Los Angeles Times falls for fake U.N. '4/20' policy

la times building

No, the United Nations Office did not create a "4/20" policy.

But some at the U.N. may be wondering what the Los Angeles Times is smoking.

Earlier this week, the Times reported that the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime was holding a three-day summit around April 20 -- aka 4/20, aka the pot smoker's holiday -- at which it would unveil "new international recommendations" decriminalizing marijuana.

Unfortunately for the Times, the article was largely based on a fake press release.

The fake release, which was published on a site designed to look like the UNODC's, announced that the office was unveiling an "historic 4/20 policy" to decriminalize marijuana. It also featured a false statement attributed to Yuri Fedotov, the UNODC executive director, and "UNODC Public Information Officer Kevin Campo."

Both of these statements were featured in the L.A. Times article. And while Fedotov is a real person, "Kevin Campo" is the name you get when you combine the names of the UNODC's two spokespeople: Kevin Town and Carlos Gomez del Campo.

Town, one of the actual public information officers for the UNODC, confirmed that the release was fake and said they had been told that the L.A. Times was "rectifying" the article.

The fake press release was first flagged by Tom Angell of Marijuana.com.

On Friday afternoon, the Times appended a correction to the story: "Though the U.N. was indeed examining policy changes," the statement reads, in part, "[Fedotov's] statement was based on a news release that was a hoax. Fedotov's other comments in the story were based on an email conversation he had with The Times. The article also quoted Kevin Campo, who was identified in the fake press release as a spokesman for the U.N. agency. He is not an agency spokesman."

But just how the article remained on the Times site for three days, despite the fact that the UNODC never made what would have been an historic "4/20" policy recommendation, is a mystery.

It also remains unclear who was behind the trickery.

Meanwhile, someone with the Twitter account @KevCampoUN has been promoting the L.A. Times article and the false press release aggressively.


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