Lightshade Dispensary Gives Back to the Community

Originally Published on
By Leafbuyer Writing Team | July 17, 2017

As the legal cannabis industry turns into a big business, there is the potential to lose the sense of community that goes part and parcel with the marijuana lifestyle. One company that has not forgotten the importance of the cannabis community is Lightshade, a Colorado-based business that operates six dispensaries in Denver and Aurora- with two more locations opening this fall. Lightshade has begun a corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative to give back to the communities in which it serves and the environment itself.

As a cultivator of top-shelf cannabis strains like Durban Poison and Blue Dream, Lightshade is constantly looking for new ways to reduce its carbon footprint. The company is currently in the midst of testing new high-efficiency LED lights as well as building an innovative greenhouse that will significantly lower the amounts of carbon emitted during a growth cycle. Lightshade also uses capillary mats during cultivation, as they attempt to ensure that not a single drop of water is wasted.

In June 2017, Lightshade’s CSR team took a trip to DeLaney Community Farm in Aurora, Colorado to assist refugees from Burma, Senegal, and Afghanistan in preparing the fields to grow fresh food for their use as well as a community share. Lightshade team members worked alongside the refugees weeding and preparing the fields for planting. The team from Lightshade was happy to be in the community supporting area residents and the farm was very grateful for the extra hands.

“We take our role in the community very seriously,” said Lightshade co-owner Steve Brooks. “We want to spread the message that cannabis is about so much more than just ‘getting high.’ It’s about building relationships, promoting empathy and just keeping in touch with the importance of helping others in creating a stronger and healthier society. Our CSR initiatives are a way Lightshade can make an incremental positive change in the world, and we hope to continue on this journey.”

Unfortunately, federal regulations often slow down Lightshade’s efforts. While cannabis is fully legal at a local level in the state of Colorado, some non-profits are reluctant to work with Lightshade due to restrictions from a national standpoint. These organizations might fear that their 501c3 status or federal grant funding could be revoked as a punishment for partnering with a cannabis company. They also may have moral issues associated with marijuana use. It’s another reminder that, despite the incredible progress that has been made in eliminating social stigmas about cannabis over the past several years, there is still a long way to go before it is fully accepted as a cultural norm in our society.

The Desire to Help the Community

Still, Lightshade continues to push forward and create its own path for serving the community; specifically targeting homelessness and hunger. Members of Lightshade’s CSR team are working in tandem with kindColorado LLC on a joint mission to help cannabis businesses become welcomed contributors to communities. kindColorado is currently supporting Lightshade’s resolve to volunteer at food banks and urban gardens. Lightshade funds the food bank at Amazing Grace in Federal Heights for example, providing approximately 800 meals each month for area seniors in need.

In May 2017, Lightshade sponsored Manny’s Summerfest, a beer and wine tasting event held at Tears-McFarlane House in Denver, benefiting homeless senior citizens. Shannon Brooks, Director of Marketing and Corporate Responsibility at Lightshade, is also leading an initiative to pull together $50,000 in donations from women leaders in the cannabis industry to support The Gathering Place. This daytime drop-in center is truly unique in the city of Denver and provides a broad spectrum of services for homeless women, children, and transgender individuals in need. The Gathering Place is an enthusiastic partner willing to work with cannabis businesses willing to take risks in service of their members.

Providing the Best Product

In addition to its corporate social responsibility initiative, Lightshade continues to create a dispensary experience that is largely unmatched in the legal marijuana marketplace. The company sells its home-grown strains in all of its locations. Lightshade has created its own scale of effects for cannabis strains, beyond the simple indica, sativa or hybrid classifications that are typically used. The scale includes four types of “ambiance” “awaken, enliven, calm and rest” and categorizes each strain appropriately so that customers know what they’re getting and what kind of effects to expect.

Lightshade offers an order online/pick up in store option and has special cannabis discounts on many of its products including flower, pre-rolls, edibles, and tinctures. The dispensaries often have demonstrations from cannabis industry vendors. Its Twitter page has become a source of helpful information for 420 enthusiasts. Lightshade clearly goes beyond just being a local dispensary as their determination to effect positive change at a societal level is something that more cannabis companies should aspire to replicate.

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In the Philanthropic Weeds: Cannabis Giving Goes Local

Originally Published on
By Gayle Nelson | Feb. 17, 2017

Last November, seven more states legalized marijuana, increasing the total number of states where the use of marijuana in some capacity (recreational or medical) is not illegal to twenty-eight. Overall, the legal marijuana industry could gross as much as $20 billion in revenue by 2020. Many of the new businesses making up the legal marijuana industry are looking to give back to their communities, but many nonprofits are hesitant to accept their donations.

Tim Cullen, the CEO of the Colorado Harvest Company, was surprised by the challenges he encountered when he decided to donate some of his business’ earnings. “I have been shocked at how few places will take our money,” he said. Colorado Harvest Company is a chain of shops selling marijuana products. Cullen is also a shareholder of O.penVape, a company producing vaping pens.

Although Colorado legalized recreational marijuana over five years ago, many nonprofits continue to refuse gifts from the industry. Luckily, Cullen felt strongly about the need to give back. “I think philanthropy is what responsible businesses do. It’s not a choice so much as the next logical step,” he said. Eventually, he and his business partners at O.penVape made a donation of $250,000 to Levitt Pavilion Denver to partially fund a new amphitheater in Ruby Hill Park in the southwest part of the city. Once it is finished, the nearly $5 million Levitt Pavilion will host many events, including fifty free concerts each summer.

Accepting this gift was not a simple decision for Chris Zacher, the local executive director. Since the pavilion will be located in a city park, he first reached out to the city of Denver. City officials did not approve or object to the potential partnership but encouraged Levitt to reach its own conclusion, according to city licensing spokesman Dan Rowland. Zacher’s second phone call was to the organization’s national board. “We took it to Levitt, they took it to the board, and as long as it is legal in their state and not promoting the sex trade or tobacco, they were fine with it,” he said.

Although there are 2,966 medical marijuana dispensaries, 3,973 retailers, and 4,200 cultivators across the country, marijuana remains classified as a Schedule 1 drug by the federal government. This is the same classification as heroin, LSD, and ecstasy. At the same time, the public’s views of marijuana continue to evolve. According to a Pew Research Center survey taken in October of 2016, 57 percent of adults in the U.S. believe marijuana should be legal while 37 percent believe it should remain illegal, compared to 32 percent supporting legalization and 60 percent against ten years ago.

This evolving landscape creates risk and uncertainty for the industry, for the thousands of people who legally use it to relieve pain, nausea, muscle spasms, and other conditions, for those who use it for recreational purposes, and for the philanthropic community.

One misconception is why the industry is giving. Although Colorado Harvest Company and O.penVape will be the Pavilion’s headline sponsors, most do not give for marketing or visibility. “I think there is some misunderstanding oftentimes between cannabis (businesses) and nonprofits where nonprofits assume what cannabis wants out of donations is marketing and visibility, and we find the industry does not want that,” said Courtney Mathis, COO of KindColorado. Additionally, since the industry remains illegal in the federal government’s view, businesses can’t write off or deduct their gift on their taxes.

Due to the continued hesitation, the industry as a whole has created a giving campaign through the DoingGood.FOUNDATION. DoingGood.FOUNDATION is a national organization “providing small and local charities with free resources to help them grow and help meet more of our community’s needs!” On April 20th, 2017—yes, 4/20—they are organizing a national campaign to educate the public on the connection between the cannabis industry and local communities. All of the funds raised during the campaign will be given to small nonprofits in the states where the donations originate.

In our opinion, there are far more questionable industries nonprofits take donations from and invest with. As people’s judgment of marijuana and the legal marijuana industry continues to transform, more and more nonprofits will be exploring potential donations and beating back the unease surrounding them.—Gayle Nelson

This article has been altered from its original form. The $250,000 donation to Levitt Pavilion Denver came as two $125,000 donations, one each from Colorado Harvest Company and from O.penVape. NPQ thanks CHC for the clarification.

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