A Denver dispensary found itself in hot water over the weekend after comments supporting Immigration and Customs Enforcement were posted on the store's Facebook account. The dispensary's owner claims that the social-media account may have been hacked, but pro-immigration advocates aren't buying it.
On September 10, a response to a KWGN (Channel 2) news story about planned protests at the home of the warden of Aurora's ICE facility, asking those in the thread about the lack of pro-ICE support, was posted by what looked like Peak Dispensary.
"When and where is the rally for support for ICE???" the comment reads. The comment was deleted days later, but the Internet never forgets. Screenshots of the comment and subsequent responses began surfacing on Facebook and Twitter, gaining criticism and public callouts of Peak.
Peak owner Justin Henderson initially said that a staff member had accidentally posted the comment under the company's Facebook account, but now says the page was likely hacked. "I really don't know exactly what happened. We're still trying to piece it together," he says. "One person in our organization has different opinions than others, so I posted that."
But Henderson says that the employee, whom he declines to name, then told him she didn't make the comment in question, and that's when he started to believe he might have been hacked. "It was me jumping to the conclusion that she absolutely did it, and then I tried to take it back with a little class. But trolls don't care."
According to Henderson, his business was recently hacked as part of a financial scam, and he thinks any social-media hacking could be connected.
But Justine Sandoval, a pro-immigration activist in Denver who responded to the original Peak comment, doesn't buy that.
"They're completely backpedaling, which is pretty insane to me," she says. "It's obvious what happened: Someone who was doing their social media was commenting and thought it was their own account. I manage social media and have done that, too, but they left it there. Instead of doing the public relations thing and apologizing and explaining, they went and said they were hacked."
Peak's subsequent Facebook posts about the reported employee mistake and subsequent hacking claim were deleted after arguments erupted between the company and Facebook users. Some of the comments are shown below via screenshots from Twitter user @cannapanda.
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Henderson calls the controversy a "major outcry to throw someone under the bus," adding that he's "happy to sit down and talk with anyone" about what happened.
"We're not trying to tell anybody they shouldn't be upset. The times we're in right now are pretty crazy, and a lot of opinions are thrown around quickly. But that's not what we do. We want to talk about cannabis," Henderson says. "Both managers of my store are Hispanic. The manager of my grow is black; 75 percent of my staff are minorities. We are so not those people."
Sandoval isn't ready to change the conversation, however, and instead argues that the topics of cannabis and immigration are intertwined. Legal immigrants can be denied citizenship and even be deported for working in state-legal cannabis industries because of the plant's federal prohibition, she notes.
"That's why this was a huge red flag for me. Obviously, I didn't like the comment, but when I saw who it was, I was shocked," she says. "One of the things that makes this so crazy is that people I know in the cannabis industry are supporters of immigration. [Simply Pure owner] Wanda James and the Green Solution, for example — but we also have conversations about the industry being a white-male-dominated industry."