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As a burgeoning industry in the U.S., cannabis has a unique opportunity to correct some of the inherent problems that have emerged in the years since it was legalized.
The big three issues, according to the non-profit Cannabis Doing Good (CDG), are racial inequality, poor environmental practices and community detachment. That’s why the group is working to inspire new avenues for progress through its annual CDG awards, and its newly launched Cannabis Impact Fund, both of which aim to address those three systemic problems in cannabis markets across the nation.
“We can activate cannabis to be a lever for social and environmental change, and show businesses that there’s money in doing it,” says Kelly Perez, president and co-founder of CDG.
Her hope is that CDG can help foster the evolution of the cannabis industry by raising money and lobbying for change. Policy is necessary, Perez says, but insufficient alone to fix systemic issues. In order to do that, the economic and social value in doing so needs to be demonstrated.
“We’re living in the time of corporate activism. It’s an expectation among consumers,” she says. “To think that consumers won’t have that expectation in cannabis is pretty short-sighted.”
In order to better leverage that change and inspire businesses to become more racially equitable, more sustainable and more engaged with their community (by their own free-will), CDG has been honoring outstanding companies across the cannabis industry, particularly those that excel in the designated areas of need with their three CDG awards: the “Change Maker,” “Love Your Planet” and “Good Neighbor” awards.
CDG just announced the 2020 winners. The 2020 Change Maker award went to Terrapin Care Station, a Boulder-born cannabis company, for its efforts to increase diversity in the sector and push to make a more just and equitable society. The Love Your Planet award went to Dama Packaging, a company dedicated to providing eco-friendly compostable packaging alternatives while changing the industry’s mindset around sustainable packaging. And the CDG Good Neighbor award went to Curaleaf for its extensive community engagement efforts that encourage people to volunteer locally and address the needs of their community.
“Our Cannabis Doing Good awards are our way to recognize companies out there that are doing good, and we want to give an extra push to make sure that other folks know about them,” Perez says.
The awards also serve as a means of raising money for other causes CDG cares about — in 2019, the CDG awards raised $10,000 for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.
Perez believes that in awarding purpose-driven companies like these for doing the right thing — working to solve systemic problems in the industry — it can incentivize others to pursue the same ends.
“That would supersede the regulatory requirements,” she says. “It actually moves them forward.”
CDG also just launched its Cannabis Impact Fund, in partnership with kindColorado and PufCreativ. The three companies, together, have created a single nonprofit dedicated to uplifting racial justice, environmental sustainability and community engagement. It will allow all three to work solely on these issues (both within the cannabis industry and outside of it) for the next 12 months. Sponsored by Sensible Colorado, the Cannabis Impact Fund’s website says it aims to promote, showcase and create social impact in the cannabis industry — and it’s inviting cannabis companies everywhere to help.
Companies that donate to the Cannabis Impact Fund automatically get the opportunity to receive CDG’s anti-racism training, which, Perez says, was built basically from scratch, since there was no such training for the industry before.
“Most people have never heard of training like this. They’ve never seen training like this,” Perez says. But since it launched, CDG has already trained staff from Terrapin Care Station and Wana Brands, and it’s in discussions with others as well. “We’re slowly reaching a lot of companies.”
CDG is working hard to foster change in the cannabis industry from the ground up. Policy changes make a big difference, but it’s akin to policing, Perez says. Cultivating an industry mindset that upholds racial, environmental and community values on its own is the only way to carve out a truly inclusive, just and sustainable path.
“We’re changing hearts and minds and we will be for a while,” Perez says. “The war on drugs and cannabis has been weaponized to continue to keep people down. It is beholden on us to change that. And we want to show that there’s a return on investment for doing so.”
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