The messy break behind the hottest Instagram in weed

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At its peak, The Blacklist was the internet’s front page for the US cannabis industry.

Lured by an intoxicating “user-generated” mix of insider leaks, industry rumors and gossip, and aggregate content that appeared to have been copied straight from reputable news sources and turned into viral social media posts, The Blacklist built an audience of now totaling over 400,000 Instagram followers. The result was “the most disruptive force in weed,” as cannabis website MerryJane described the outfit after an interview with one of The Blacklist’s shadowy, “anonymous” operators in 2019.

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In its own words, wanting to be the alleged “TMZ of cannabis”, The Blacklist at times showed an unfiltered, unreliable and dark side.

It has been claimed without conclusive evidence in industry circles that negative posts could disappear for a few thousand dollars, a practice popular Instagram celebrity and cannabis entrepreneur Berner suggested it was “extortingin an interview with SF Weekly last year. (The Blacklist dismissed the claims as lack of evidence and “defamatory” at the time.) They have also responded to claims that unscreened information has been published by pointing out legal protections for the hosts of user-generated content.

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Whatever The Blacklist may be right now, the people behind the controversial outlet are no longer anonymous. A dispute over company ownership is the focus of a spiraling legal battle — and the latest installment in an increasingly uglier, increasingly public beef that is both personal drama and an industry afterthought.

What is not in dispute is that the registered founder and owner of The Blacklist, according to Delaware filings in a lawsuit filed earlier this year, is a Los Angeles area woman named Shalon Doney.

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Doney is still married (for now) to Adam Campbell, a longtime cannabis grower who spent years battling a federal pot case in Montana. Divorce proceedings filed in 2021 are not yet final. That means The Blacklist is community property — that is, a property that should belong equally to both spouses — and Campbell is entitled to half, as Doney’s lawsuit admits.

Shalon Doney and Adam Campbell in 2010s.

Thanks to Matthew Wagner

Still, in her lawsuit, she claims that “since inception, Ms. Doney has been the sole operator and manager of TBO. [The Blacklist Online] and she remains as such today.”

In addition to suing Campbell for “illegal embezzlement” [Doney’s] federal intellectual property rights,” Doney is also suing Matthew Wagner, the man who sat for the “anonymous” MerryJane interview.

Doney’s lawsuit alleges that Campbell and Wagner represented themselves as The Blacklist earlier this year in negotiations with a potential partner that would have seen the brand expand from media to cannabis production and verification. Doney found out, her lawsuit alleges, after receiving DMs on The Blacklist’s account from people she didn’t recognize saying, “‘nice to meet you‘ (or words to that effect)’, her suit said. (The Blacklist immediately went public, then posted on its LinkedIn page that the pair were “unauthorized people claiming” [sic] to work with The Blacklist.”)

Much of the public drama surrounding The Blacklist revolves around Wagner. A former owner, promoter and performer of an adult nightclub, originally from Missouri — where, he said in an interview, he first met Doney — Wagner began selling ads for The Blacklist in late 2019.

Thanks to Matthew Wagner

Commenting on Doney’s lawsuit, filed last month, Wagner claims that Doney founded The Blacklist at the behest of her estranged husband, Campbell. (The Blacklist logo, a blank-faced human figure in an upside-down hooded sweatshirt, is based on Campbell, the two men told The Daily Beast.)

Furthermore, Doney promised Wagner a third-party stake in the company “if he could figure out ways to monetize the platform” — and Wagner began closing five-figure ad deals in late 2019, according to his own filing.

Their agreement went awry after Doney became “physically and verbally abusive” against him, Wagner claimed in a March letter his attorney sent to Doney and included on the case file as part of her lawsuit. (Her filing said the claims were “legally and/or factually unfounded.”)

The letter alleges that Doney sold a half stake in the company for $250,000 to another California entrepreneur, giving the company a potential valuation of $500,000.

That claim could not be immediately verified. In a telephone interview, the entrepreneur who Wagner said had bought a stake in order to make a deal and claimed to have no relationship with The Blacklist.

Contacted through her attorney, David Gingras, Doney canceled a scheduled interview at the last minute earlier this month. Follow-up emails were returned from someone writing from the email address [email protected], identifying himself only as “The Blacklist Admin”.

The correspondent rejected all of Wagner’s claims before making some more accusations of his own.

“All of Matt Wagner’s allegations will be proven false and untrue in a court of law,” the person wrote. “There is no evidence for his false accusations, which is why a lawsuit has been filed against him.”

“We will not comment on frivolous claims made by an ex-seller who briefly worked for the blacklist. [sic]. We will continue to collect content and remain the voice of the community.”

The correspondent offered a varying explanation for the alleged sale: first claiming the investor was bought out six weeks after the deal, then claiming there was no deal at all, before dropping a serious bombshell.

“It should also be noted that Wagner was released after it was discovered he ran a brothel that trafficked underage girls,” the email added. “That information is available with an Internet search.” [emphasis theirs]

In later emails, the correspondent shared photos of Wagner in various states of undress, including promotional photos for a male stripper show. The correspondent said he was fired “once these photos surfaced and a story was submitted that Mr Wagner was involved in a brothel in Thailand that was robbed for trafficking underage girls.”

Wagner freely admits that Missouri police raided a club he ran in 2014 — and that the risqué photos, of a four-month stint in Texas, are in fact real. The premise of the raid was the illegal sale of alcohol, dancers unlawfully performing nudes, and the operation of an after-hours adult cabaret, according to local reports at the time (which focused on the county sheriff defending his decision to use flash grenades at the raid). Wagner was charged with possession of a felony, according to the news reports, for allegedly possessing anabolic steroids.

He pleaded guilty to two felonies for allowing dancers to be unclothed for Missouri law, according to a copy of the plea deal reviewed by The Daily Beast. Doney knew all this before Wagner started working for The Blacklist, he claimed in an interview.

As for the allegation of trafficking by minors, that’s a well-known statement, Wagner claimed.

“It’s just not true, which is why I’m not afraid to face it.”

It is true that years after the Missouri incident, Wagner worked as a consultant and promoter for nightclubs in Thailand, where he was quoted in a November 2018 local news story about a record $6,100 opened by a British tourist at the Pattaya windmill. City.

It is also true that Thai police raided that club and arrested three employees after a 16-year-old girl offered sex to an undercover informant in July 2019, according to Thai media reports. At the time, Wagner says he was already back in the United States, a claim supported by Facebook posts that appear to place him around the time of the Pennsylvania raid. (The prosecutor’s office in Pattaya did not respond to an email requesting comment.)

Wagner also claims to be the subject of a larger troll campaign. Earlier this year, someone – not Wagner, he says – launched an Instagram account under the handle @mattwagner_ca where, along with innocent posts, some of the stripper photos appear. “THIS PERSON DOES NOT REPRESENT @theblacklistxyz OR ITS AFFILIATES,” posted @theblacklistxyz in the comments.

Dan Miller, Wagner’s attorney in the lawsuit filed by Doney, said his client plans to file a separate lawsuit against Doney and The Blacklist for defamation in response to the human trafficking allegations.

In a separate interview, Campbell said his wife set up The Blacklist’s corporate structures herself because he was on federal probation for the marijuana charge picked up in Montana. Campbell has yet to be served with the federal lawsuit, which he described as a deliberate attempt to let go of the divorce and exclude him from his part of The Blacklist in the meantime.

“Her goal is exile,” he said. “Her goal is to make it so that Matt and I aren’t part of the industry, that I’m not the original hoodie guy who started The Blacklist, which is ridiculous.”

It was Doney who saw The Blacklist as a “money robbery,” Wagner claimed. Her bribery took off after she left Campbell in May 2020, Campbell argued, claiming she was using The Blacklist to fund a “five-star lifestyle.” (Neither Gingras nor [email protected] addressed these allegations.)

“What it has become is a total perversion of the original ethos,” Campbell said of The Blacklist.

For some in cannabis, the property is now irreparably damaged, regardless of what happened behind the scenes or what comes next – or who wins.

“I’ve never been quite sure of The Blacklist’s vision, except to stir division in this industry that’s already under attack in so many ways,” said Kip Morrison, a veteran PR professional and director of KMA Cannabis, one of the bigger agencies in weed. “Posting gossip and negative reviews from anonymous sources does not equate to credibility in our book.”

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