Marijuana Business Magazine July 2018

By Adrian D. Garcia C annabis 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 high- quality 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 contribut- ing members to society,” said Annette Atkinson, owner of HWY420, a Wash- ington 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.” Giving Back a Requirement Being a good corporate citizen could be a government requirement for mari- juana entrepreneurs. In 2016, Denver started requir- ing 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, Staff at Kaya Cannabis in Denver partner with the Women’s Homeless Initiative to make meals for people. CEO of Kaya Cannabis Amanda Gonzalez, second from right, launched a program in 2017 where customers pick what organizations should receive donations from the dispensary. Photo courtesy of Kaya Cannabis July 2018 • Marijuana Business Magazine • 39