The cannabis sector is full of “should’s”…
…We should be eco-conscious, we should make reparations for the War on Drugs, we should create clean cannabis, we should end prohibition, we should be good neighbors.
I find the most meaningful excuse behind every “should,” is why.
Why should cannabis, more than any other industry, be compelled to be “a good neighbor?” Is it because Mr. Rogers said so? Is it because of the intense, hurtful, systematic racist harm done to low-income and people of color during the War on Drugs? Is it because cannabis culture promotes a sense of good old-fashioned do-gooding?
But, let’s assume that Mr. Rogers didn’t say so and the history of the Drug War will be remedied by inclusive policy (big dreams, right?).The truth is that the culture of cannabis is changing at this very moment due to big money, growing companies and wide-spread legalization.
Let’s step away from our cannabis echo chamber and recognize that oil and gas, big pharma, tobacco, tech and most other large industries don’t see “should’s.” They see opportunity, return on investment and customer loyalty. They understand that being viewed as a community asset is good for branding and good for business — and what’s good for business is good for their entire industry.
I know the cannabis sector is capable of changing the world for the better.
I also know that motivating a new industry to think about social responsibility and sustainability is a really hard ask when it’s painted as a “should” rather than an opportunity.
Cannabis companies, license holders or ancillary businesses are constantly moving through – and often times paying for – changes in regulations. Every day they are working to survive. All they think they “should” be doing is staying open.
But, there is an opportunity to do better because this industry, unlike other industries of our time, doesn’t have to be sued into socially responsible practices. Retailers, brands, consultants, textiles, grows and accessory-companies can each work to include community engagement and sustainability into best business practice — and not as an afterthought, marketing line-item, or compliance necessity. Instead, it can be included as an opportunity to grow business, ensure the success and acceptance of our industry, and to champion cannabis as a community asset.
If this sounds too fluffy, look at these companies:
- Lightshade Labs, a Denver-based cannabis company, sponsors and supports a local community organization for each of their 8 stores, in addition to supporting nonprofits at their corporate level.
- Yerba Buena, an Oregon-based cannabis company, pays their employees a living wage, supports community efforts, and boasts some of the cleanest cannabis around.
- Bloom Farms, a California-based cannabis company, has provided over a million meals to food-insecure families through their “buy-one, give-one” model.
These businesses have woven social responsibility into the very fiber of their brands. They don’t do this because they “should.” They do this because they know the opportunities that arise when they do better.
A final note from Mr. Rogers: It isn’t what we have, but how we use it. Social responsibility isn’t about excess capital; it’s about strategic, business-led community, customer and stakeholder engagement.
Be creative. Be visionary. Be the opportunity. And for the love of Fred, take “should” out of your vocabulary.
“There are three ways to ultimate success; the first to be kind, the second is to be kind, the third is to be kind.” – Fred Rogers