As the legal cannabis industry turns into big business, there is the potential to lose the sense of community that goes part and parcel with the marijuana lifestyle. One company that has not forgotten the importance of the cannabis community is Lightshade, a Colorado based business that operates six dispensaries in Denver and Aurora- with two more locations opening this fall. Lightshade has begun a corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative to give back to the communities in which it serves and the environment itself.
As a cultivator of top-shelf cannabis strains like Durban Poison and Blue Dream, Lightshade is constantly looking for new ways to reduce its carbon footprint. The company is currently in the midst of testing new high-efficiency LED lights as well as building an innovative greenhouse that will significantly lower the amounts of carbon emitted during a growth cycle. Lightshade also uses capillary mats during cultivation, as they attempt to ensure that not a single drop of water is wasted.
In June 2017, Lightshade's CSR team took a trip to DeLaney Community Farm in Aurora, Colorado to assist refugees from Burma, Senegal and Afghanistan in preparing the fields to grow fresh food for their use as well as a community share. Lightshade team members worked alongside the refugees weeding and preparing the fields for planting. The team from Lightshade was happy to be in the community supporting area residents and the farm was very grateful for the extra hands.
"We take our role in the community very seriously," said Lightshade co-owner Steve Brooks. "We want to spread the message that cannabis is about so much more than just 'getting high.' It's about building relationships, promoting empathy and just keeping in touch with the importance of helping others in creating a stronger and healthier society. Our CSR initiatives are a way Lightshade can make an incremental positive change in the world, and we hope to continue on this journey."
Unfortunately, federal regulations often slow down Lightshade's efforts. While cannabis is fully legal at a local level in the state of Colorado, some non-profits are reluctant to work with Lightshade due to restrictions from a national standpoint. These organizations might fear that their 501c3 status or federal grant funding could be revoked as a punishment for partnering with a cannabis company. They also may have moral issues associated with marijuana use. It's another reminder that, despite the incredible progress that has been made in eliminating social stigmas about cannabis over the past several years, there is still a long way to go before it is fully accepted as a cultural norm in our society.
The Desire to Help the Community
Still, Lightshade continues to push forward and create its own path for serving the community; specifically targeting homelessness and hunger. Members of Lightshade's CSR team are working in tandem with kindColorado LLC on a joint mission to help cannabis businesses become welcomed contributors to communities. kindColorado is currently supporting Lightshade's resolve to volunteer at food banks and urban gardens. Lightshade funds the food bank at Amazing Grace in Federal Heights for example, providing approximately 800 meals each month for area seniors in need.
In May 2017, Lightshade sponsored Manny's Summerfest, a beer and wine tasting event held at Tears-McFarlane House in Denver, benefiting homeless senior citizens. Shannon Brooks, Director of Marketing and Corporate Responsibility at Lightshade, is also leading an initiative to pull together $50,000 in donations from women leaders in the cannabis industry to support The Gathering Place. This daytime drop-in center is truly unique in the city of Denver and provides a broad spectrum of services for homeless women, children, and transgender individuals in need. The Gathering Place is an enthusiastic partner willing to work with cannabis businesses willing to take risks in service of their members
The Pursuit of Helping Veterans
Another element of Lightshade's CSR program is its commitment to veterans of the United States armed forces. Veterans are increasingly turning to medical marijuana to treat symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychological and emotional issues related to integrating back into civil society after an experience in combat. Even the United States federal government is beginning to accept the reality that cannabis may be a far better treatment than opioids for veterans.
Lightshade is developing a strong bond with veterans in the Colorado and Aurora areas. The company vehemently supports propositions to allow VA doctors to prescribe medical marijuana as a treatment for post-war disorders. The Lightshade dispensaries offer a 15% discount on nearly all medical products to veterans with valid military identification.
"It is incredibly unfortunate that many veterans are not being told just how beneficial medical cannabis can be in terms of alleviating symptoms of psychological and physical trauma," Lightshade co-owner Steve Brooks stated. "Lightshade is a huge advocate of any legislation that gives veterans more power to choose their treatment. After the sacrifices they've made, there's no rightful reason for returning veterans to suffer once they're back home."
Providing the Best Product
In addition to its corporate social responsibility initiative, Lightshade continues to create a dispensary experience that is largely unmatched in the legal marijuana marketplace. The company sells its home-grown strains in all of its locations. Lightshade has created its own scale of effects for cannabis strains, beyond the simple 'indica, sativa or hybrid' classifications that are typically used. The scale includes four types of "ambiance" ? awaken, enliven, calm and rest ? and categorizes each strain appropriately so that customers know what they're getting and what kind of effects to expect.
Lightshade offers an order online/pick up in store option and has special discounts on many of its products including flower, pre-rolls, edibles, and tinctures. The dispensaries often have demonstrations from cannabis industry vendors. Its Twitter page has become a source of helpful information for 420 enthusiasts. Lightshade clearly goes beyond just being a local dispensary as their determination to effect positive change at a societal level is something that more cannabis companies should aspire to replicate.