Lightshade has been opening stores in the northern suburbs, and it's committing to that part of town with good works: The dispensary chain recently partnered with Amazing Grace Community Church in Thornton to fully fund the church's food pantry.
Responsible for supplying over 5,000 pounds of food each week to the underprivileged, the church was previously stocking its food pantry with individual donations and food rescues — unused food from restaurants — according to Amazing Grace's pastor, Kent Replogle. But then Lightshade stepped up.
"They not only send funds, they also send manpower," Replogle says. "They're really stepping up to the plate. I would hope other stores coming in this north area would follow their lead."
Thornton and Federal Heights have seen an influx of dispensaries over the past year: Federal Heights now has five dispensaries, and Thornton recently issued licenses for four. Lightshade just held the grand opening of its Federal Heights store on December 16, but it had been looking for a local charity to partner with for months, according to vice president of marketing Shannon Brooks. After attending an Amazing Grace meal service, she decided the food pantry was the right outlet.
"He welcomed us with open arms, which is also another challenge," Brooks says of Replogle. "A lot of organizations are hesitant to work with cannabis businesses." That's because many charities and nonprofits are concerned that accepting help from cannabis businesses will affect their federal funding or their 501(c)(3) status, which exempts nonprofits from federal taxes.
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According to a January 2017 study by the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative, 19.4 percent of respondents in the Denver metro area were considered newly homeless. Amazing Grace serves dinner to the needy every Wednesday night, but because of increased demand, people are now allowed to attend only one meal a month.
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"With the changes in food stamps and lack of funding, it has caused a huge increase in demand. Where we used get 200 per month three years ago, we now have around 1,000," Replogle explains. "The way everyone we've talked to in the congregation looked at it, is if a bar owner gives us money as a gift to the church, should we turn that away? Or a clerk selling cigarettes? No, we're not going to turn it away. These are legal businesses."
Amazing Grace isn't the only initiative that Lightshade has taken on. Each of its eight locations will have donation boxes for Senior Support Services through Saturday, December 24, giving customers a 25 percent discount on select pre-rolls, concentrates and edibles for donating outerwear, food, hygiene supplies and other goods. All eight stores and the corporate office also recently sponsored families in the metro area, supplying holiday gifts for each.
The company has also started a corporate social-responsibility program, identifying hyper-local charities for each of the eight stores to partner with, as well as other organizations for corporate partnerships, such as the Amazing Grace food pantry. Lightshade stores have partnered with such local groups as the Denver Rescue Mission, Grant Street Reach and Greater Park Hill Community Inc.; Brooks says some stores are still looking for charities.
"Social responsibility is woven in the fabric of this industry," concludes Brooks. "A lot of times we receive pushback because people don't understand cannabis or they don't understand the industry. Giving back is in our culture, and it's something we want to ingrain in our employees."