Nonprofits Explore Cannabis Connection

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Colorado's marijuana moguls are high on helping others. They may have trouble finding banks that will handle their cash, but they have no problem handing some of that cash to good causes. But can those causes take the cash?

As we reported in the recent post "Colorado's Ganjapreneurs Are High on Helping Others," local nonprofits have benefited from the flood of money coming into the state's cannabis industry. Still, there's lots of confusion over whether accepting marijuana money might affect a nonprofit's status, and so the Colorado Nonprofit Association, working with the Ireland Stapleton law firm and the Colorado Association of Funders, is offering a seminar on “Nonprofits & Marijuana” next Tuesday, July 14, in the Old Supreme Court Chambers.

Cash-strapped nonprofits are so interested in the topic that the program has already sold out, with 120 attendees and participants. (The organization has started a waiting list.) “We had a similar workshop last year,” says the CNA's Melanie Tsuchida. “It was a big hit, so we decided to do it again.”

Some of the buzz at the 2014 program focused on the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, which netted $250,000 and a lot of publicity – some good, some bad – through a string of marijuana-inclusive events last year, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy. Interestingly, no pot-related activities are included on the symphony's current schedule for this year.

But while the symphony program created buzz, the focus was on cold, hard facts. “Last year, our conversation was really about the nuts and bolts,” says the foundation's Londell Jackson, who worked on that program. “The big barrier is obviously the federal regulations.... Nonprofits are a bit wary of what they can and can't do.”

That's because nonprofits are federally regulated – and some charities worry that they could lose their tax-exempt status if they accept donations from businesses that are involved with cannabis. And they're not alone: Banks, which are also federally regulated, have been very hesitant to get involved with marijuana-related businesses and have cut out accounts across Colorado.

If you don't make the cut to get into the program, you won't be left high and dry: Jackson says the group will record the afternoon event and will make it available at coloradononprofits.org.

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