Why Is It so Difficult for Cannabis Companies to Donate to Charities?

Published on September 9, 2019 · Last updated August 17, 2023
(rambo182, lushik/iStock)

We’re all encouraged to give back in some way. So it’s only normal to have big expectations for large corporations to cut a piece from their lucrative pie to reconnect with communities. Ideally, it’s an authentic gesture and not just for press and a sales boost.

But when it comes to cannabis companies, giving becomes a hurdle. Namely, when it comes to funneling money into philanthropic organizations with federal ties.

Thanks to federal prohibition, nonprofits and philanthropic organizations struggle to work together. And that’s a damn shame. Nonprofits are a part of vulnerable communities that society doesn’t have capital for. But with enough knowledge and conversation, you can help bring about change.

So let’s talk about why donating is so difficult for cannabis brands, what brands can do to work around setbacks, who some established cannabis charity organizations are, and what they offer.

Smoke Good, Do Good With These Cannabis Products That Give Back

The Complications of Donating

It takes a lot of work and money to get a cannabis brand up, running, and growing. When the money comes in, some cannabis and CBD business leaders want to give back to their respective communities, especially to nonprofits.

However, with cannabis still living its strange life as a federal Schedule I drug, there’s an inescapable cultural stigma, and that gets in the way of giving. For example, Organa Brands President Chris Drissien expressed frustration at being outright rejected by charities like Wounded Warriors and Children’s Hospital Foundation.

But here’s another reality: Some can’t afford to take money from cannabis companies, thanks to a tax issue if a nonprofit has a 501(c)(3) filing status. The status is difficult to acquire, so taking money from a cannabis company doesn’t seem like the most appealing option since an organization could lose that status.

Support These Charitable Cannabis Business That Give Back

Aside from that, some charities rely on federal funding to keep their doors open, and again, cannabis is illegal under federal law.

How Cannabis Companies Can Work Around Limitations

So what options do cannabis businesses have if they can’t share their benjamins with organizations that need the help?

Nonprofit organizations need more than money to function. CBD and cannabis companies could provide labor by offering employees and team members as volunteer staff. This would be great for the image of both companies, helping to dispel the image of the lazy stoner.

Shop highly rated stores near you

Showing you stores near
See all stores

It would also allow the two communities to crossover and start conversations about how to lift cannabis prohibition, how helpful the plant is, and ultimately, how both sides prioritize generosity and the betterment of human life.

Support These Generous Cannabis Brands Giving Back

Cannabis brands can also stick with local organizations, to focus on bettering their immediate community. This would allow both to create a long-term relationship and also use one another’s brands as a platform for community projects.

If a brand doesn’t have luck making connections, the next option is to connect with a middle man like Canna Make a Difference and Cannabis Marketing Inc.’s match service. They save organizations time by making arrangements and finding a fitting nonprofit to team up with—essentially philanthropy matchmaking.

What Cannabis Charities Can Do

When the going gets tough for donating, sometimes the next best thing is for cannabis companies or advocates to start their own nonprofit organization. They don’t get access to federal funding or the coveted 501(c)(3) tax-exemption status, but they can turn to self-funding and volunteers.

Some charities support universal causes outside of the cannabis industry. As covered before, cannabis companies like Bloom Farm in California give back to communities via free meals to the hungry.

Companies like Peake Releaf in Rockville, Maryland, and Trilogy Wellness in Ellicott City, Maryland, give back to local organizations like Equipment for Children and Back to School Supply Drives.

On the other hand, some charities mainly focus on donating to cannabis-specific causes, namely, helping to remove cannabis prohibition and the war on drugs. This includes addressing racial disparities, which is the mission of the Green Soul Foundation, or providing free and affordable cannabis to vulnerable demographics like veterans and low-income patients.

Other organizations, like The Association of Cannabis Specialists, offer free education to influencers in authoritative industries (like health and law) that affect cannabis. These cannabis charities push for reform, protect the consumer, and increase accessibility to the plant.

Help Connect Communities Using Your Voice

Prohibition sucks and it’s preventing underfunded, underpowered nonprofits from helping people. The cannabis industry rakes in a lot of money and won’t stop growing exponentially unless the feds have a major change of heart.

Looking at the resonance of giving back, philanthropy humanizes cannabis companies: It proves that companies value overall community and societal betterment; it also forms a connection for those who are wary of the plant, and helps destigmatize assumptions and worries that some harbor toward the industry, especially when it shows up in their communities.

Your awareness of these organizations helps to break down the stigma of cannabis and gets the world closer to easier accessibility of the plant. Though giving money can be a point of frustration, being adaptable and driving to better lives—both inside and outside of the cannabis community—enables cannabis companies to give back in other ways, be it with volunteering time, or connecting with smaller, local nonprofits, or building their own nonprofits.

Do you have any suggestions for additional solutions that fill in the gaps of this problem? Feel free to comment below to keep the conversation going.

Shop highly rated stores near you

Showing you stores near
See all stores
Alaina Dorsey
Alaina Dorsey
Alaina Dorsey is a freelance cannabis copywriter, content strategist, and tsundere-tier personality based (usually) in Baltimore, MD. She has the snarky yet wise demeanor of a big sister who encourages the best from humankind. Occasionally, she moonlights as an illustrator.
View Alaina Dorsey's articles
Get good reads, local deals, and strain spotlights delivered right to your inbox.

By providing us with your email address, you agree to Leafly's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Stay In Touch

Receive updates on new products, special offers, and industry news.

By providing us with your email address, you agree to Leafly's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Leafly mobile app
Get high for less.
Download the Leafly app.
Download Leafly: Marijuana Reviews on the App Store
Download Leafly Marijuana Reviews on Google Play

The material provided on Leafly is intended for educational and informational purposes only. Leafly is not engaged in rendering medical service or advice and the information provided is not a substitute for a professional medical opinion. If you have a medical problem, please contact a qualified health professional.

© 2024 Leafly, LLC
Leafly and the Leafly logo are registered trademarks of Leafly, LLC. All Rights Reserved.