What Happens When Cannabis Groups Try To Give To Charity

Christmas is just around the corner. It's the time of year when even the Grinchiest of us can spare a little bit to folks who are less fortunate.

But some pro-marijuana organizations are getting left out in the cold: witness this case from Eugene, Oregon, where a cannabis industry group's charitable donation of 30 holiday turkeys was rejected by the state Department of Human Services (DHS). The government agency's decision was made all the more surprising by the fact that recreational cannabis is, um, legal in Oregon.

According to an email sent to KATU News from the DHS:

"Their decision not to accept the donations was based on discomfort with the connection of a marijuana organization to DHS human services. … The Eugene office felt that baskets sponsored by this organization could create the impression that we endorsed cannabis."

The story sounded familiar to Maria Petrucci, a partner at Vancouver, BC's Evergreen Cannabis Society.

"I wanted to fundraise for an environmental organization," Petrucci tells Civilized. "We care about environmental causes, and thought this would be a great opportunity. They got back to me and told me that our selling cannabis was the reason they wouldn't be able to accept our offer."

"I was quite surprised that - for any reason - they would refuse our money. It also seems like they're shooting themselves in the foot. They had an opportunity to help their own cause, and they're denying that possibility."

"I absolutely think that the stigma should be completely lifted from cannabis."

Elsewhere, cannabis groups have a demonstrated track record of giving back to the community. Denver Relief has donated time and money to charities like Ekar Farms. The Clinic of Colorado has raised $100,000 for Multiple Sclerosis research, and institutions from the Chicago Marathon to the Colorado Symphony Orchestra have accepted sponsorships from cannabis groups.

It's time to challenge the stigma - and accept the fact that donations from the multimillion-dollar legal marijuana industry could be a boon for people who need help.

The companies are trying to give back, and certainly not just for the deductions on their tax filings: under U.S. federal law, at least, marijuana businesses are not allowed to write off charitable donations.

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John Sinclair is one of the lesser-known people in cannabis culture, but he’s a very important figure, particularly for anti-prohibition activists. Sinclair is a native of Flint, Michigan, far from the hippie epicenters in California or the Warhol scene of the Big Apple. The scene in Michigan was grittier and more blue collar.