Or at least its trying to.
A recent article in the Denver Post raised the issue of charitable giving from cannabis businesses. Many nonprofits refused the accept donations from the Colorado Harvest Company – a chain of shops and a shareholder with O.penVape – for fear of the ramifications. Organizations walk a fine line when soliciting corporate donations from politically charged companies, such as those selling cannabis.
Philanthropy is an important part of our culture and corporate giving is a responsible way for businesses to give back to their communities. Corporations of all kinds have programs that provide literacy support, funding for community beautification projects, or resources for volunteer cleanup events. Why should cannabis companies – if they want to use their profits for the social good – be treated any differently?
There are a couple of considerations that nonprofits have regarding this issue: fear of losing their nonprofit status or federal funding and the misalignment of organizational goals.
Fears relating to the federal government may be somewhat justified. There is merit to the argument that many nonprofits may lose federal funding under the Trump Administration’s proposed budget, so there is a perceived heightened risk of accepting corporate donations from cannabis companies.
Losing a 501c3 status status would be devastating for any nonprofit, and there is a lack of clarity in our legal system stemming from the novelty of state-level marijuana legalization. Can a nonprofit registered and doing business in a state that legalizes cannabis lose their 501c3 tax status for accepting donations from companies selling marijuana? Inevitably, this question will emerge in the courts.
As more states work to legalize cannabis, nonprofits should be able to entertain contributions form this dynamic and growing industry. Diversifying contributed revenue streams is a best practice solution for all nonprofits and corporate giving is part of the equation. Corporations that deal in legal commerce shouldn’t be treated any differently from the rest, especially considering that the medical use of cannabis is a legitimatizer that other substances – such as alcohol – lack.