There’s something special about cannabis that inspires goodwill towards others—where would the 60s-era peace movement be without it?
And today, even in the wake of cannabis capitalism, social responsibility and giving back play a big role for a number of Canadian companies. Here are five notable businesses putting their profits back out into the world for good.
Organigram: Offsetting medical costs for patients in need
New Brunswick’s Organigram was Atlantic Canada’s first LP out the gate, founded in Moncton back in 2013.
Recognizing that not every Canadian can afford medical cannabis therapy, their OrganiCare program is offered to help offset costs: a 30% reduction on all dried cannabis products and oils to patients earning less than $35,000 per year—which represents a bigger discount at a higher income than most other LPs offering compassionate pricing.
The program, garnering them Most Compassionate LP at the 2017 Cannabis Awards, was updated in 2019 to offer an even higher discount to patients in need.
And to top things off, Organigram absorbs the $1 per gram federal excise tax (which not all licensed producers do), making their products that much more accessible. Today, both medical and recreational consumers in every province can order their dried flower and extract oils, but patient care remains a top priority for the company.
Hill Street Beverage Co.: Donating $0.10 for every bottle sold
A Toronto-based purveyor of alcohol-free wines and beers (and soon cannabis-infused drinks), Hill Street Beverages started out as MADD Virgin Drinks, sending proceeds to both MADD Canada and MADD USA.
As the company evolved into its current namesake, their $0.10 per bottle donation policy—totalling just under $2 million in donations to date—now includes Prostate Cancer Canada, the Arthritis Society, MS Canada, the Canadian Liver Foundation, March of Dimes Canada, and SickKids.
“In addition to monetary donations, we also donate in-kind to many, many organizations, even beyond our core partners, and it would be reasonable to say that our product donations would likely be approaching the value of our monetary donations,” says executive vice president June Nicholson.
A small business in the competitive beverage industry, she says their corporate mandate of “profit with purpose” drives their ongoing donations, sponsorships, and participation in charitable causes.
Ethical Image: Planting trees and trees and more trees…
A creative agency in Toronto that partners exclusively with cannabis industry clients, Ethical Image was founded on a philanthropy-first mindset (it’s kind of in the name).
Founder and CEO Patrick Moher says they embedded a two-tiered giveback program right into their business initiatives: first, a percentage of sales are donated to charities chosen between Ethical Image and their clients; then for every job Ethical Image takes on, somewhere between 100 to 1,000 trees are planted through Trees for the Future (TREES).
With over 20,000 trees rooted in the ground so far, this number grows ever higher when plantings are attached to special campaigns such as a holiday products. Ethical Image also plants a tree every time a reader opens their email newsletter or clicks one of the links inside.
TREC Brands: Sharing 10% of the pie
With the company name an acronym of “trust, respect, equality, compassion”, prioritizing social impact and giving back is what Toronto’s TREC Brands stands for, almost literally.
“Our goal is to be a pioneer in Canadian cannabis by prioritizing people and the planet over profits and we’d love to see this mission spread and become an industry standard,” says CEO and founding director Trang Trinh.
Since launching in early 2019, TREC Brands (which houses WINK, Blissed, and Thumbs Up under its corporate umbrella) has held to their commitment of donating 10% of gross profits back into their immediate communities. This year’s charitable recipients include Dress for Success, Evergreen, creative entrepreneur incubator HXOUSE , and Cannabis Amnesty. Says Trinh: “We see ourselves as custodians of our consumers’ money, so we rely on their input at events and through social media when evaluating which causes and projects they would like to see us support.”
Aurora Cannabis Inc.: Throwing its weight behind amnesty
One of the largest licensed producers in the country, Edmonton-based Aurora Cannabis Inc. focuses their philanthropy squarely on amnesty for Canadians with cannabis possession charges. Their first step was a $50,000 donation to the Campaign for Cannabis Amnesty in early 2018 to help broaden the public conversation on expunging criminal records, says Jonathon Zaid, Aurora’s director of advocacy and corporate responsibility.
Although Bill C-93 offers a cost-reduced, expedited pardon of simple possession charges, it’s not without challenges. “If you have other records, or aren’t able to afford other fees such as fingerprinting associated with applying for this pardon, [you] may not be able to go through that process justly,” explains Zaid.
Beyond working with communities and nonprofits to support individuals going through the C-93 process, Zaid says Aurora is pushing harder for broad expungement of simple possession records, a charge disproportionally applied to racialized and marginalized communities. “It’s incumbent upon the entire cannabis industry to focus on social justice, and by no means have issues been addressed for those who continue to bear the burden of a criminal record,” he says.
“Social justice is a really important part of what we do and who we are, and we’ll continue to make our voices heard, advocating in support of people who have been affected by the criminalization of cannabis.”