Some San Diego cannabis businesses are trying to do good not just for their patients but their community as well. Being charitable through promotions, donations and events not only helps those in need, but also gives these companies visibility.
But, cannabis-related businesses aren’t always finding it easy to give back. The stigma that is associated with the psychoactive drug makes it difficult to benefit any and all causes.
KB Pure Essentials, a San Diego-based CBD and hemp product company, experienced push back when it tried to donate school supplies to San Diego schools. Co-owner Brooke Brun attempted to give the items to a school teacher friend. Her friend was pleased but the school wasn’t.
“Her principal said ‘I’m sorry we can’t accept that donation on behalf of the company because they’re hemp, they’re CBD,’” said Brun. “It was just a very touchy area because of the fact that they are school.”
Brun and her associates tried to donate the rejected supplies to multiple schools, each time getting turned away. She was surprised because her company only makes products with CBD, non-psychoactive component of cannabis. KB eventually donated the supplies anonymously to a charity.
Brun said she and her KB associates still donate to charity but never attach their company name to it for fear of donations being rejected again.
“I think it’s sad because it’s things that are fun to share as a brand,” said Brun. “Like sharing your culture of your team on social media and just ... being able to advertise the fact that we can be in an industry where we can give back.”
Cathy Bliss, director of community outreach at dispensary Mankind Cooperative, isn’t surprised schools rejected Brun’s donations. Existing laws state cannabis companies cannot operate near schools and must childproof products’ packaging.
“We’re trying so hard to keep cannabis ... away from kids unless it’s for a medical purpose,” said Bliss. “It makes sense to me why some of the schools might not want to be associated.”
Bliss hasn’t experienced an incident like Brun has, but said a veteran-based nonprofit told Mankind they couldn’t work with them at the moment. Bliss said their reasoning was unclear, but overall finds that the majority of groups want to partner with Mankind on philanthropic work.
Participating in charity work gives Mankind more visibility in the community, said Bliss. She points to Mankind’s sponsorship of a neuroscience conference for the Autism Tree Project Foundation as one example. Many parents approached Bliss at the conference to inquire about cannabis’ potential benefits on autistic children.
“It was overwhelmingly positive,” said Bliss. “The fact that we had sponsored it and I was there; I think that gave a lot of people access.”
Dispensary Urbn Leaf has many donation-based promotions and events. Its director of marketing, Savanna Rakofsky, said Urbn hasn’t had donations rejected, but ensures charities are comfortable working with a cannabis company prior to fundraisers.
The Bay Park-based dispensary had several fundraisers planned toward the end of 2018. In November, the company organized a Cans 4 Cannabis food drive for the San Diego Food Bank and this month it will fundraise for Rady Children’s Hospital.
Rakofsky doesn’t find that Urbn products with charity-based promotions sell better than others. Philanthropic work benefits the company in other ways, however: It gives Urbn visibility and makes their patients feel good about giving back.
“I think it benefits our relationship with our customers more than anything,” said Rakofsky. “Our motto is ‘A feel good drug boutique.’ So for us it’s really like ‘how can we make our customers feel good every day of their life?’”