January 26, 2020; MetroWest Daily News
Despite Massachusetts being one of the states where recreational cannabis is legal, a homeless center recently turned down a check for $1466.41 donated by Commonwealth Cannabis (CommCan), a medical and retail marijuana establishment. This wasn’t simply a matter of saving face and seeking to avoid the embarrassment of taking money from a pot shop—the parent company of the shelter simply didn’t want CommCan’s money.
Canna Provisions in the town of Lee has had similar experiences. Canna’s chief operating officer, Erik Williams, attributes the problem to the fact that cannabis is still classified as illegal under federal law, and some of the groups to which they’ve tried to donate also receive federal funding. Still, Canna has persisted, overcoming the barriers to donate $75,000 and lots of volunteer time. Williams says Canna will eventually have three dispensaries; they hope to donate at least $50,000 from each on an annual basis.
Still, the donees are often skittish—if not rejecting the gifts outright, at the very least not publicizing them. This is a bit of a problem for a local business seeking to establish goodwill and trying to meet the state’s positive community impact requirements, a process that CommCan president Ellen Rosenfeld describes as “grueling.”
The continued refusal of banks to allow cannabis businesses to establish bank accounts just adds another layer of complexity, which Rosenfeld knows personally.
It took four months of negotiations with her bank’s president in order for her to be able to transfer funds from CommCan’s account to her personal account. She only knows a “handful” of banks in Massachusetts that will accept checks from marijuana businesses or donation checks to nonprofits from marijuana businesses.
On the other hand, Garden Remedies, with its three sites, says it has made successful gifts to an array of nonprofits, including the Greater Boston Food Bank, The New England Veterans Alliance, and the MSPCA. Maybe the trick is to exclude any variation on the word “cannabis” from one’s name?
Vestiges of marijuana’s former underground character persist. “Why does Massachusetts still have this problem?” Rosenfeld asks. “Because after 70 years of being pummeled with false information about marijuana, it’s going to take more than a year to get rid of that. It’s gonna take more normalization.”
Yes, and raise your hands if you do not object to this type of donation. I’d take it over a donation from a pharmaceutical company any day. Seriously—contact your local outlet and indicate you are willing to receive their money if they are looking to give it.—Ruth McCambridge