Cannabis Industry Takes On Social Justice

Originally Published on
By Lucas High | Sept. 10, 2020

Few industries embody the successes and ongoing struggles in the fight for social justice, legal reform and inclusion more than Colorado’s cannabis industry.

The pot industry is one that champions individual freedom and progressive values. It’s one whose pioneers, in many cases people of color, operated on the wrong side of the law prior to 2014 and who say now that they have been left out of the conversation as the industry has matured into a lucrative, socially acceptable and completely legal business sector. It’s an industry with customers of all races and ethnicities, all classes and creeds. But it’s one where consumers, particularly Black and Hispanic users, are disproportionately targeted by law enforcement in states where a legal market doesn’t yet exist.

This summer, as the Black Lives Matter protest movement has marched across the nation, a spotlight has been shone on the issues of systemic racism in law enforcement, along with disparities in economic opportunities for people of color. The cannabis industry in Colorado is listening and local groups are collaborating to make the business more equitable, more inclusive and more aggressive in taking a stand against prejudice in the justice system.

“We’re at a tipping point right now when it comes to social justice and criminal justice in our country,” The Color of Cannabis executive director Sarah Woodson said. “The reason why there’s a direct connection [between the BLM movement and the cannabis industry] is because people of color have been negatively impacted by the war on drugs and cannabis prohibition. Right now, there are places in the United States where people are spending 15, 20 years in prison for cannabis possession.”

According to a 2020 study by the American Civil Liberties Union, “Black people are 3.64 times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana possession, notwithstanding comparable usage rates.” The analysis found that “in every single state, Black people were more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession, and in some states, Black people were up to six, eight, or almost 10 times more likely to be arrested.”

Colorado groups, including kindColorado, Cannabis Doing Good and Sensible Colorado, are partnering on a new Cannabis Impact Fund effort to raise money in support of social and criminal justice organizations such as Black Futures Lab, The Bail Project, Color of Change and the Minority Cannabis Business Association.

“Our goal is to get cannabis companies to pledge 1% of sales, product or equity to the impact fund,” Cannabis Doing Good co-founder Courtney Mathis said. “The goal is also to build a larger narrative that demonstrates that the cannabis industry has shown up in support of justice.”

Marijuana arrests, and the corresponding incarcerations, spurred on by the war on drugs have left lasting scars on communities even in states where cannabis is now legal.

“Communities were damaged by the weaponization of cannabis,” kindColorado president Kelly Perez said. “Individuals paid the personal price criminally and legally, but whole community infrastructures were damaged.”

Perez said law enforcement’s decades-long war on drugs has succeeded, but only because “it’s a mechanism designed to take away power from people.”

Groups such as The Color of Cannabis are working to right past wrongs by helping people targeted in cannabis arrests get their records sealed or expunged.

“It’s morally wrong, and it’s fundamentally ethically wrong to allow one group of people to sell marijuana while other people are being punished for marijuana,” Woodson said.

The impacts of a marijuana conviction can often be compounding. Not only are people hit with fines and jail time, they can be excluded from participating in the legal pot market.

“If there were more African-Americans and Hispanics part of the original conversation around building out retail [cannabis sales in Colorado], there would have been someone in that room who said … if you [prohibit those with cannabis convictions from selling legal marijuana], you’re going to stop all the people who participated prior [to legalization in 2014],” Woodson said.

Colorado has recently taken steps to address the issue with the passage this year of House Bill 20-1424.

The bill allows the governor to pardon people with certain marijuana-related offenses without input from local district attorneys, freeing up those offenders to potentially hold positions in the legal industry.

According to Denver’s Cannabis Business and Employment Opportunity Study Report, which surveyed hundreds of city cannabis industry employees and owners and was released earlier this summer, “75% of owners are white, as compared with 68% of employees. Black or African American respondents represented about 6% of both owners and employees. Hispanic, Latino or Spanish respondents represented about 13% of owners and 12% of employees. This is in comparison to the 2017 Census that shows about 9.5% of the city’s residents are Black or African American and 30.5% are Hispanic or Latino.”

Lack of access to capital is a major factor in restricting Black people’s access to the industry.

Denver’s study found that nearly 77% of survey respondents said struggles accessing capital are the biggest barrier to owning a business in the pot industry.

“We need to start talking about money,” Woodson said. “That’s another piece of why you don’t see as much diversity.”

Colorado is attempting to step up to address the issue by “developing an accelerator program that brings interested individuals from designated economic opportunity zones into the industry,” Denver’s report said. “Under the Marijuana Enforcement Division’s working rules, ‘an existing marijuana grower or manufacturer would be paired with a new licensee to offer mentorship, as well as technical and capital support.’ Eligibility for this program is limited by geography and limited to manufacturing and cultivation licenses.”

Colorado cannabis firms are stepping up to develop mentorship programs of their own designed to open the industry up to historically underrepresented communities.

Charisse Harris, compliance vice president at the Lightshade dispensary chain, is developing a program called the Seed Effort that identifies promising young people of color and provides them with mentorship opportunities aimed at giving them a boost finding employment in the cannabis industry.

“There’s so much more that we could be doing,” she said. “There are so many kids who want to be involved in the industry but they don’t have the tools they need to learn to become part of it.”

How will consumers know if they’re shopping at a dispensary that’s committed to equity, inclusion and racial justice? KindColorado is developing a Cannabis Social Responsibility framework that will certify companies’ commitment. Think the B Corp. model, but for cannabis firms.

Members have to sign the “Cannabis Code,” which holds companies accountable to values related to equity, racial justice and sustainability.

Those members would then be included on a platform that connects shoppers with retailers and brands.

“Consumers do have values, and they do choose products based on business practices,” Perez said.

While progress is being made, there’s a long way to go toward creating a society and a cannabis industry that’s inclusive and responsive to the needs and goals of social and racial movements like Black Lives Matter.

“Colorado has an opportunity to do something historic,” Woodson said. “… We just need to keep up the commitment.”

Read Original Article Here.

Minority Cannabis Ownership Negligible in Colorado, but New Social Equity Law Aims to Spur Progress

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By Bart Schaneman | Aug. 27, 2020

As is true in other mature cannabis programs, Colorado falls short in minority representation among business owners.

But advocates and industry leaders are trying to correct that – a difficult task in a highly competitive and well-established market – and hope social equity legislation Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed into law at the end of June will help the cause.

“Black and brown business owners were left out,” said Wanda James, president of Denver cannabis company Simply Pure. “This is an opportunity for America to recover, rebuild and repair a lot of the injustices it has done.”

Bill creates progress In early June, a study commissioned by Denver officials found that 75% of the city’s cannabis business owners were white and only 6% of both marijuana business owners and employees were Black.

On the heels of that study, Polis signed the bill that issues pardons for prior marijuana convictions, lays out how social equity license holders will qualify for mentorship programs and offers financial incentives to help get their businesses off the ground.

House Bill 20-1424 established that an individual would be eligible to participate in the social equity program if:

The applicant or an immediate family member was arrested or convicted for a marijuana offense. The applicant lived in a designated economically distressed community for a minimum of 15 years between 1980 and 2010. Their income is at or below an amount to be determined. Sarah Woodson, executive director of The Color of Cannabis, a Denver advocacy group working on social equity in the industry, said that, even with the established definitions, much work remains to be done.

“The implementation is getting a little tricky – things can be interpreted in different ways,” she said. “But we know the industry really does have a desire to have social equity.”

Under the new rules, according to Woodson, the tentative timeline is for regulators to accept social equity applications in January.

The new regulations will allow applicants to participate in an “accelerator program” in which existing cannabis companies in several sectors, including retail, cultivation and manufacturing, will mentor new social equity business owners.

Woodson doesn’t anticipate the state will receive more than 100 applications, and those who win licenses will face an uphill battle in Colorado’s hotly competitive cannabis industry.

“We know the market is saturated,” she said.

Woodson’s organization is pushing to have fees for social equity applicants waived at the state level.

‘Working for crumbs’

Kelly Perez, a Denver-based cannabis social equity advocate and co-founder of kindColorado and Cannabis Doing Good, is focused on three core areas:

Undoing the harm of the war on drugs. Creating pathways for those hurt by the war on drugs to participate in Colorado’s adult-use cannabis market. Making economic justice a centerpiece of the industry. Perez is not convinced the changes in the program will create sufficient minority participation and ownership.

“I want economic generational wealth-building in the Black and brown community,” Perez said. “And I want cannabis to do that.”

The new legislation is “a drop in the bucket when the big companies have millions and millions of dollars,” she added. “The opportunity is quite limited.”

Taking into account the competitive market, part of the conversation has focused on adding new license types for social equity applicants to own delivery or hospitality businesses so they won’t have to compete with major, established companies.

But that opportunity is “quite limited,” Perez said.

Woodson agreed on the delivery issue, noting “there are some things that have to change” to make such licenses equitable.

With third-party delivery, the driver is limited to charging a flat rate for each delivery, so volume is the only way to make money, she said.

Woodson envisions a model where social equity businesses would be able to sell via direct delivery straight from a warehouse.

But it’s easy to see that the established industry, particularly the retailers, would chafe against that idea because it would add more competition.

“If it’s social equity only, I don’t feel like there should be too much opposition,” Woodson said. “Anything else is really inequitable – you’re working for crumbs.”

Making the grade

John Bailey, organizer of the Black Cannabis Equity Initiative (BCEI), a Denver nonprofit advocacy group, is focused on joint ventures.

The professional mentorships offered under the new accelerator program are an example.

He’d also like to see a moratorium on new licenses so the market doesn’t become even more competitive. He pointed to Oregon, where revoked cannabis licenses have been made into social equity licenses.

“You have to take into consideration that (minorities) weren’t participants in the saturation in the first place,” Bailey said.

And while he recognizes that the existing businesses shouldn’t be penalized because they were ready to go when the market began, there was no social equity at that point, so how do you correct a wrong, Bailey asked.

“Let’s recognize there are systemic barriers,” he said.

With BCEI, Bailey has created a community report card that analyzes a cannabis company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

BCEI will grade a company’s efforts as they relate to Black community outreach, relationships and opportunities.

The areas of grading will be:

• Employment opportunities. • Relationships with Black vendors. • Businesses and media. • Partnership opportunities with Black community organizations related to investments, sponsorship and contributions.

James at Simply Pure said she’s seen an increase in Colorado residents seeking out Black-owned businesses to support them.

“I believe America is at a paradigm shift,” she said. “It’s time to level the playing field.”

Read Original Article Here.

Cannabis Doing Good Helps Companies Craft Approaches to Racial Justice, Sustainability and Social Responsibility

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By Melissa Schiller | Aug. 14, 2020

The company helps cannabis businesses build and refine community engagement programs to raise awareness and contribute to causes they believe in.

When Kelly Perez and Courtney Mathis launched their consulting company, kindColorado, six years ago to help cannabis companies build social responsibility and social equity programs, they quickly realized that more was needed to advance the equity and racial justice conversation in the industry.

Through working with businesses to build their community engagement programs, Perez and Mathis were able to slowly introduce discussions about ways to more directly address equity. Then, two years ago, the duo went a step further to launch Cannabis Doing Good, a separate company dedicated to helping cannabis businesses craft their own unique approaches to racial justice, sustainability and social responsibility.

The goal is threefold, Mathis says. First, Cannabis Doing Good aims to build a network of purpose-driven companies through the launch of a membership program and a consumer-facing business directory.

“For example, if you’re in Illinois and you’re looking to shop a black-owned business, women-owned business or a LGBTQA business, you can do that,” she says. “If you’re looking for a brand that has sustainable packaging or you’re looking for a brand that contributes to your local food bank, you can find companies in our purpose-driven business directory [and] use your dollars to support them.”

The second goal, Mathis says, is to showcase companies that are supporting equity through a Cannabis Doing Good awards program.

Finally, Cannabis Doing Good aims to set the standard for social justice, sustainability and social responsibility in cannabis.

Earlier this year, the company launched a giving initiative to raise $10,000 to support those most negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The initiative was successful, raising more than the $10,000 goal, but it showed Perez and Mathis that Cannabis Doing Good needed a much larger mechanism to enable the cannabis industry to support the causes they believe in.

“We needed to make it easy, [and] we really wanted it to be focused on racial justice,” Mathis says.

With the help of Sensible Colorado as its fiscal sponsor, Cannabis Doing Good launched the Cannabis Impact Fund, a nonprofit arm that allows companies to pledge 1% of sales or profit to support six organizations that are exclusively focused on racial justice for the next 12 months.

“There are folks … that have been doing work in racial justice, social justice and equity for decades, and we think it’s really important to leverage the cannabis community to support them in masse,” Mathis says. “We think we’ve made it as easy as humanly possible to pledge 1%, or they can donate.”

In the future, Perez and Mathis hope to open the Cannabis Impact Fund up to support other causes, including sustainability, homelessness and hunger.

“The cannabis community can always point to the Impact Fund to say, ‘Look what we did, look what we’re doing and look at our commitment to show up for our neighbors,’ which I think is really cool,” Mathis says.

“We in cannabis aren’t always invited to participate in nonprofits and movements in general,” Perez adds. “The Cannabis Impact Fund is really the first of its kind in the country for the cannabis industry to step up in a concerted way to join the movement for black lives [and] to support the organizations within cannabis that have been working on social justice since the movement started.”

Embracing Cannabis Social Responsibility Another way Cannabis Doing Good helps the cannabis industry support their communities is by fine-tuning their approach to social responsibility. Each company’s approach must be unique to benefit both the business and its local community.

Perez and Mathis have never felt that corporate social responsibility in the traditional sense was a good fit for the cannabis industry, but they have embraced what has become known as “cannabis social responsibility,” which often includes community engagement plans.

“For us, it was, how do you see the licensing requirements?” Perez says. “How do you differentiate your brand? How do you really become an asset in the community that the community knows about? … What are the actual things that are supporting people and the planet in this community, and how can this business pitch in and be a part of it? By doing that, you’re also engaging your employees, you are improving the culture of your company [and] you are building cannabis’s reputation out in the community, as well as your brand.”

Over the years, Perez and Mathis have seen many companies doing good things for their communities, and Perez points to Colorado-based Terrapin Care Station as a business worth noting.

The company hired Cannabis Doing Good to help them take the efforts they were already involved in and create a more unified approach to community engagement.

RELATED: 10 Questions with Terrapin Care Station

“When we sat down with them, a couple things rose to the top: basic human needs, veterans, homelessness and prison reentry—that connection between criminal legal reform and cannabis,” Perez says. “We crafted … Terrapin for the People. … It’s really good work to be proud of.”

Terrapin for the People allows the company to collaborate with local social justice programs and efforts in the community to help advance their missions.

“They are contributing, not only with donations but also serving on the board and helping to be a community member that solves community problems,” Perez says.

There are many ways that businesses can support social and racial justice, she adds, but creating equitable opportunities in the cannabis space often centers on three main efforts: repairing the harm done by the war on drugs through reentry, expungement and criminal justice reform; creating business opportunities for those impacted by prohibition through funding and training; and finding ways for a legal and regulated cannabis market to benefit the communities hardest hit by the war on drugs.

“If you’re a person of color and you’re in cannabis, you may be that example of social equity,” Perez says. “You could be that person who’s participating in the industry and who’s reaching back and making sure there are opportunities for others, highlighting inequities in the system.”

More Good to Come

Perez and Mathis say they’ve set out to change the world and have taken on many difficult issues in the process.

“Racial justice is not an easy check-off box,” Perez says. “But contributing 1% of your revenue or product sales or being a founding member for the [Cannabis Impact Fund], that’s a statement on the national stage about what cannabis is and what we care about. That is participating in a movement that is the largest in our lifetime. We take some hard things like environmental degradation and find a way … to carve out what the right thing is to do and then make it easy for businesses [in an industry] where nothing is easy.”

“We continue to create pathways and mechanisms for the cannabis industry to show up,” Mathis adds. “If we can make the right thing the easy thing, I think we’ll have done a really good job and then have impact to show for it. … I think that if we can look back and say, we have contributed to community health, social equity and the conversations around sustainability, and we’ve created a pathway for cannabis businesses to participate in a way that’s really easy, I think we would be really, really proud of that.”

Cannabis is still a new industry, Perez adds, meaning policy and business practices largely have yet to be established—and Cannabis Doing Good aims to set the bar high.

“I think this is going to be the first time in our lifetime that we’ll have an industry step up and create some of the social change they hope to see,” Mathis says.

“We have at our fingertips this new [opportunity] to craft it in a way that does support communities, that is racially just, that does have opportunities for women and people who haven’t had opportunity,” Perez adds. “Why on earth wouldn’t we take it?"

Read Original Article Here.

Advocacy Groups Push Colorado To Make Legal Marijuana Market More Equitable

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By Kyle Jaeger | Oct. 27, 2018

Colorado can do a lot more to make its legal marijuana market more open, transparent and equitable, a coalition of criminal justice reform advocacy groups said in a recent letter outlining regulatory recommendations.

The coalition, led by the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), put forward 12 recommendations—ranging from the revocation of an industry-specific vertical integration requirement to the establishment of a micro-licensing program. The proposals were submitted to the state’s Department of Regulatory Affairs.

“Since Colorado became the first state to legally regulate marijuana, the national conversation has shifted from whether we’ll legalize to how we should do it,” Art Way, DPA Colorado state director, said in a press release.

“Colorado can do much more to address the lasting impacts of decades of mass criminalization. Given the current lack of diversity in Colorado’s legal marijuana market, we urgently need to follow the lead of other states and cities that are implementing policies to reduce barriers to entry in the industry.”

While one of the main objectives of cannabis reform has been to resolve the socioeconomic and racial injustices brought about by the war on drugs, excess regulations of Colorado’s legal system has created a new set of barriers—particularly financial—for communities that have been most impacted by prohibitionist policies, the coalition said.

With that said, the coalition is promoting a series of reforms in order to address concerns about “who can work in the industry” and “how the industry itself is regulated.”

Signees on the recommendation letter include DPA, Black Lives Matter 5280, Cannability Foundation, Cannabis Consumers Coalition, Cannabis Global Initiative, Colorado Fiscal Institute, Colorado Latino Forum, Denver NORML, Denver Relief Consulting, kindColorado, Minority Cannabis Business Association, NAACP of CO, MT and WY, Sensible Colorado, Servicios de la Raza and Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

Read Original Article Here.

Can pot companies gain legitimacy through social justice?

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By Sarah-Joyce Battersby | Mon., Oct. 15, 2018

There is almost nothing more corporate than an acronym. So as cannabis transitions to the mainstream, the industry is adopting a hallmark of modern business speak: CSR, or corporate social responsibility.

With their organization KindColorado, Kelly Perez and Courtney Mathis are forging paths for cannabis companies to be at the vanguard of social justice by pairing them with not-for-profits and other community groups. “It’s not blood money, it’s not an apology. It’s about taking the knocks and doing something good with it,” Perez said.

KindColorado worked with Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood to find partnership opportunities. One such partnership sees 5 per cent of the profits from a line of CBD-infused cookies going directly to the organization. In another case, a dispensary supports a church-run food pantry in Thornton, Co., with food and volunteers, according to local news organization Westword.

The bridges between cannabis companies and local communities help both parties, they said. And in some ways it’s a natural progression. “I think the cannabis industry is totally ripe for this type of work, for the culture,” Mathis said. She points to the rhetoric of the U.S. “war on drugs” and its policies that targeted marginalized communities as well as the fight for legalization as reasons the cannabis community is already mobilized.

Though it has celebrated some wins, efforts remain to combat the lingering impacts of prohibition on marginalized communities, such as the disproportionate number of Black and Indigenous people saddled with criminal records. The group has consulted in Ontario and British Columbia and is working on establishing a KindCanada network. But Mathis stressed that it’s up to locals to dictate what it will look like and who it will benefit.

For a more top-down approach, a Canadian group is aiming to be a global leader in setting the standards for corporate social responsibility in the industry. The Global Cannabis Partnership is a newly formed organization based in New Brunswick that currently boasts 25 members, including representatives from the cannabis industry as well as business and legal services, such as McCarthy Tétrault LLP, EY, and PwC Canada. GCP aims to set a high bar for its members around things like environmental practices, consumer education, research ethics, age restrictions, and community relations.

Kim Wilson was recently appointed as executive director. She most recently spent 11 years with Atlantic Lottery Corporation as manager of corporate social responsibility. Wilson rejects the view that touting social responsibility is just a marketing ploy.

“Consumers are more savvy than ever before and I think with this age of technology and access to information, people are doing their own research and demanding more of the companies that they interact with,” she said. The GCP’s work is still in its early phases. It will soon get to work creating a framework for responsible cannabis use, like the one the World Lottery Association developed for gaming. Down the road the organization hopes to offer accreditation.

Cannabis researcher James MacKillop welcomes the efforts to create a social responsibility element in the cannabis industry, provided they are authentic. “There are exactly right ways to do this and exactly wrong ways to do this. And it’s entirely an open question whether or not the Canadian cannabis industry will embrace the best practices for doing this,” he said.

MacKillop, who serves as director of the DeGroote Centre for Medicinal Cannabis Research at McMaster University, said in the past industries like tobacco or soft drink companies have been known to fund research that benefits them, or set parameters on publishing, or not publishing, results, when it is to their benefit. If cannabis wants to embrace and fund evidenced-based approaches, he suggests firewalls might be needed between a cannabis company offering money for research or social programs and the parties carrying out the work.

The fact that cannabis is a drug, a product with risks and benefits, is beside the point, MacKillop said. “It will be legally available after Oct. 17,” he said. “Rather than thinking of the cannabis industry as either bad actors or good actors it’s important to think about this in a balanced way.”

Read Original Article Here.

100 Cannabis Leaders 2018 List

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Entrepreneur Staff | Sept. 2018

Having raked in an estimated $6 billion last year, it’s easy to think of the cannabis industry as a sure bet. Nine states have legalized recreational use, 30 states, along with Washington, D.C., have given the legal OK for medical use, and more are sure to follow. Industry experts are forecasting $22 billion by 2022—getting in the cannabis biz seems like a no-brainer, right?

Well, it wasn’t always such a seemingly smooth road to success. California was the first state to legalize medical usage back in 1999, and it has been a slow and sometimes volatile journey to where we are now, which is far from steady ground. The sale and use of marijuana is, after all, still prohibited by federal law.

It takes a certain combination of passion and fearlessness to face uncertainty and seize opportunity despite the risks, and that’s what this list is all about. The inaugural Cannabis 100—produced by Green Entrepreneur and PRØHBTD—celebrates those brave entrepreneurs who fought to change societal perceptions, found innovative solutions to problems, and built a multibillion-dollar industry one plant at a time.

The cannabis entrepreneurs and their companies on our list were selected to help showcase the diverse range of products and services in the industry. We chose businesses across 10 different categories—not only to share product innovations but also to elevate the myriad of services needed to assist entrepreneurs in navigating this complex industry, from legal services to tech solutions.

Their stories reflect a unique set of impassioned minds leading the way with their ideas and showcasing the wealth of opportunity still ahead for other green-minded entrepreneurs.

Social & Eco Responsibility: The companies in this group are thriving by focusing on eco-friendly sustainability and being good corporate citizens. Award Winner: kindColorado

See Full List Here.

Cannabis Corporate Social Responsibility Initiatives

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In Project: GETTING HIGH ON ANTHROPOLOGY | Sept. 05, 2018

Guests Kelly Perez and Courtney Mathis with Denver-based kindColorado discuss opportunities and challenges of cannabis-related CSR (corporate social responsibility). Episode 52, Getting High on Anthropology. Marty Otañez, Producer and Host. Lucia Terpak, Technical Support.

Watch Video Here.

Because the Data Says So

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By Courtney Mathis & Jennifer Forman | Aug. 10, 2018

Cannabis businesses are no different. To thrive, you need loyal customers, engaged employees and a healthy community. Prioritizing purpose over profit has a significant, positive effect in each of these areas.

Even better news — did you know that Cone Communications finds nearly 90% of shoppers are likely to switch to brands that support a good cause, given similar price and quality? Furthermore, nearly 80% of Americans report stronger loyalty to purpose-driven brands. Customers are demonstrating that they want influence over where their dollars land.

This may seem contradictory as budtenders reign supreme when it comes to allocating marketing dollars. Just know, budtenders aren’t exempt from these trends. In order to get budtenders to sell your product, they must not only understand and appreciate the quality, they also need to like you. Being purpose-driven is a clear way to earn budtender AND customer fandom.

Employees Crave – and Stay For – a ‘Do Good’ Mission This industry, not dissimilar from others, sees employees move from business to business like butterflies in a field full of sunflowers. Good news: purpose helps with employee retention too. Employees are attracted to businesses with a strong social responsibility mission. And they stay longer.

Another recent Cone Communications study shows that 55% of potential employees would work for a socially responsible company, even if the salary were lower. On the job, 71% want their company to provide opportunities to make a positive impact, and 78% of employees want to help their company fulfill its social mission by providing feedback, ideas and potential solutions.

Looking to attract millennials? A whopping 79% of millennials consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work.

When it comes to engagement, Deloitte found that staff showed 30% higher levels of innovation at purpose-driven companies, and those companies revealed 40% higher levels of employee retention. That’s something to brag about and a huge cost savings.

What’s Good for Business Is Good for Community Rejection hurts — not all nonprofits are ready to accept cannabis industry donations. But thoughtfully chosen charity partners will put your time, talent and treasure to work and demonstrate meaningful impact. Bonus: They make excellent brand ambassadors and provide pathways for employee volunteerism (more about finding strong charity partners in a future post).

Developing mutually beneficial relationships with one or more partners is hugely beneficial for communities they serve – but it also helps build community goodwill, raise awareness for your brand, and may even leverage positive press.

Purpose is not a side project

The purpose-driven company incorporates their social mission into all facets of the business, and uses purpose to shape operational decision-making. For example, if your brand’s higher purpose is reducing environmental impact, then each employee is tasked with finding ways to reduce energy and waste. This may mean encouraging fellow staff members to carpool, seek out 100% recyclable packaging, or select supply chain vendors that utilize renewable energy.

Regardless of the specifics, the entire team is focused on a singular purpose that takes on greater meaning than pure profit. In time, all stakeholders begin associating this higher purpose with your brand.

Transitioning to a purpose-driven cannabis company can feel overwhelming. Know this: starting small yields big return. Developing and incorporating a unique and authentic social mission may very well be your best long-term business investment, and it helps drive the entire industry forward.

Read Original Article Here.

Be A Good Neighbor

Originally Published on
By Courtney Mathis | July 20, 2018

The cannabis sector is full of “should’s”…

…We should be eco-conscious, we should make reparations for the War on Drugs, we should create clean cannabis, we should end prohibition, we should be good neighbors.

I find the most meaningful excuse behind every “should,” is why.

Why should cannabis, more than any other industry, be compelled to be “a good neighbor?” Is it because Mr. Rogers said so? Is it because of the intense, hurtful, systematic racist harm done to low-income and people of color during the War on Drugs? Is it because cannabis culture promotes a sense of good old-fashioned do-gooding?


But, let’s assume that Mr. Rogers didn’t say so and the history of the Drug War will be remedied by inclusive policy (big dreams, right?).The truth is that the culture of cannabis is changing at this very moment due to big money, growing companies and wide-spread legalization.

Let’s step away from our cannabis echo chamber and recognize that oil and gas, big pharma, tobacco, tech and most other large industries don’t see “should’s.” They see opportunity, return on investment and customer loyalty. They understand that being viewed as a community asset is good for branding and good for business — and what’s good for business is good for their entire industry.

I know the cannabis sector is capable of changing the world for the better.

I also know that motivating a new industry to think about social responsibility and sustainability is a really hard ask when it’s painted as a “should” rather than an opportunity.

Cannabis companies, license holders or ancillary businesses are constantly moving through – and often times paying for – changes in regulations. Every day they are working to survive. All they think they “should” be doing is staying open.

But, there is an opportunity to do better because this industry, unlike other industries of our time, doesn’t have to be sued into socially responsible practices. Retailers, brands, consultants, textiles, grows and accessory-companies can each work to include community engagement and sustainability into best business practice — and not as an afterthought, marketing line-item, or compliance necessity. Instead, it can be included as an opportunity to grow business, ensure the success and acceptance of our industry, and to champion cannabis as a community asset.

If this sounds too fluffy, look at these companies:

• Lightshade Labs, a Denver-based cannabis company, sponsors and supports a local community organization for each of their 8 stores, in addition to supporting nonprofits at their corporate level.

• Yerba Buena, an Oregon-based cannabis company, pays their employees a living wage, supports community efforts, and boasts some of the cleanest cannabis around.

• Bloom Farms, a California-based cannabis company, has provided over a million meals to food-insecure families through their “buy-one, give-one” model.

These businesses have woven social responsibility into the very fiber of their brands. They don’t do this because they “should.” They do this because they know the opportunities that arise when they do better.

Read Original Article Here.

Good Citizenship: Marijuana Business Magazine

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By Adrian D Garcia | July 2018

Cannabis companies around the nation are finding they can get back nearly as much as they give to their local communities. Being recognized as a good corporate citizen can make it easier for marijuana businesses to work with regulators and local officials, stand out from competitors and attract new customers and highquality employees, according to industry executives and experts on corporate giving.

They said cannabis companies can give back to their communities in a variety of ways, ranging from providing volunteer time for events and projects to collecting food donations. And with U.S. cannabis retail sales estimated to reach $8 billion-$10 billion this year, many companies have room in their budgets to cut checks to cause-driven organizations.

“Giving back has always been a part of my life, but part of my mission is also breaking stereotypes about people who use cannabis as not being contributing members to society,” said Annette Atkinson, owner of HWY420, a Washington state marijuana retailer that has been recognized for its charitable giving. “If I can increase the population that believes marijuana is an OK alternative to alcohol and opioids through showing that people who use marijuana are not horrible people, then on the business side, I think that will help me.”

Being a good corporate citizen could be a government requirement for marijuana entrepreneurs. In 2016, Denver started requiring applicants for retail marijuana licenses – and those seeking to renew their permits – to submit “community engagement” plans. The idea: “Create positive impacts in the neighborhoods where the licensed premises are located.”

Some options for companies include neighborhood beautification, increasing access to healthy food, homelessness assistance and improving connectivity and transportation. Other locations such as Oakland, California, and Thornton, Colorado, also adopted requirements aimed at ensuring the marijuana industry creates social benefits. Similarly, Pennsylvania, Ohio and other states rolling out new marijuana markets are introducing merit-based application programs as well, making community outreach and engagement increasingly important in the industry, said Courtney Mathis, president and co-founder of KindColorado.

Denver-based KindColorado helps cannabis companies in the state strategize how to connect with neighborhood groups and nonprofits. The consulting firm works with dispensary operators such as Lightshade and Buddy Boy Brands as well as cultivators like Veritas Fine Cannabis.

Among other activities, KindColorado has organized opportunities for marijuana company employees to pull weeds alongside refugee farmers, serve food for women struggling with poverty and fund senior-focused food banks. “Cannabis companies are really becoming a part of their communities, and they feel really lucky about that,” said Kelly Perez, co-founder and CEO of KindColorado. “It isn’t about hitting licensing requirements. It’s about getting to serve a community where you don’t have to be in the shadows anymore: Coming out, standing tall and using your privilege and opportunity to be an asset.”

Community engagement will look different for each company. Bloom Farms in California has been described as a leader in corporate social responsibility. The company tracks sales of its cannabis oils, vape pens and other products and donates the equivalent amount of meals to a food bank on a one-to-one basis. The Giving Tree has taken a different approach: Employees who work at the company’s production facility and two dispensaries in Arizona participated in the Take Steps for Crohn’s and Colitis walk and the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer 5K. Altogether, the team raised more than $21,000 for Phoenix charities in 2017.

In Washington state, Marley Natural partnered with the Minority Cannabis Business Association to host the Rise Up Washington Expungement Day in 2017. The event helped 18 people convicted of nonviolent cannabis offenses file motions to clear their criminal records. Also in the Pacific Northwest, the owners of TJ’s Cannabis in Washington and TJ’s Gardens in Oregon started The Forrest Initiative, a center dedicated to helping under-resourced families obtain CBD for children experiencing seizures, neuropathic pain and other medical issues.

The team at KindColorado recommends cannabis executives see for themselves if their community outreach plan is really getting the support and brand differentiation desired. “If the answer is, ‘Yes, we are impacting or supporting the community in a meaningful way. We’re able to tell a story and tell our narrative in a meaningful way, and we’re able to get our employees engaged in our efforts,’ then you are seeing some wins,” said Mathis, the consulting firm's president.

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