistake. Please don’t make me sound horrible.”
Ironically, Ettel just held a “fireside chat” on June 11 to help people “calm anxiety and stress with cannabis.”
“If you’re in or near San Francisco this Thurs, come to our “Calming #anxiety & #stress with #cannabis” talk with Alison Ettel of @TreatWellHealth. It’s sure to be chock full of good tips & advice. #marijuana #stressrelief #anxietyproblems #MMJ”
Many on social media are also mentioning how Ettel runs a cannabis company that operates in a legal gray area.
In a 2015 SFGATE.com article headlined ‘Pot for your pup? Startups cash in on cannabis trend,’ the safety and appropriateness of dosing dogs and cats with cannabis was examined in light of the pot shops for pets popping up. In the piece, Ettel said her policy is ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.”
The article described using marijuana as a medicine for dogs as “controversial” and said the practice “has drawn criticism from everyone from the ASPCA to the Food and Drug Administration to the American Veterinary Medical Association.”
Ettel was interviewed and said then that her business “is growing — by about two customers each day — despite its questionable legality.”
“It’s kind of like ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’” Ettel was quoted as saying. “We haven’t gotten any pushback yet.”
2. #PermitPatty is a Thing With General Outrage, Memes & Viral Notoriety
#PermitPatty is being likened to #BBQBecky, Jennifer Schulte, an Oakland woman who called police to report a black family having a BBQ in a park where she said no charcoal grills were permitted. It was reported later that Schulte was “evaluated for an involuntary psychiatric hold” after the incident. She too went viral after calling police and telling a 911 dispatcher that black people were using a charcoal grill in a “non-designated area in Lake Merritt park.”
People are angry but are using humor to address what The Root described as, “Calling Police on Black People For No Damn Reason.”
Longtime Saturday Night Live cast member and comedic actor Cecily Strong went there.
“This is America, where a grown San Francisco woman will call the cops on an 8-year old girl for selling water outside of her apartment building. #permitpatty.”
“This Police State Enforcer has nothing better to do on a Saturday than call the Police on an 8 year old girl selling bottled water? Welp, looks like we got another one,” tweeted Tim Black. “I call her #WaterBottleBecky but you may know her as #PermitPatty Internet do your thing!”
Another said, “She hid, knowing it as racist, terrible and wrong. She could have hung up, once she felt shame and embarrassment. But she pushed though because her hate is louder than her humanity. She and #SarahSanders should grab a meal. #PermitPatty”
“Fellow white women: if I come across one of y’all doing this, I’m going to grab you by the pony tail, grab the phone outta your hand and smash it on the street. How is this hurting you? Oh, it’s not. Stop being so damn racist. Also, that’s a child, stop being petty,” tweeted Dark Angel.
Not everyone was on board with naming Ettel.
Leslie Miley, former Twitter engineering manager, said, “Having spent years at Twitter seeing first hand the results of doxxing, swatting, and the dissemination of false/misleading information on unsuspecting people due to wrong identity or wrong place and time, we run the risk of becoming just like #PermitPatty.”
“Lives have been ruined and people have been injured emotionally/physically by hashtag justice. I too want to see #PermitPatty brought to task. The people to do that best are the people close to her,” tweeted Miley, the former director of engineering at Slack, an early Apple engineer, and now ‘Executive in Residence’ at non-profit Venture for America.
But Ettel went on Today and gave a number of interviews over the weekend.
Ettel claimed it was a hot day – hence the water-selling, Austin says – and said she could not close her window and could hear Jordan hawking the water.
“I tried to be polite but I was stern,” she says. Austin said Ettel appeared and demanded to see a permit to sell water.
“That woman thought she could use her white privilege and it didn’t work,” Austin said in the interview.
3. Ettel Co-Founded ‘Treatwell’ a Medical Cannabis Company That Sells THC & Cannabidiol Tinctures for Dogs & Cats & People. With Many in the Industry Boycotting Treatwell, Ettel Resigned as CEO Tuesday
According to the website, “TreatWell was founded in 2015 to provide the highest quality cannabis products for both people and animals.”
Ettel was the CEO as well as co-founder. TreatWell offers “educational and consulting services: dispensary training; patient consultations; corporate strategy; business services; product development; cannabis extraction consulting; and cultivation consulting.”
“We recognized the need for high quality, consistency and easy titration in cannabis-infused products and set out to fill these needs. TreatWell specializes in providing non-psychoactive options for medicating with cannabis including CBD ratios and the raw, acidic compounds,” the site reads. “Our goal is to be on the cutting edge of cannabis research and to incorporate the latest thinking for what may help patients better with less.”
Cannabidiol and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are similar molecularly-speaking but unlike THC, which has a psychoactive component that gets you high, CBDs do not. In other words, what TreatWell sells does not get people, or pets, high.
Ettel told ‘Edibles’ magazine, “Being an entrepreneur is part of who I am, and I am out to change an industry!”
An Instagram account for StashTwist, a “woman-operated, non-profit cannabis collective in the East Bay providing safe access to high-quality medical cannabis and cannabis products,” posted, “4 years ago, before permits and licenses, StashTwist was proud to support @treatwellhealth – but how easy it is to forget! Now shes calling the police on An 8 year old selling WATER in the summer without a PERMIT?!?!”
“Dear Community especially Bay Area Cannabis Community,” StashTwist writes, “We are in a time where we have to hold fast to our values it is our responsibility to call out cycles of oppressive behaviour. @treatwellhealth this behaviour lacks compassion or humanity. @treatwellhealth called the police on an 8 year old for selling water. This video was captured by the 8 year olds mother @ladyesowavy . I came across the video on @bbqnwhileblack a community watch network.”
And a major dispensary, Magnolia Oakland, who has long done business with Treatwelll is out.
“As of today, Magnolia will no longer be carrying Treatwell Tinctures. After seeing this video of their CEO, calling the police on an 8 year old entrepreneur selling water on a hot day, we decided without hesitation that we could no longer patronize her company,” Magnolia Oakland posted on its Instagram.
And Magnolia spoke directly to their patients that use Treatwell products: “…please know we are working to ensure we can bring on some new amazing and ethical brands. Treatwell was one of our best selling products but to us, Integrity is always before profits. For our remaining inventory, we are doing blow out deals and donating all proceeds to a local non profit. We would love to donate to an organization that provides opportunities to Young women of color interested in becoming entrepreneurs.” And asked folks to tag “suggestions on non profits for us to donate to or licensed and complaint tincture companies …”
By Tuesday morning, four days after the incident, Ettel was forced to resign when business after business in the medical cannabis industry cut ties with the company she founded. Gonzalez, Treatwell spokesperson emailed an explanation of the decision for her to step down and also condemned her actions albeit calling it a “critically wrong decision” made in the heat of the moment:
“As a spokesperson for Treatwell Health, we are deeply sorry and regret the incident that occurred this
past weekend. A terrible mistake was made that affected a young girl and her family. It is important to
know it was never the intention to disparage, harass or cause any harm to the child, nor her Mother.
However, in a heated moment, a critically wrong decision was made by our CEO. The guilt lies in that
decision, and while it was completely wrong, the act that followed was not motivated by any racist intent
We are aware of the tumultuous tide of racism in this country and agree that its very existence has no
place anywhere, especially in the Cannabis industry. Rather, we respect all family values, virtues and
religious beliefs, lifestyles and we are supportive of all. And as a company we refute all notions of
Our sole focus, as a company is to enrich, heal, and preserve the 1000’s of lives of those patients in need.
We do not seek forgiveness for the act, rather we accept the fact that a very poor decision was made.
We respect all people of color, race, creed, ethnic diversity and we are a zero tolerance, all-inclusive
We ask for your professional courtesy and allow Treatwell Health time to mitigate the damages,
particularly for the sanctity and future Medical Cannabis needs of our patients.”
Alison Ettel, CEO of TreatWell Health, has resigned, effective immediately. This decision, while not an
easy one, is in the best interest of their patients.
It is Ms. Ettel’s belief that TreatWell, its employees, and patients should not have to suffer because of
a situation that occurred in an escalated moment. And she regrets her part and is remorseful.
4. Featured in ‘Get Leashed’ Magazine, Ettel Says She Got Into Cannabis After an Illness: ‘I’m Not Supposed to be Alive Today’
“Despite questions of legality and perpetual gray areas, Alison Ettel TreatWell’s CEO and co-founder is hell bent on spreading the word about cannabis, a treatment that has helped many patients herself included,” Erin Kirkpatrick wrote.
Ettel, who said she has only been in the business a few years has a partner who’s been in the cannabis industry for more than two decades. Ettel said she comes from a “very professional background, doing everything from Wall Street think tanks and software companies, and I started getting into cannabis after I recovered from a coma caused by meningitis. I’m not supposed to be alive today.”
Ettel said she has “never gotten high, still haven’t gotten high, and have no interest in that.”
Ettel told the magazine she had “an MBA and a couple of other masters degrees” likes research and began studying biochemistry.
She does have degrees: but not three master’s, she has two master’s degrees and one bachelor’s degree according to her LinkedIn.
On the Instagram account for her business, where she uses hashtags like #InstaWeed and #Weedstagram, some people are furious: “You sell weed and you called the cops on a little girl selling water??? Shame on you miss.”
5. The Double Master Degree-Holding Ettel Has a Long & Impressive Resume & a Blossoming Bud Business. Until Saturday
Ettel gradated from the University of Michigan with a master’s in urban planning and an MBA. She got her undergraduate degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology in economics and finance and has worked in markets, real estate, and for the Brookings Institution she was a research associate for Metropolitan Studies where she “researched, helped author and fact check the book ‘The Option for Urbanism.’ Researched and authored research papers on the real estate environment and urban choice.”
Ettel also did a business plan for nano-fiber bandages and sold it to Dow Chemical, according to her LinkedIn.
But where Ettel has made her name has been with her medical marijuana business, so much so that she was featured in a story on the History Channel’s History Now . Ettel was also featured by Lady Buds in a recent Facebook post where it shares she will be part of a 2019 documentary on women in the cannabis industry. There’s a major plot twist coming, however.
“Last week we filmed Lady Bud, Alison Ettel of @treatwellhealth attend IC3, The 2nd Institutional Capital & Cannabis Conference in Los Angeles. It was a great event that put entrepreneurs in touch with investors in the cannabis space.
LADY BUDS, the documentary, will premiere 2019, stay tuned!
#IMALADYBUD #cannabis #womeninweed #california #cannabiscommunity #weed #marijuana #cannabisactivist #healing #tincture #womenfilmmakers #womendirectors #documentary #indiefilm #ladybuds #womenincannabis #cannabisculture #bosslady #cannabiswomen @treatwellhealth”
Late Saturday, Lady Buds director Chris Russo took to Instagram to first denounce Ettel.
The comment stream praises Lady Buds for its stance but demands further action. And so three hours later, Russo and Lady Buds “clarified” that Ettel and her business were being edited out of the film.