By Joanne Cachapero -December 21, 2020
Holiday festivities have been curtailed by the global resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic, and its unprecedented social and economic effects. During this turbulent season, cannabis companies all over North America continue to do what they can to support local charities and populations in need.
So, let this 2020 holiday season be lit with the warmth of giving. Here’s a short list of holiday fundraising activities led by cannabis industry members, bringing happiness and help to so many for the season as we all look forward to a new year in 2021:Advertisement
Planet 13, the world’s largest cannabis superstore located in Las Vegas, announced it will donate “50,000 toys and cans of food to the Las Vegas Rescue Mission and SafeNest, thanks to the generosity of customers, sponsored vendors, and staff.”
The store partnered with Green Life Productions to host the fundraiser, and thanked cannabis brand sponsors including TRENDI, ROVE, Dreamland Chocolates, Cannabella, Evergreen Organix, MOXIE, OMG THC, MEDIZIN, Nature’s Chemistry, HaHa, and LEAF & VINE, for their contributions.
“This has been an inspiring example of how the Las Vegas community pulls together in times of need. We are moved by the generosity of those who donated to our holiday toy and food drive,” said David Farris, Planet 13 vice president of sales and marketing. “We are honored to be able distribute over 50,000 donations between two remarkable community nonprofits: SafeNest and the Las Vegas Rescue Mission.”
A collective of cannabis companies, called Friends in Weed, formed Meals That Heal to help the hard-hit restaurant industry in Denver and Boulder, Colorado. The program launched in early December and encourages participating cannabis businesses to donate funds for $8–$10 meals, supplied by local restaurants, which are then distributed to local unemployed hospitality industry workers and other in-need communities. So far, the collective donated 1,760 meals. Participating cannabis companies include Veritas, Cookies, Olio, Slang Worldwide, Higher Grade, and Grasslands.
Colorado-based concentrate company Green Dot Labs announced the release of its “new collection of cheekily designed and ultra-affordable holiday gift wrap sleeves for GDL’s Black Label Live Resin Cartridges,” adding that “each sleeve purchased will donate funds to a local nonprofit that provides a safety net to families in need.”
Sleeve designs include “Dabby Holidays,” “Happy Chrismahanukwanzah,” and “F#@k 2020 Happy New Year,” with 100 percent of cartridge sales proceeds benefiting nonprofit Emergency Family Assistance Association (EFAA), which supplies families with a variety of resources to help them escape poverty. The limited edition cartridge with holiday sleeve can be purchased at Eclipse Cannabis Company (Boulder), High Country Healing (Silverthorne), Kind Love (Denver), Simply Pure (Denver), and Twin Peaks (Denver).
Michigan dispensary chain SKYMINT announced last week that its Flint location had begun recreational cannabis sales, and invited Flint customers to donate to its digital donation drive in support of nonprofit Feeding America, to help fight food instability in Michigan. SKYMINT’s ten locations are all part of the effort.
“Core to our ethos at SKYMINT is social justice, uplifting community, and ushering in a modern era of cannabis through an elevated retail shopping experience which encourages browsing, education, and discovery,” SKYMINT’s Chief Executive Officer Jeff Radway said. “All of these pillars are reflected in every aspect of our SKYMINT locations, including Flint, where we proudly offer the highest discount in the state of 25 percent to medical patients.”
Multi-state dispensary chain Herbology and parent company Curaleaf, Inc., sponsored “Feed the Block” donation drive at Herbology’s Ann Arbor, Battle Creek, and Kalamazoo, Michigan locations from November 21 to December 5. Contributions benefited local food charities. The dispensary said it would also distribute $20 grocery gift cards to 100 families in need.
In Oklahoma, cannabis dispensaries and CBD retailers sponsored several fundraisers to help their local communities.
Lotus Gold/CBD Plus retail locations in Oklahoma will be accepting new, unwrapped toy donations through December 22 that will be distributed by the Salvation Army. Stores also have “angel trees,” where customers can choose a donation request to fulfill for a family or individual in need.
“We are literally doing things for the community, nonstop, as we have since we opened. We’ve all struggled—everyone from the owner to the employees. We have fought our own battles. And if we can help someone fight that battle, then we are doing exactly what we are supposed to: helping others, giving back, and being supportive is what Christmas is about,” Lotus Gold/CBD Plus Manager Kandis Correa told the Tahlequah Daily Press. “We have a great group of customers and friends who help us give back to our community. Santa isn’t a man in red. He is a community of people helping to ensure that we are surviving and have everything we need to get through.”
Colorado-based CBD brand Cure Injoy, announced it will donate CBD isolate tinctures to the Weed for Warriors Foundation. Manufacturer the Infinite Product Company and Cure Injoy will provide 1,350 CBD isolate tinctures to veterans this Christmas, some of whom suffer from serious medical conditions as a result of their service, including PTSD.
“We are very excited to be working with Cure Injoy to provide a product for so many veterans’ greatest fear—a tumultuous recovery. This holiday season, together we pledge to help in any way we can to honor the sacrifice these American heroes made for our country, as well as support the ever so important work Weed For Warriors have and continue to do,” said John Ramsay, Infinite Product Company chief executive officer and former U.S. Army medic.
Canada’s Dutch Love Cannabis Company, with nineteen stores located in British Columbia, Ontario, and Alberta, will carry on the 19-year tradition of parent company the Donnelly Group and give 320 Dutch Love employees $50 gift cards to purchase toys for the company’s annual Good Neighbour Toy Drive. Customers also are encouraged to bring toys, non-perishable food items, and donations into Dutch Love locations. All donations will benefit the Salvation Army.
“In the spirit of giving this holiday season, Dutch Love is excited to join forces with the Donnelly Fund to not only give back, but also bring joy to the people in the communities where we do business,” said Harrison Stoker, vice president at Donnelly Group. “This winter may look very different for many Canadians, and so it is important to us that we come together in support of the thousands of families and kids who look forward to the tradition established through Donnelly Group’s Toy Drive. Through Dutch Love, the Good Neighbour Toy Drive will extend the impact of the Donnelly Fund and the legacy of our annual toy drives. Our dedication to being a good neighbour and supporting community has never been more important than now.”
DECEMBER 25TH, 2020 TAYLOR MCLAMB
The holidays are usually associated with feelings of joy, gratitude, and jubilance.
It’s a time meant to be without tension, where you can celebrate the year over spiked eggnog and nostalgic traditions.
Unfortunately, 2020 has been devastating for many reasons, with COVID-19 cases skyrocketing and, consequently, many losing their jobs, it’s difficult to muster up feelings of merriment when struggling to make ends meet.
Thankfully, there are a lot of cannabis companies doing astounding work to help those struggling during this holiday season.
It is the season of giving afterall, and who better to give back than those passionate about medicinal healing?
While cannabis has been deemed essential during this pandemic, many nonprofits are still wary of accepting cannabis dollars.
Nonprofits refusing to accept monetary donations forced two Colorado-based cannabis companies to shift gears and create unique ways to help out their communities.
Obstacles Faced When Donating To Nonprofits
Named after the goddess of truth in Roman mythology, Denver-based cultivators Veritas Fine Cannabis live up to their namesake by crafting premium cannabis products entirely by hand with the mission to ensure every customer can find the best strain based on recorded science and data.
Jon Spadafora, the head of marketing and sales for Veritas Fine Cannabis, acknowledges the essential therapeutic qualities of cannabis, noting that the plant has helped a lot of people’s mental health during these unprecedented times.
As such, cannabis companies have an obligation to help out their communities.
“We understand and we recognize that we function in a privileged space, and there are a lot of people who have done what we’ve done and didn’t see the same results that we have. They’re sitting in jail. There are a lot of barriers to that. So we feel an obligation to be involved,” said Spadafora. “We feel privileged to have our license, we feel privileged to have our position. We were a little surprised when we first got it, but we certainly feel privileged to have a voice that speaks to more than just the people we’re speaking to. That’s kind of a new thing for us, and we think it’s important that people get involved.”
When joining the company in 2015, Spadafora admits it was the first time he had really been part of a company that had the means to contribute in a meaningful way.
So, it was a bit of a shock when experiencing obstacles to providing donations to nonprofits.
Nonprofits Have Their Own Challenges
Spadafora doesn’t place blame on nonprofits in any way.
Instead, he faults the rules that aren’t set up to encourage people who can actually help.
“There’s a concern on most people’s side that taking any money from us is going to limit their ability to take any other sort of federal money that they’ve historically been depending on. And that’s the pushback we get more often than not. It’s not, ‘Hey, we don’t want to touch cannabis,’ It’s more, ‘We’re afraid that if we touch cannabis dollars, then that’s going to preclude us from any sort of other government dollars,’ and unfortunately we’re not at a spot yet where we’re ready to replace that,” said Spadafora.
In a determined, driven pursuit to make a difference in their hometown, Veritas searched for opportunities where they can make a tangible benefit.
Due to their marketing strategy being based around their actual, intimate interactions with people, they sought a way to remain in contact with their community in the midst of a pandemic.
Spadafora explains that Veritas is very hands-on when it comes to both cultivation and charity work.
They’re not the type of business to just slap their name on a billboard and call it a day.
“We’d rather touch 500 people in a very meaningful way and have you be like, ‘Those guys were really cool and that was a really fun experience, and it was warm,’ as opposed to just everybody seeing our stuff and knowing that we were involved in it,” said Spadafora.
Veritas Fine Cannabis founded the organization Friends In Weed alongside other notable cannabis companies, with a mission to support those in the cannabis and service industries during the pandemic.
Friends In Weed created a program called “420Help” as a way to aid cannabis retailers and provided revenue to local restaurants.
Spadafora said that Friends In Weed originally started with purchasing gift cards from restaurants and sending them to budtenders.
Their new, updated version, called Meals That Heal, is a new program that Spadafora says is better organized.
“We’re working with different cannabis companies to create revenue for restaurant organizations that they are then going to take and create very healthy and delicious meals that will get shipped out to people who need them,” said Spadafora. “So half of them are going back to each restaurant group to feed their staff that might’ve been furloughed or reduced, and for the rest of them, we’re working with local community organizations to get them out to people who need it.”
According to their website, Meals That Heal has already donated 1,760 meals – and they’re just getting started.
Cannabis brands 710 Labs, Verde Natural, Dablogic, and Native Roots have also signed on to help.
“It’s about finding opportunity and finding places where people need us and finding ways that we think we can be effective, and then hopefully creating something that works,” said Spadafora. “I honestly think this version of Friends and Weed is the first time we’ve really created something that’s replicable and where I think we’re going to be able to get others involved in a pretty meaningful way.”
The Importance Of Community-Driven Charity
Ripple by Stillwater Brands is another noteworthy Colorado-based cannabis company using leading scientific techniques to create unique, precision-formulated products.
Their water-soluble, cannabinoid-infused powders are scientifically proven to enter your bloodstream and take effect within 15-20 minutes.
Their edibles provide customers with a fast-acting, discrete, and reliable way to get the dose they want every time.
Ripple is also familiar with the challenges of trying to create successful partnerships with nonprofit organizations.
Similar to Spadafora, Coree Schmitz, who is the general manager at Stillwater Brands, also doesn’t place blame on the nonprofit community and respects the fear that organizations harbor over potentially losing grant money or funding, should they accept dollars from a federally illegal business.
As a company passionate about contributing to their community, they’ve worked to diligently overcome these obstacles by thoroughly researching nonprofits and charities that align with their values.
“I would never want to work with someone who feels like they’re jeopardizing themselves or compromising any of their own beliefs and ethics by working with cannabis. We make sure that we’re having comprehensive conversations, that it’s a relationship that both sides are very confident and happy with,” said Schmitz.
Recently, Ripple was thrilled to partner with Chicano artist Tony Ortega, who helped pick the Redline Contemporary Art Center as their charitable partner in October.
Schmitz said that they were passionate about working with their local art and Chicano community, especially in the time of COVID-19, when those involved with the arts and music industry have been exceptionally impacted by the shutdowns.
“For any and all of us who love art and music, and who have friends who work or depend on their livelihood in those industries, it was really important to us, as we looked for our October charity, to give back and to find a partner that we could continue a relationship with that was most hard hit by COVID, those who really needed some uplift and some assistance,” said Schmitz.
In 2019, it was announced that Colorado has surpassed $1 billion in tax revenue from marijuana since it was legalized for recreational use.
Schmitz recognizes that cannabis brings a lot of money to their state and wants people to know that Ripple would be thrilled to invest it back into their community.
For example, in July, Ripple partnered with Youth Seen, as part of their initiative to be involved with the local LGBTQ+ community, and donated MacBook computers to help keep their operations moving.
Schmitz emphasized the fact that Ripple would be proud to partner with their community to help advocate for other groups.
“I want to be a contributor. I want to be part of what makes Colorado pioneers in pushing this industry forward and pushing outdoor health forward and pushing access to the arts forward. We want to keep Colorado a pioneer and we’re proud to be part of that,” said Schmitz.
Published December 24, 2020 | By Bart Schaneman
(Photo by Bobby Cochran Photography)
That’s on top of the inherent obstacles cannabis companies face, including a dearth of banking services and the inability to take standard business tax deductions.
Most marijuana cultivation managers in California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington state rolled with the punches, staggering their crews and spreading out operations to allow for social distancing.
They also protected their plants from the damage caused by falling ash and frost. And where growers couldn’t shield their plants from the impact of Mother Nature, they salvaged what they could.https://9c78ce88b409fd20580a1a22fca2fcb5.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.htmlDespite the setbacks, growers are reporting higher wholesale prices than last year, when prices slumped amid a supply glut.
That’s partly because several established markets – including Colorado, Oregon and Washington state – have weathered the boom-and-bust phase of overproduction and subsequent departure of some growers stung by rock-bottom prices.
The pandemic, meanwhile, hasn’t slowed consumer demand for cannabis – in fact, it’s up year-over-year in many places.
As mature markets consolidate and smaller growers bow out, 2021 will usher in a new set of market dynamics.
“Over the past few years, there has been a trend in Colorado of more independent cultivators shutting down, so it will be interesting to see what happens with these stand-alone grows in 2021,” said Ryan Milligan, director of cultivation for Denver-based Green Dragon.
“Whether or not these cultivators grow more cannabis next year will have a huge effect on the price of cannabis flower going forward.”
Marijuana Business Daily surveyed several growers in four western markets to ask how their year turned out in terms of prices, yields and significant challenges.
Here’s what they said:
In Desert Hot Springs, Ethan Woods, founder and CEO of Desert Underground, said his team experienced increased yields by improving processes, sanitation and strain mixes.
That improved quality of flower along with sluggish demand also helped the business fetch higher prices.
The range of challenges was all over the map, from labor shortages because of the pandemic to wildfires to lack of financing and banking. Specifically growers also struggled with pest management, according to Woods.
Wholesale cannabis prices in both the recreational and medical markets have undergone large swings throughout 2020, including some unexpected highs.
“The pandemic has fueled some of the volatility and high prices seen at certain points, but we have also experienced the cyclical increases and declines in price tied to the outdoor harvest in the fall,” said Dan Banks, director of cultivation strategy at Denver-based Lightshade.
Milligan with Green Dragon agreed, saying prices have gone up from last year.
“Probably about a 15%-20% increase from 2019,” Milligan said. “In the summer, when cannabis supplies are typically at their lowest, prices were even higher than that. ”
He attributed the increase to the coronavirus pandemic as well as the early frost in September that damaged many outdoor cannabis crops.
Like the rest of the country, the pandemic forced Colorado growers to prioritize employee safety, stagger workflows and contend with unexpected labor shortages.
“We have seen particular struggles at times on the postharvest side because we, like many others, utilize third-party support for the peak labor demands of harvest events,” Banks said.
He added that wildfires and smoke in the fall were particularly problematic for the company’s greenhouse operation because of the reduction in lighting intensity and air-quality challenges.
At Veritas Fine Cannabis in Denver, Mike Leibowitz, managing partner and co-founder, said that being deemed “essential” by the state government during the pandemic was a big moment for the industry.
But it also created logistical challenges.
“We took flowering rooms offline to allow for distancing on our trim and packaging teams, which has reduced the amount of product we can put out,” Leibowitz said. “But it has allowed us to create a very safe, responsible environment for our teams.”
Massive wildfires were a major factor for cultivators this year, though overall prices have begun to stabilize after market fluctuations driven by overproduction and attrition.
Bend-based Oregrown was able to significantly increase its yields “despite working with terrible air and sun quality during the fire season,” said Hunter Neubauer, co-founder and board chair.
“Thankfully, we cultivate in both an indoor facility and climate-controlled, light-deprivation greenhouses so we weren’t impacted by contaminants falling from the sky.”
But the residual smoke did block some sunlight and affected yields.
“Without the fires, we would have seen an even better year-over-year result in both the quantity and quality of our greenhouse light-deprivation flower,” Neubauer said.
Adding water shortages to the wildfire impacts added up to “environmental challenges that were as extreme as they’ve ever been,” according to Neubauer.
Growers report that crop yields were up from last year.
“Many reported a slow start to spring, but the long summer and late fall made up for it in most areas,” said Crystal Oliver, executive director of the Washington Sungrowers Industry Association.
Joe Feltham, chief operating officer for Arizona-based multistate cannabis company 4Front Ventures, sees prices up as much as 20%-30%, “which is the first real increase in this market in years.”
Overall, wholesale cannabis prices have been trending upward over the past few years, according to Oliver.
One exception: Lower-quality extraction grade flower is seeing a dip in prices, but that’s typical for the end of the year after the fall harvest floods the market.
Oliver also said the pandemic boosted costs for complying with safety requirements – including purchases of nitrile gloves and other supplies.
“So, in order to ensure producers/processors remain profitable, prices need to come up a bit,” she added.
Other issues facing growers in 2020 included labor challenges stemming from the pandemic – in particular, keeping workers safe while they juggled child-care issues such as closed schools and day-care centers.
Oliver pointed out that her organization is thankful the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board has temporarily allowed children of licensees to be on business premises.
Bart Schaneman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The state’s culture, once slow to change, stayed active through the pandemic
By John Wenzel, The Denver Post Dec 25, 2020, 6:00 am
Glued to our screens and barred from publicly gathering indoors for most of the year, Coloradans imported and exported their culture differently in 2020 than any year prior. The terrain, though flattened in some ways by digital streaming, offered plenty of peaks and valleys.
“I started off the year thinking it was going to be great,” said Ietef Vita, a.k.a. Denver rapper and eco-activist DJ Cavem. “I played shows in Montreal, New York and California right before they shut down.”
The shutdown left Vita with more than 42,000 branded seed packets — which he had planned to distribute for the “Biomimicz” album release on his #plantbasedrecords label. So Vita and partner Alkemia Earth, a plant-based-lifestyle coach, recruited organizations to mail the seeds (more than 20,000 packets so far) to urban farmers in Minneapolis, St. Louis, Cincinnati and Chicago.
“We were able to take the album and have it distributed in the form of grown kale, beets and arugula,” Vita said of “Biomimicz,” the first album released on USDA certified organic seed packets (via a download code). “Last month we started a pilot program flipping bodegas in Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx (called Plantega) where we subsidize vegan products.”
Amid all this — and his gardening, streamed cooking classes and social-justice work during summer’s Black Lives Matter protests — Vita was named one of Thrillist’s Heroes of 2020. He also got a shout-out in People Magazine this month when Oscar-winning actor Natalie Portman included his Sprout That Life seeds in her holiday 2020 Top Gift Picks list.
“I think Mark Ruffalo, who’s a friend of hers (and who donated directly to Vita’s GoFundMe campaign) shared it, and it got a lot of support from Cardi B, Cedric the Entertainer and other people on social media,” Vita said. “We were so grateful for it.”
Here are three other trends that Colorado exported, or shared, in 2020.
After a 2019 filled with resurgent country looks — thanks, “Old Town Road” — and egged on by brands such as Dior and Ganni and the “yeehaw agenda” (Black fashionistas adapting Western wear), the Rocky Mountain West’s iconic ranching/mountain style was ready to claim the spotlight in 2020.
“It’s a new fashion frontier, y’all,” Glamour magazine wrote in January’s “How to Wear the Western Trend in 2020.” In February, E! Online offered a guide for checked shirts, denim, fringe jackets and “bandana print” T-shirts.
March put a stop to that.
“This was supposed to be Colorado’s year. All the Instagram girls — Gigi Hadid, Kendall Jenner — were wearing cowboy boots and wide-brimmed hats,” said Esther Lee Leach, publisher of the Cherry Creek Fashion magazine. “But nobody paid attention to spring/summer runways this year. I really hope it comes back so we can have our time in the limelight.”
“Luxe lounge wear,” which Coloradans had already perfected before the pandemic, was quite the opposite. The state’s famously casual fashion sense became the default for scores of people commuting and meeting digitally. Given the headstart that Colorado and California had on yoga pants, “elevated fabrics” were easier to find, mix and match this year.
“It was about fabrics that feel good against the skin,” Leach said. “That and outdoor wear, which became the uniform of socializing. Outdoor jackets and hiking boots instead of heels. It’s all about walking and talking. Either way, Colorado’s general, everyday fashion was going to become what the world wore this year.”
With an emphasis on comfort, Boulder-bred Crocs also made a comeback with celebrity partnerships and a new emphasis on younger demographics and artistic prints. “Priyanka Chopra Wore the World’s Most Highly-Debated Shoe With a Fancy Gown,” InStyle reported Dec. 11, adding in the article: “We can’t argue that this has been the quarantine shoe.”
Thanks … we guess?
Deemed essential early in the pandemic, cannabis continued its path toward normalization with diverse products amid what some companies viewed as a new frontier of weed-curious customers. Despite statewide safety mandates and a global pandemic, Colorado sales are set to crush the 2019 record of $1.75 billion. People embraced cannabis and hemp products not just out of stress, but also health, industry watchers say.
“The availability of products and the ease of combining them — not just THC, but CBD products — played a huge role in people turning to cannabis for wellness,” said Katie Shapiro, who covers cannabis for Forbes, The Aspen Times and, in the past, The Denver Post’s Cannabist site. “That meant businesses were still able to expand.”
Colorado companies may not have started any national trends, but several California and Oregon brands made their debut on dispensary shelves, including Cookies, Dosist and Wild. Local, high-quality flower strains and edibles took off thanks to companies like Veritas Fine Cannabis and Coda Signature. Sales of marijuana chocolates and gummies, in particular, skyrocketed, Shapiro said.
“It’s twofold: People are obviously being sensitive about smoking, but also edibles are just getting better,” she said. “Fast-acting edibles is something I’m also seeing more brands turning to.”
Artists had little choice but to go online in 2020. There, the lack of in-person feedback, diminishing emotional returns and technical challenges frustrated and, occasionally, held over performing-arts nonprofits that had been robbed of indoor shows. Stages moved outdoors, breaking new ground in the process.
Weather, changing health mandates and nervous, socially distanced crowds further challenged performers and producers to adapt. But Denver audiences flocked to these open-air experiments from dancers, theater companies, stand-up comics and string quartets, selling out shows weeks in advance. Artists found ways to create — and, sometimes, get paid — while giving us new things to look at and listen to.
Indie-rock band Wildermiss rented a flatbed trailer for mobile, on-demand concerts along the Front Range. The Catamounts launched “The Rough,” a play designed to be viewed from your personal golf cart at Westminster Legacy Ridge Golf Course. History Colorado’s “The Lost Book of Astrid Lee” wove mystery and history into a citywide scavenger hunt. Japanese Arts Network’s “Yotto” employed yokai (Japanese ghosts) to revisit a dark past of redlining and segregation in Five Points and Capitol Hill, by car.
Vehicles became mobile party units and living rooms, chairs and couches. With its usual staging area closed to the public, Denver Film’s wildly popular Film on the Rocks returned to Red Rocks’ parking lot with the state’s largest inflatable movie screen. Drag queens performed in mall lots, and bands played at drive-in theaters. But perhaps the most pioneering experiments coincided with Halloween.
“No Place to Go,” a queer haunted house that explored the horror of the binary, used a smartphone app and later, virtual reality, in a “drive-to” (as opposed to drive-thru) experience. Designed pre-pandemic, then radically reimagined with site-specific installations, it was a triumph for fast-rising creators Frankie Toan, Serena Chopra, Kate Speer and their artistic collaborators. Rainbow Militia, Amber Blais’ circus-arts company, customized an abandoned house for surreal, room-to-room shows with their own themes, performers and ventilation, including the spooky, elaborate “Death’s Unraveling.”
“It is amazing how many people keep asking me if this is going to be a yearly thing,” artist Toan said in October. “I’m like, ‘It took us two years to make this one!’ ”
Latest initiative of Friends in Weed keeps Front Range restaurants working, while also fighting local food insecurity
By Will Brendza – December 17, 2020
Since March of this year, some of Boulder and Denver’s most beloved food establishments have permanently shuttered — The Med, Brasserie Ten Ten, Meadowlark Kitchen, Racines — diminishing local flavors and decimating hospitality jobs.
As we approach the December holidays under “level red” COVID restrictions, those restaurants still clinging to survival and Colorado’s out-of-work employees are both going to need more help than ever.
That’s why a group of cannabis companies collectively called Friends in Weed are stepping up to help. Their newest initiative, called Meals That Heal, is a clever variation on a food drive that will keep people fed and help restaurants stay in business — and you can get involved, whether you’re “into weed” or not.
“Instead of doing a holiday meal donation, which was our original plan, we wanted to figure out another way to try and help restaurants maintain consistent work each week, which would then allow them to keep people employed,” says Jonathan Spadafora, the head of marketing and sales at Veritas Fine Cannabis, one of the founding companies of Friends in Weed.
The biggest hurdle, though, was the nature of the business. Because of cannabis’ status as a Schedule 1 drug, making direct donations as a cannabis company is particularly tricky. It can put the recipient in an uncertain position with the federal government — especially if they’re receiving any government loans, grants or assistance.
“Most people would be shocked to hear how hard it is to give money away [as a cannabis company],” Spadafora says.
Friends in Weed had to come up with a workaround. In March, the organization bought gift cards from local restaurants and give them to bud tenders who’d been let go, furloughed or were experiencing reduced hours. Collectively, Friends in Weed bought more than $77,000 in gift cards through that effort.
Now they’ve refined their approach. Meals That Heal, which just kicked off in early December, aims to bring together even more cannabis businesses, and even more restaurant partners to broaden its scope of impact.
Here’s how it works: Participating sponsors purchase healthy, packaged, finish-at-home meals for between $8-$10 a piece, through the Friends in Weed website. Those meals, prepared by local restaurants, are then distributed to hospitality industry workers and communities.
“Some component of those meals will be donated back to the restaurant groups to give to their staff or anyone who has had a reduction in hours or income,” Spadafora explains. “The remaining balance of the meals will be donated to local organizations designated by the companies who are providing the funding.”
Basically, it keeps the kitchen working, it feeds the restaurant industry, and then sponsors get to choose where most of the meals they purchase go. On top of all that, it offers a way for cannabis companies to directly donate to a cause that will help their community.
As of this writing, the Friends in Weed website says it’s already provided 630 meals.
“The intention is to create something where more companies can come in and get involved and hopefully create some prolonged work for the restaurant industry and food security for people who are struggling with that right now,” Spadafora says.
Currently, cannabis companies working with the Meals That Heal program include Veritas, Cookies, Olio, Slang Worldwide, Higher Grade and Grasslands. Restaurant partners include The F Club, The Post, Lola, Jax Fish House, the West End Tavern, Centro and a number of others. Spadafora says he’s still looking for more community engagement, more businesses to get on board.
Individuals can get involved too, Spadafora adds — even if you aren’t a cannabis company, or in the cannabis industry at all. Simply go to the Friends in Weed website and you’ll soon have the option to purchase Friends in Weed T-shirts or masks, the proceeds for which will all go toward purchasing meals.
“We think that our local restaurants are a huge part of what makes this community an amazing place to live,” Spadafora says. “We have the ability to help, and right now there’s plenty of people who could use it. This seems like the most effective way to help as many people as possible.”
Big Red F Restaurant Group is launching The Lasagna Project at Jax Fish House with BRFeeds Our Community to provide food to those struggling with food-insecurity within the community.
Those who order from The Lasagna Project in addition to all other Big Red F restaurants will have the option to donate $10, $20, or $35. The donations will be utilized for preparing trays of lasagna for individuals in need.
“This program will also allow us to re-employ multiple staff members to prepare the meals,” said Adam Reed, Jax Fish House’s director of operations.
Big Red F will also be partnering with various non-profit organizations in towns along the Front Range to distribute these lasagnas to the food insecure. The Lasagna Project’s menu will be available to pre-order for Friday pickup at Jax or delivery through their own WeDeliver service every week.
Lasagna baskets include salad, bread, a red-checkered tablecloth, a Spotify playlist, movie recommendations, and optional wine from Denver’s Attimo Wine. Orders will need to be placed by 11:59 pm each Wednesday to get pickup or delivery on Fridays.
Big Red F is also partnering with non-profit Friends In Weed, which is made up of Veritas Fine Cannabis, Olio, Cookies, Higher Grade and Slang Worldwide. Funds raised through Friends In Weed will go directly to Big Red F Restaurant Group and Culinary Creative.
Big Red F will use these funds to support BRFeeds Our Community efforts and provide meals to furloughed and reduced-wage staff due to covid-19.
“We are so thankful to Friends In Weed for supporting our industry in a way that’s truly making a difference, both for our struggling employees and the greater needs of the communities in which we live and serve,” said Dana Query, co-owner of Big Red F.
For more information regarding Friends In Weed, visit: www.myfriendsinweed.com
THOMAS MITCHELL| DECEMBER 15, 2020 | 10:47AM
EXPAND The Post Brewing Co. is one of several Denver restaurants participating in Meals That Heal. Courtesy of The Post Chicken & Beer.
Several Colorado marijuana brands have started a campaign that purchases pre-made meals from a handful of popular Denver restaurants, and will then give those meals to struggling food industry workers and local food banks.
Dubbed Meals That Heal, the campaign sprouted from another charitable project created by local marijuana companies, Friends in Weed, that started out buying gift cards from local restaurants at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, then distributing those gift cards to people financially impacted by the virus. That project was responsible for distributing $77,000 in restaurant gift cards, according to Friends in Weed.
Now the group wanted to makes its efforts more direct, according to Veritas Fine Cannabis marketing head Jon Spadafora, a founding member of Friends in Weed.
“When things starting shutting down again, we wanted to create something easier for other cannabis brands to get involved in. We wanted to donate some meals, but also wanted to find a way to benefit the restaurants that creates more volume and wasn’t a one-time thing,” he explains.
Veritas, along with marijuana brands Olio, Cookies, 1906, Dablogic, Higher Grade Verde Natural and the PR company Grasslands, are purchasing pre-made meals from restaurants in the Culinary Creative (Bar Dough, Señor Bear, Ash’Kara, Morin) and Big Red F Restaurant Group (Lola, Centro Mexican Kitchen, the Post Brewing Co., West End Tavern, Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar) that will be distributed to residents of communities where Friends in Weed businesses are located, as well as restaurant workers who’ve seen reduced hours or pay during the pandemic.
Meals That Heal has purchased 630 meals from the two restaurant groups so far, according to the campaign, and hopes to purchase more as the group recruits additional marijuana brands to join the cause. Individuals can also donate to the cause in return for a mask or T-shirt, Spadafora adds; the cost of individual meals ranges from $6 to $8.
“It creates some demand for these restaurants by ordering these meals, and they go to people who can use them,” Spadafora explains. “We order the meals for the week, let the restaurant know how many we want, and they make them while we coordinate a pickup.”
Meals That Heal purchases will also be sent to Frontline Foods, which will then distribute the meals to various food banks throughout the city.
Since Colorado’s recent spike of COVID-19 cases, the state’s restaurant industry has seen another wave of restrictions and hard financial times as dining rooms were again ordered to close. In contrast, the pot industry has been declared critical by state public-health orders, and has tallied unprecedented revenue since the pandemic began in March.
“Our industry has been declared essential. It helps a lot of people in different ways,” Spadafora says. “Cannabis companies have seen a good year. Sales are certainly strong. I don’t think stepping up has anything to do with cannabis, but if you have the ability to help those in need, you should.”
THOMAS MITCHELL| DECEMBER 12, 2020 | 6:15AM
EXPAND The Cannabis Business Awards have been held annually since 2012.Courtesy of the Cannabis Business Awards
The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t stop the Cannabis Business Awards, an annual ceremony recognizing marijuana’s top brands, leaders and industry players.
The CBAs were founded in Colorado eight years ago, and have since branched out to several other states with legal pot industries. But Colorado’s awards show is still held every winter, with or without a pandemic. This year’s edition, hosted virtually, recognized some familiar winners and new names alike for their efforts toward the plant.
Here are the 2020 winners:
American Medical Refugees (AMR)
Business Executive of the Year
Sean McAllister (Founding attorney at McAllister Garfield, P.C.)
Industry Organization of the Year
National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws
Leading Brand of the Year
Wolfpac Cannabis dispensary
Advocate of the Year
Alexis Bortell (Child medical marijuana advocate)
Political Industry Representative of the Year
Colorado Governor Jared Polis
Industry Leader of the Year
Vicente Sederberg LLP law offices
Business of the Year
Gary Payton (Bred by Cookies; grown by Veritas Fine Cannabis)
Persy Sauce rosin (710 Labs)
Best Hemp Company/Product
Best CBD Company/Product
Pure SpectrumI SUPPORT
Lifetime Achievement Award
Charlotte Figi (Deceased medical marijuana patient; inspiration behind the name of Charlotte’s Web strain)
- Nick Jack
- Neil Demers
- Jason Margolies
- Dani Fontaine
- Brent McDonald
- Bob Eschino
- Jim Biviano
- Max Cohen
- Wanda James
Can Creativity Be Improved By Cannabis, and What Strains of Cannabis Are Best for Increasing Creativity?
The idea that cannabis can influence creativity certainly isn’t a new one. For hundreds of years, musicians, artists, writers, philosophers and other thinkers and tinkerers have claimed that cannabis and creativity are linked.
What’s less clear is how, exactly. Is it a chicken-and-egg situation? Are creative people just more likely to enjoy cannabis? Or can cannabis improve creativity?
Cannabis and Creativity: Here’s What the Science Says
Neuroscientists have determined that creativity is associated with the brain’s frontal lobe. According to a report published in Neuropsychopharmacology in 2002, cannabis consumption increased what’s known as regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) to the frontal lobe area. A more stimulated, active frontal lobe could mean more creativity.
While scientists are still playing catchup in exploring the many potential positive aspects of cannabis after decades of focus on potential harms, this study definitely holds some intrigue.
But how do you even measure creativity?
You do it with something called “divergent thinking,” which is regularly used by scientists as a yardstick for measuring creativity. Divergent thinking (DT) is the ability to generate creative ideas, explore a wide variety of possible solutions to problems, and is split into four main categories: Originality, Flexibility, Fluency and Elaboration. It’s also theorized that when cannabis stimulates in the frontal lobe, it affects DT.
A Little High Goes a Long Way
According to a study from 2014, a key factor in whether cannabis can improve creativity is dosage. The study found that with low doses of THC—in this case, 5.5 milligrams—cannabis use improved several aspects of divergent thinking compared to the placebo group.
However, when the dose was upped to 22mg, the subjects’ scores dropped significantly in every category. For anyone who’s ever overindulged and found themselves spacing out and experiencing a bad case of “couch lock,” the results of the study shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Interestingly, a study done in 2012 found that, after dividing participants into “high creative” and “low creative” groups, cannabis can improve creativity, but perhaps only if you’re not already creative. After testing participants while sober, and then again after taking cannabis, the “low creatives” were found to have gotten a noticeable boost, specifically in the Fluency category, when compared to the “high creatives.”
So it’s possible that cannabis can be a way to jumpstart your creativity or make you more open to creative ideas and possibilities if that’s something you’re struggling with.
The Best Cannabis Strains for Creativity
When trying to find the best cannabis strains for creativity, the first step is choosing between Sativa and Indica. Should be straightforward, right? After all, Sativa strains are known for being stimulating and energetic, while Indicas generally provide a more mellow experience, which may more likely lead to a meditative zone-out than a creative explosion.
But it’s not that simple. No one is going to have exactly the same experience or reaction to cannabis, especially if it has a high THC content. Beyond that, everyone has their own unique creative process, and a potent Sativa like Sour Diesel that could make for an inspiring mindset in one person could end up leading to an unproductive racing, anxious mind for someone else.
In the same vein, an Indica-dominant hybrid like Miracle Alien Cookies might leave one person relaxed to the point of nodding off, but its introspective and focused high might be just what someone else with focus issues needs to settle themselves and get creating. It’s all about finding out what makes your creative juices flow.
Get Creative With How You Shop for Cannabis
Are you looking to get inspired to paint a masterpiece? Write the next great novel? Finally make that Broadway musical with a fresh take on Martin Van Buren you’ve been telling all your friends about? Then hop over to the Veritas interactive strain guide, where you can sort through our craft strains and find ones best suited to creativity, energy, focus and more. With over 90 strains in our library, we’ve got something for everyone.
Dec 8, 2020, 8:17am MST
When Ripple launched a new line of cannabis dissolvables in brightly colored limited-edition packaging earlier this year, the Commerce City based company wanted to donate 5% of its profits to a charitable cause.
The first nonprofit it approached wouldn’t accept its money. The second would accept a gift, but only in the form an in-kind donation. And when Lightshade opened its ninth location earlier this year on the border of the Central Park and Montbello neighborhoods, a representative of the Denver dispensary chain had to approach a half-dozen charities before she found one that would work with it on its corporate social responsibility initiatives.
It’s a day in the life of Colorado cannabis companies attempting to straddle the line between being federally illegal operations and upstanding citizens when corporate social responsibility is all the rage and the state suffers a year riddled with wildfires, a pandemic and severe unemployment.
It’s not easy being green
“When you are a cannabis company, it is still obnoxiously hard to donate to a nonprofit and it shouldn’t be,” Courtney Mathis, co
https://www.bizjournals.com/denver/news/2020/12/08/cannabis-companies-challenges-donating-nonprofits.html?s=print 1/6 founder of Cannabis Doing Good, told Denver Business Journal.
Cannabis Doing Good is a platform founded to help cannabis companies that want to be good corporate citizens connect with nonprofits that will take their money. Separately, it just launched the Cannabis Impact Fund, which is working to partner with cannabis companies that will donate 1% — of their revenue, shares, product or equity — toward the movement for Black lives, a force elevated in 2020 and one focused on matters of social justice and remedying injustices of the U.S. Drug War, which is widely disdained by the cannabis industry.
And cannabis companies face a sort of conundrum: Their federally illegal status means they often pay effective tax rates as high as 70% because they can’t claim tax deductions and it also puts pressure on them to prove their value and good standing to their community.
Yet some nonprofits, nearly a decade after Colorado voters approved Amendment 64 legalizing the sale of recreational marijuana, are leery of accepting their money for fear of losing their 501(c)(3) status, the possibility of losing federal grants or offending influential board members and donors.
“We in the cannabis industry are always being pressed to do more,” Ripple Senior Brand Manager Nikki Kujawski told DBJ. ” … So when we give a donation, it is a big commitment to us.”
While Ripple was thrilled to be able to provide a dozen Macbooks to LGBTQ-focused Youth Seen as an in-kind gift, it ran into similar issues with other small nonprofits in the area for its next limited edition series, which focused on the arts.
“It’s been really unfortunate because it’s meant that we can’t work with some incredible organizations,” Kujawski told said.
“There are so many groups out there that, No. 1, won’t take the money and don’t want to talk about it,” Tom Downey, director at Denver-based law firm Ireland Stapleton who partners with Cannabis Doing Good to educate nonprofits on the risks and rewards of working with cannabis companies, told DBJ. “There are
others who will take the money but don’t want to talk about it. There are others that are very happy to take the money but they really, really don’t want to talk about it. And the reason is reputational.”
Accepting money from cannabis companies, he explained, is illegal at the federal level, just like operating a marijuana business. And promoting a cannabis company is technically aiding in the execution of a federal crime. But the rules aren’t enforced in states where the plant is legal and all state laws are followed to the letter. He points to cannabis companies that participate in the Clean Colorado adopt-a-highway-type program.
“Colorado Department of Transportation is putting their name and logo [on signs travelers can see]. They are promoting the business and taking their money. It’s not just that they’re generally aiding and abetting them, but it’s promotion, and promotion is a key word in the criminal code,” Downey said, adding: “Nobody at CDOT has ever been criminally charged and I’ve never heard a whisper about CDOT being investigated.”
And nonprofits have little to fear when it comes to losing grants or their charitable status by accepting marijuana money, he said.
“To date, I’m not aware of any 501(c)(3) licenses that have been revoked merely for engaging in marijuana-related businesses,” Downey said.
“We did finally find a nonprofit who was more than happy to work with us, but I had to really sit down and talk with the executive director and give him a little information about why this is important to Lightshade,” Lisa Gee, director of marketing and corporate social responsibility at the chain, told DBJ. “We’re not just checking a box — it’s part of our entire mission. It is a value system we try to integrate into the whole company.”
Corporate social responsibility is a key element in many cannabis companies’ missions. And they’ll move metaphorical mountains to make it happen.
The Green Solution, the largest Denver-area cannabis company when ranked by number of employees, took matters into its own hands years ago. After a long search for a nonprofit partner, the
veteran-owned business tracked down an organization that would work with it: Colorado Veterans Project.
TGS CEO Steve Lopez called the challenges his company faced finding a nonprofit that could accept cannabis dollars without fear of federal repercussions “hypocrisy.”
“They [tax collectors] are at our door if we’re a day late with that money,” Lopez said. “They can take the money, but we can’t give it to a nonprofit to help people.”
With or without you
And it’s not just Cannabis Doing Good sparking partnerships. Veritas Fine Cannabis is teaming up several other cannabis companies and the umbrella parent of Denver restaurants BarDough and Señor Bear, Culinary Creative, to get meals to the hungry this winter.
Veritas’ philanthropic group — which calls itself “Friends in Weed” — intentionally “compartmentalized” the process to avoid complications it’s run into in the past with nonprofits declining their help, Veritas Partner and Head of Marketing and Sales Jon Spadafora told DBJ.
“It’s become a little easier — we’ve learned somethings about how to create our own opportunities,” Spadafora said.
And companies like Boulder-based Wana Brands, Denver’s Terrapin Care Station, Denver-based Native Roots and the Stanley Brothers, who founded CBD powerhouse Charlotte’s Web, have teamed up to raise close to $1 million for food pantries and other causes.
“Most organizations we come across are more than happy [to take our money]. They’ve realized that not only has the sky not fallen but that good cannabis companies have good relationships with their consumers and are a great way to reach a new audience,” Wana Brands Chief Marketing Officer Joe Hodas told DBJ.
He said that the edible giant’s CSR programs are having a real impact on the company’s mission and employees, pointing to its rapid expansion and low employee turnover.
“In all the excitement of legalization with tax dollars, and just that people can go out and purchase cannabis, a lot of people lost sight of the fact we are capable of becoming an important part of the communities,” Hodas said.
It’s still a risk
Denver-based nonprofit Tennyson Center for Children, which serves abused, neglected and abandoned children, won’t accept cannabis dollars. And it’s not because CEO Ned Breslin has a problem with the sector.
“I think the cannabis industry is very community and philanthropic minded — I think they’re a player,” Breslin said. “They might not be a player for somewhere like Tennyson, but they could be a player for other places.”
In fact, Tennyson Center turned down what Breslin says was likely a considerable amount of money from one unnamed cannabis company.
He pointed to a combination of stigma and uncertainty when it comes to both his own organization’s hesitancy and that of its peers. And says that the uncertainty has, in some ways, created a an excuse for some nonprofit boards not to have a real conversation about the role of this burgeoning industry.
“Would you actually lose your 501(c)(3) status? Would you actually lose your federal funding if you took cannabis money? I think the answer is, ‘We don’t know,'” Breslin said. ” … I think the lack of clarity has created the opportunity not to talk about it. Once that confusion is cleared we’re going to have a different conversation in nonprofits.”
“If you’re a local nonprofit and you need resources, as we’re sure that you’re do, consider that one of the most courageous things you could do is open your doors to a cannabis business,” Cannabis Doing Good’s Mathis said. “At the same time, be realistic — the tax revenue you see coming out of this industry is not indicative of the revenue they have to give.”
She said charities should research the cannabis company to ensure aligned values, poll donors, know the board and not to expect an
https://www.bizjournals.com/denver/news/2020/12/08/cannabis-companies-challenges-donating-nonprofits.html?s=print 5/6 immediate windfall.
“It is new, it is nascent — so with your expectations, know that you’ve done all this homework, your first check might only be $500, the second might be $2,000 … with the industry growing, if you can foster that relationship like you can with any other donor I think the payoff will be substantial,” Mathis said.
Denver Business Journal