Update: At 5 PM Wednesday CP24 emailed VICE saying it has corrected its online article to note that Kate Johnny is a publicist for The Hunny Pot.
Toronto’s first legal weed shop The Hunny Pot opened its doors on Monday, and while there was no shortage of real customers in line, a publicist for the store posed as the store’s first customer in an interview with news station CP24.
A video on CP24’s website shows reporter Brandon Gonez inside the shop waiting for the doors to open to the public. The camera pans to Kate Johnny, a publicist at Blue Door Communications who represents The Hunny Pot. Johnny is seen right inside of the door. Johnny then steps outside briefly when the doors open to the public and re-enters.
Bizarrely, Gonez describes her as “the first lady right now walking in to purchase legal cannabis.” The camera follows Johnny as she has her ID scanned, and then makes a purchase. As she’s waiting in line to pay, the cashier asks how her experience was, to which she replies “amazing.”
“We’re hearing that she’s saying the experience has been pretty good so far,” Gonez, the reporter, states.
He then pulls her aside for an interview, in which she offers a glowing review of The Hunny Pot, calling it the “most beautiful store I’ve ever seen.” She claims she’s going to head to work now that she’s purchased the weed. She is also quoted as the store's first customer in the online article about the opening.
But in fact, Johnny remained at the store because that’s where she was working.
She helped VICE coordinate interviews with the owner and budtender later that morning. Reddit users who saw the TV interview pointed out that Johnny does public relations for The Hunny Pot.
In an email, CP24 spokeswoman Renee Dupuis-Macht told VICE it wasn't initially aware Johnny was a publicist for the store.
"During their live coverage of the store’s opening, CP24 interviewed a woman believed to be a legitimate customer. Soon after that initial interview, CP24 was informed that the store had pre-selected the customer to be onsite for media interviews, which the station clarified immediately by revising their script. At the time, CP24 was not aware that she was a publicist for the store," she said.
However, Johnny told VICE all the media inside the store knew about the "ceremonial transaction."
"The decision was made to kick off the day with someone who helped launch the store over the past 3 weeks," she said. "All media that were in the store prior to opening were aware that we were part of the communications team and aware of the ceremonial transaction as we announced it before it happened to everyone inside."
As of press time the CP24 video and article remain online without clarification that Johnny is a publicist for the store. CityNews also identified her as the store's first customer.
Here’s an excerpt from the interview:
Brandon Gonez: How does it feel to be the first person in Toronto to purchase legal cannabis at a retail store?
Kate Johnny: It’s really exciting. This is a historic moment for Toronto for Ontario and for Canada. The Hunny Pot, this is the most beautiful store I’ve ever seen, they put so much work into it. I just can’t wait to come back this has been the best experience.
Gonez: Have you always been a cannabis user? What kind of inspired you to be here today?
Johnny: Honestly what inspired me was the education from the budtenders, I haven’t smoked too much cannabis in the past since it has been legalized in October. It was really great to have the experience from The Hunny Pot because they provide you with knowledge whether you’re a first time user or you’ve used it before.
Johnny then says she purchased a gram of weed for $12.
Gonez: How did you find the price?
Johnny: Happy. That was great, I’m very happy with it.
Gonez: What are you gonna do now?
Johnny: I’m gonna go home. I’m gonna grab a coffee and then go to work cause I gotta get back to the office and then maybe enjoy some of this after the office.
Gonez then asks Johnny about the stigma around weed. She responds that The Hunny Pot is helping erase it.
“You can see in this space, it is beautiful, it is elegant, you get that customer service that you want, you get that knowledge. I think this will really help end that stigma,” she says. She also praises the Ontario Cannabis Store for being “really great with putting [weed] online.” The OCS has been plagued with issues and delays.
Gonez then advises Johnny to “consume safely.”
Global News reporter Kamil Karamali tweeted that Johnny was the first person to purchase weed at the store, but identified her as being on The Hunny Pot’s payroll.
The Hunny Pot was also criticized Monday after one of its employees—a white woman—wore a t-shirt that said "I run on weed & gangsta rap." Many pointed out the slogan was tone-deaf considering that black Canadians are disproportionately charged with cannabis crimes.
Follow Manisha Krishnan on Twitter.