In 2016, the realities of selling marijuana differ substantially from the old, negative stereotypes perpetuated by generations of anti-drug propaganda. No longer are those who sell marijuana portrayed as bad guys looking to hook kids on dangerous substances, destroying communities and livelihoods; rather, the industry is consistently giving back to communities, whether in the form of tax revenue, donations, or volunteer initiatives.
Here are five ways important players in the cannabis industry are giving back.
American students are already benefitting from some of the country's first scholarships funded by taxes on legal marijuana. Overseen by the Pueblo Hispanic Education Program, the $1,000 bursaries will be awarded to 25 students, according to USA Today. Next year, PHEF expects to generate as much as $700,000 for the scholarships; thanks to the state's commitment to matching dollars, that fund could reach almost $1-million over the next 18 months.
2. Affordable, accessible medical marijuana
Dispensaries like San Francisco's High Bridge have committed to providing patients in need with medicine either for free, or at a drastically reduced cost, with the aim of a) increasing patients' quality of life and b) sending a message to the public about the legitimate, medical uses of the drug. According to Natural Blaze, High Bridge owner Sean Killen has made a commitment to "pay $60,000 a year to give cannabis to low and no-income patients who have a valid medical marijuana card [...] Killen's non-profit project is a breath of fresh air for those suffering from everything from cancer to depression."
To honour and assist veterans during Memorial Day week, Colorado cannabis retailer LivWell Enlightened Health provided more than $800,000 worth of medical marijuana to veterans who suffer from PTSD. They were charged just a penny each because cannabis can't be given away under Colorado state law. "We provided ounces of cannabis that have a particularly high CBD concentration, which has demonstrated potential benefits for those who suffer from PTSD and other physical ailments," said John Lord, CEO of LivWell. "This is just our way of showing appreciation to all of our men and women in uniform."
3. Helping the homeless
In Aurora, Colorado, where city officials predict $8-million in marijuana taxes will be collected by the end of this year, $4.5-million in marijuana tax revenue has been directed toward fighting homelessness. Since each city in legal states like Colorado is permitted to make its own decisions on how marijuana tax dollars are allocated, the city of Aurora has opted to fund after-school programming for youth in unstable housing situations, as well as affordable housing initiatives. According to FOX News, "the rest of Aurora's marijuana tax revenue will go to fund transportation projects, a new recreation centre, and a handful of other local nonprofits."
4. School funding
In Colorado - which collected $9.7-million in marijuana sales taxes in June of last year alone, up nearly $5-million from the same month in 2014 - public schools have been a major winner since legalization. In 2014, when the city of Denver encountered financial hurdles in the building of a new recreation centre, an allocation of $3.2-million toward the $33-million facility was made possible largely by higher-than-expected retail marijuana revenue.
"I would never say that single-handedly legalizing recreational cannabis would be the solution to every government's problem," Tyler Henson, president of the Colorado Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, told the Denver Post. "But it's a good tool to have, and it can alleviate some problems especially, if a city or a county is looking at a budget deficit."
5. Charity fundraisers
Denver dispensary chain The Clinic holds an annual golf tournament sponsored by cannabis-related businesses, including Dixie Elixirs and WeedMaps, to raise funds for multiple sclerosis research. Since 2009, The Clinic has raised nearly $300,000 for the National MS Society, and hopes to raise another $25,000 this year. "Far too often businesses focus on operations, expansion and the bottom line," writes Rick Talley, a wholesaler for The Clinic, on the dispensary's site. "Contributing to non-profits like the MS Society is something that separates The Clinic from other business out there, regardless of industry."