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Medical marijuana: Donor complaints lead food bank to abandon dispensary pot-for-food drive

Ever hear of a food bank turning down food? It happened yesterday -- because donations intended for Denver's Metro CareRing were part of a pot-for-food drive organized by Urban Cannabis, a South Downing Street medical marijuana dispensary. Urban Cannabis sales director Amy DiIullo is still trying to wrap her head around this surprising turn of events.

"We all recognize there are needs," DiIullo says. "We live in Denver, and we see homeless people on corners or people who need food or assistance. So we know food pantries need food, and if we didn't have cannabis in our name -- if we were just Urban Center, not Urban Cannabis -- I'm sure it would be okay." She adds, "I don't think cannabis is a dirty word, but apparently some people still do."

Urban Cannabis business manager Dave Crook and sales director Amy DiIullo with some of the donations.
Urban Cannabis business manager Dave Crook and sales director Amy DiIullo with some of the donations.

The story began when the folks at Urban Cannabis created a food drive dubbed "Cans for Cones." The concept: From March 1 until April 20 (a date not chosen by coincidence), MMJ patients who donated four cans of food would receive a pre-rolled joint for their largesse. The goal? Collecting 2,000 pounds of canned food -- meaning between 2,000 and 4,000 cans -- by 4/20.

Urban Cannabis arranged with Metro CareRing and A Community Taking a Stand, better known as ACTS, to accept the donations, then sent out a press release noting that the dispensary was "partnering" with the two pantries. This same term was used in a March 19 Denver Post article about the drive.

And that's when the trouble started.

"Metro CareRing called me around 4 p.m. yesterday," DiIullo recalls. "My contact was one of their directors, and they apparently had received copious amounts of calls from faith groups and other conservative groups that donate to their organization voicing strong complaints that they were listed in the paper with a dispensary."

The word "partnering" was the flash point. Indeed, DiIullo shares a statement sent via e-mail by Metro CareRing stressing that "by definition, [it] is erroneous to state that a 'partnership' has been entered into or created between Urban Cannabis, a marijuana dispensary, and Metro CareRing." But DiIullo feels the problems ran deeper.

"As we spoke further," she says, "I realized it wasn't just the word. It was the fact that they no longer wanted their name associated with Urban Cannabis in any publication whatsoever." And that meant rejecting the donations, none of which had been delivered at that point; DiIullo says she was about to arrange a drop-off when the call came.

The conversation depressed DiIullo -- but shortly thereafter, a more positive development gave her a much-needed boost.

More of the donations Urban Cannabis has collected to date.
More of the donations Urban Cannabis has collected to date.

"Someone from a Christian, faith-based organization came in and gave us 100 pounds of potatoes and fifty pounds of oranges," she reveals.

Yes, he also brought in four cans -- and because he was a medical marijuana patient, he was rewarded with "as much as we could give him without going over the compliance-standard limits set up by the state." She calls his gift "Christian charity at its finest."

The potatoes and oranges, along with approximately 500 cans collected to date, are headed to ACTS, which has raised no objections about the program with DiIullo. And she's hopeful that the pantry will receive lots more food by the end of the drive.

In the meantime, she insists that she's not upset at Metro CareRing, whose director was pleased that ACTS will be able to put the donations to good use. "It's not them," she says. "They want the food. But the people affiliated with them maybe aren't aware of certain things about medical cannabis."

Like that it's legal in Colorado?

More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana: 2,000 patient aps to be nixed under health board MMJ doc compromise."


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