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

Originally Published on
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.

Read Original Article Here.