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Pay it Forward




For some, the holiday months are a time to celebrate and a time to give, receive and enjoy meals with loved ones. For others, this time of year may only highlight the fact that they may not be able to provide for themselves or their families. The holiday months are an opportune time to pay it forward, thanks to the places of business that organize food, clothing and toy drives or donate to charities using revenue from their sales. This holiday season, cannabis consumers can help just by supporting the stores or companies in the industry that are taking an altruistic approach and helping others. Just as important as the charities in need are the medical patients in the cannabis world. Donating directly to dispensary-sponsored programs that assist patients with free meds or patient-focused groups are also easy ways to get involved.

“We built massive towers of cans in our lobbies, yielding over 150,000 pounds of nonperishable food donations.”


Paying it forward can be as simple as buying products at a local dispensary that is using proceeds to supply meals, toys or services to those in need. For the second year in a row, The+Source, a Nevada-based dispensary, will donate to Three Square, Southern Nevada’s only food bank. Customers of The+Source can help support Three Square by purchasing one of the store’s select promo items during its 12 Days of December celebration. This year, The+Source will be donating three meals for every promo product being purchased by guests during the 12 days. Dan Zarrella, director of marketing for The+Source, shared with CULTURE the simple reason why the company donates. “There isn’t a great inspiration story other than our desire to find an inspiring way to give back and show off the spirit of the community we all love,” Zarrella said. He added that The+Source’s customer response to the food drive in 2017 was impressive, and the community was generous. “We built massive towers of cans in our lobbies, yielding over 150,000 pounds of nonperishable food donations.”

Bloom Farms, with locations in Nevada and California, is also committed to ending hunger in those states and has partnered with local food banks to supply meals. For every Bloom Farms product sold, including PAX Era oil cartridges, ultra-premium flower and pens, the company will donate a meal to one of the local food banks. Michael Ray, founder and CEO of Bloom Farms said he knew he had to help when he learned approximately one in eight Californians suffer from “food insecurity,” meaning that they don’t know where they will get their next meal. “We decided to build our one-for-one program deep into the foundation of company structure,” he said. “It expands as we do because other states have similar or worse food insecurity and because contributing to our local communities in meaningful ways is part of our culture.” Ray has seen his company’s altruistic gestures create a new expectation in cannabis customers.

Ray went on to share, “We are seeing firsthand the light bulb go off for some people when they realize they can contribute to real change simply through purchasing decisions that have some kind of social giveback, and we think it raises their expectations for what companies across all industries should be doing.” Bloom Farms’ year-round one-one program began December 2015 and has since donated more than $1.4 million in meals.

Large cannabis companies in Colorado have also demonstrated a year-round dedication to giving back. Native Roots, a leading Colorado dispensary chain, recently donated $1,000 to Servicios de la Raza, which provides essential human services to people in need and also to Victory Service Dogs, which assists veterans in obtaining service dogs, said Kim Casey, communications manager. Native Roots employees also volunteer at various shelters throughout Colorado during the year. Also in Denver, Colorado, GroundSwell Cannabis Boutique hosted a coat drive throughout the month of November. Medical or recreational customers who donated a coat received a discount on their purchase. Just by shopping at stores that organize drives and donate is a simple way to help as a consumer.

“As we get bigger, so does the program, so at this point we give out about $50,000 in free product every year.”


A way to directly support medical cannabis patients in need is to seek out programs like Dispensary 33’s (D33) Cannabis Compassion Program (CCP) in Chicago, which donates at least one percent of sales to getting financially distressed patients free cannabis. Co-owner Zachary Zises told CULTURE that D33’s owners knew they wanted to run the program from the day they opened the store. “The basic idea is that, while it can be really helpful to offer those in financial need a 10 or 20 percent discount, the reality is that those discounts won’t really move the needle for the neediest patients—they still won’t be able to afford anywhere near what they need,” he said. So, what’s more helpful than a discount? Free product. A small number of people each week receive an eighth of flower at no cost. “As we get bigger, so does the program, so at this point we give out about $50,000 in free product every year. It really changes people’s lives and is something we’re really proud of,” Zises said.

These kinds of programs especially work when a dispensary is doing well and has revenue to spare. Cannabis customers can encourage the growth of programs like CCP by shopping at dispensaries that run them.

Another way to help individuals is by donating to national patient-based groups such as United Patients Group, an organization that is a valuable resource for patients wanting to learn more about cannabis for specific medical conditions. United Patients Group provides people with resources to help them video chat with a certified doctor, learn what cannabis products are legal in their state, find doctors in their area who embrace cannabis use for medical treatment, explore learning blogs about cannabis and illnesses and more. To contribute to this cause, go to United Patients Group[‘s website and click “donate.”

The companies and organizations talked about here, along with so many others not mentioned, demonstrate what it’s like to show a strong compassion to care for the welfare of others. Utilize these programs by supporting altruistic cannabis companies, so that others in the community can benefit. Even a small donation to patient-focused group or program is helpful. Call around to your local dispensaries to find out if they are involved in any philanthropic efforts this holiday season—see how you can support these organizations and people in need.