On a day usually reserved for mass gatherings of those who celebrate cannabis, cannabis companies have challenged each other — as well as their supporters — to step up to the plate to contribute to the state's COVID-19 recovery fund.
Leading off the efforts: Good Chemistry, which last week donated $50,000 to the fund, the largest from any cannabis company to date, according to Gov. Jared Polis.
Good Chemistry also donated 600 N95 masks, which came from existing company supplies. According to a company statement, Good Chemistry took inventory of supplies in its gardens and dispensaries and coordinated with community leaders to donate more than 600 N95 masks to those who need them most. To replace them, Good Chemistry provided its employees with CDC-recommended surgical cloth masks.
In that statement, Polis said "we are grateful for Good Chemistry’s contribution, and we hope it inspires others in the cannabis industry and in other industries across the state to support our ongoing relief efforts.”
Company CEO Matthew Huron is a longtime contributor to mostly Democratic campaigns, including a $5,000 donation in 2018 to Bold Colorado, an independent expenditure committee that backed Polis' bid for governor.
The $50,000 donation to the relief fund didn't come without pain. In a letter to company employees Friday, Huron said that despite the negative economic impact that COVID-19 has had on the company, Good Chemistry would make this contribution to the Colorado COVID-19 Relief Fund. The company has had to reduce salaries and lay off employees due to a decline in business from the pandemic, according to the statement.
In a response to a question on why the company made the donation and laid off employees, Huron said the layoffs and recent salary reductions "were necessary due to the challenges that have come with this pandemic. We’re grateful to still be able to operate despite these challenges, and we’re grateful to be able to give back to those in need. We hope others will do the same."
The cannabis industry is not eligible for the Small Business Administration's Paycheck Protection Program or other economic recovery assistance set up to address COVID-19.
In the letter to employees, Huron wrote that “as I watch the news coverage of the COVID-19 virus I’m reminded of what it was like growing up in a community ravaged by the fear and uncertainty and heartbreak of a deadly virus like HIV/AIDS or COVID-19. I know that while this may be the toughest time for Good Chemistry to contribute, it is also the most important time to do it.”
Huron also wrote he hopes the challenge will inspire others to give, bring relief to those in need and speed the recovery effort "so we can return our lives and our business to where we were when this crisis began.”
Terrapin Care Station also has kicked in $20,000 to the relief fund under the banner of Colorado Cannabis Cares. According to CEO Chris Woods, "the cannabis industry does not take its essential status lightly...It is not lost on us as an industry that we have come a long way in being deemed critical during this crisis. We are fortunate to remain open, and our workers have answered the call. Colorado Cannabis Cares is an extension of this industry’s commitment to local communities, especially during a pandemic like we’re facing right now.”
An effort from the Friends in Weed coalition, announced on April 17 a four-day Friday-through-Monday blitz to raise money for the state relief fund. The coalition suggested donations of $4.20 per person. For cannabis companies, the proposed donation is at least $420 or 4.2% of sales through the four days. As of Monday morning, they had raised just under $1,000.
Last week, the COVID-19 relief fund doled out 148 grants, totaling $3.4 million for "impact funding priority" and 58 grants, totaling $1.4 million for prevention activities to 206 community-based organizations throughout the state. The maximum award was $25,000.
Funding covers three areas:
- Prevention: medical supplies, shelter staff coverage, residential facilities staff serving vulnerable populations, nursing home staff coverage for low income households, mobility services serving vulnerable populations, cleaning supplies for shelters or care facilities of all kinds, medical information and support such as messaging campaigns
- Impact: economic impact of reduced and lost work due to the outbreak, early childhood education availability, technology assistance, childcare, education, volunteer services, food access or services, schools
- Recovery: medical supplies, activities to support small business focused on charitable efforts, mental and behavioral health for most vulnerable populations, volunteer services
As of April 17, the fund has drawn $12 million in donations. The deadline for applications is every two weeks, with the next one on May 4.
The fund does not publicly disclose its donors, and a request for that information submitted to the governor's office and to Mile High United Way, which handles those donations, has not yet been answered.
There are more than three dozen charitable funds, supporting the arts, nonprofits, community foundations, food banks and anti-hunger efforts, child care and biomedical research, now set up to support COVID-19 relief.
NOTE: This story has been updated to include other company donations.