Toronto’s first legal cannabis store, Hunny Pot Cannabis Co., opened its doors as expected on April 1. Their media rollout, however, did not go as smoothly.
Kate Johnny, a publicist working on behalf of the company that morning, was reported as being the store’s first customer, despite a long line of real customers waiting for hours outside of the store.
In a video from local news station CP24, reporter Brandon Gonez identifies Johnny as "the first lady to purchase legal cannabis," filming her as she has her ID scanned to make a purchase. After the cashier asks her how her experience was, Johnny replies that it was "amazing".
Gonez then pulls her aside for an interview, in which Johnny says that The Hunny Pot is "the most beautiful store" she had ever seen, then proceeded to say that she has to "get back to the office and then maybe enjoy some of this after the office."
After the segment was posted to the CP24 website, Toronto sub-Reddit user iamnotgoogle pointed out that the "so-called first customer was in fact an employee of the store," creating a great deal of online ridicule.
A subsequent report from Vice revealed that Johnny had helped them and other reporters coordinate interviews with the owner and budtender for the store.
One journalist on the scene tweeted out that all the photographers there refused to shoot anything "staged like that".
In response to the controversy, Johnny issued a statement saying "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".
CP24, however, maintains that they believed Johnny to have been a "legitimate customer".
"At the time, CP24 was not aware that she was a publicist for the store. The story has been corrected online."