TAMPA - A disclaimer on the box says full growth takes between 1-2 weeks, but the shelf life for "Chia Obama" has expired.
Walgreens has ordered stores in Tampa and Chicago to remove the product, saying the ceramic planter molded in the apparent likeness of the president was not appropriate for sale.
"We decided to pull the product so we're not subject to any political interpretation of the product," Walgreens spokesman Robert Elfinger said.
Some customers gave Chia Obama favorable comments while others didn't like it or found it had racist overtones, Elfinger said.
Walgreens, based in Deerfield, Ill., chose Chicago and Tampa as the test markets for Chia Obama, Elfinger said. Store managers have purchasing power at the local level.
The founder of Joseph Enterprises — the makers of Chia Obama and the well-known Chia Pet — said in a phone interview today that his company's newest product was "pro-Obama" and "pro-American."
"All I was doing was hoping this would be a vehicle for good," Joe Pedott said. "I wanted it to be a statement saying, 'I'm proud to be an American.'"
Joseph Enterprises gave Walgreen exclusive rights to sell Chia Obama, Pedott said. That changed Friday morning when Pedott received an e-mail from the drug chain's top brass saying Chia Obama was not in line with Walgreens' image, Pedott said.
"I'm sick. I'm scratching my head," Pedott said. "I have the greatest respect for Walgreens. I don't know what happened."
On Tuesday, managers from a couple of Walgreens near downtown Tampa said they aren't selling the Chia Obama or didn't even order it. Pedott said he plans to offer Walgreens' competitors a deal to sell and market the product while continuing to sell Chia Obama on his company's Web site.
Chia Obama is available in two versions, with a happy-looking Obama or a determined-looking Obama. Logos on the box say "Yes You Can!" collect them both.
The full Chia Obama package contains one handmade bust of Obama, seed packets for three plantings, a plastic drip tray and an instruction sheet for planting and care.
San Francisco-based Joseph Enterprises, also markets the Chia Head, the Chia Herb Garden, the Chia Cat Grass Planter and the Clapper, according to the company's Web site. The company advertises the Chia Obama under the slogan, "Celebrate the Change right in your own house.''