Giving back to the community is important for cannabis stores who are often still working to overcome the stigma of the legacy market. Just like many legal dispensaries are focused on a hyper-local approach to their branding, buying and store design, stores' approach to charitable initiatives is often similarly neighbourhood driven. Meet eight Authorized Cannabis Stores who are putting community priorities at the forefront of their work.
The Green Bouquet Cannabis Inc, Port Sydney, Ontario
Heather Huff-Bogart likes to think of herself as a florist, though she’s only really selling one sort of flower in her cozy store in the Muskoka area. Her flower-store-themed shop has a casual, cottagey feel and a neighbourhood vibe, and that’s just the way she likes it. “I just believe in supporting the community and the community will support me,” she says. “You get what you give, right?”
Since opening in May 2021, The Green Bouquet has been busy with a number of local charitable initiatives. They’ve partnered with the Lions Club to raise money for a nearby hospice, they regularly hold Seniors and Veterans Day promotions, they’ve donated to a local marathon to raise money for a girl in the area with serious medical needs and in November they’ll be running a food drive where customers who bring in a non-perishable food item will be up for a sweet prize.
But, to Heather, giving back to the community isn’t just about cash or even goods, it’s also about education. The Green Bouquet also runs free monthly workshops at the community centre on subjects like growing your own flower, and she always tries to bring in local experts. “It’s a thank you for welcoming us,” she says. “Everyone wants us to succeed and they’re so happy we’re here — it’s been really lovely.”
1922, Toronto, Ontario
Brooke Silversides, the co-owner of 1922 in downtown Toronto, named her shop after the last year cannabis was legal in Canada before prohibition. This wasn’t just to be cute — it also references 1922’s social mission of supporting cannabis amnesty. “There are so many people still suffering from the backlash of prohibition even just in the community we’re in,” says Silversides. “The prohibition years had so many negative effects. People with simple possession charges now have criminal records so they can’t get an apartment or a job, they can’t leave the country... it goes on.”
Several members of the 1922 crew volunteer with the Campaign for Cannabis Amnesty, and they’ve run fundraising campaigns with brands like Ace Valley where they donated 100% of the proceeds from special merch to the cause. (It can cost up to $5,000 to pay for all the paperwork required to get a criminal record expunged.) “We really believe in this cause,” says Silversides. “We can’t just be succeeding on the backs of people who didn’t have the freedoms that we do now.”
Crossroads Cannabis, Multiple Locations
There are a lot of military families in the communities — Stratford, Hanover, Woodstock and Markdale — where Crossroads Cannabis has opened stores, so it was a no-brainer when it came to deciding which charity they would be supporting. It was always going to be Support Our Troops, an organization that helps facilitate the recoveries — physical, mental and emotional — of members of the Canadian Armed Forces who have been injured during their service. “It’s always been a cause that’s very close to my uncle’s heart,” says operations manager, Jason Clarke. His uncle, Bob Rowe, owns Crossroads, and the whole operation is family run.
Every Friday, Crossroads donates $1 from each sale to Support Our Troops. They’ve already raised $20,000 and plan to hit $40,000 by the end of the year. “There is still this large stigma attached to cannabis retail," says Clarke. “We want to show that we support the broader community and we’re more than here to get people high. We’re a business just like any other.”
Kasa Kana, Peterborough and Huntsville, Ontario
When brothers Aren and Evan Arkarakas decided to get into the cannabis retail business, they knew exactly where they wanted their stores to be. They’d always spent a lot of time at their family cottage in Muskoka and the cottages of their large extended family in the Kawarthas, so they planted their two locations, both of which opened in 2021, in each of those communities. “We think cottages and cannabis go really well together,” says Aren. “And we really like the small-town vibe.”
Kasa Kana’s giving is inspired by that small-town feel they love so much. For their “Kasa Cares” program they partner with local charities and foundations to make a difference in the areas around their stores. Once a quarter, they hold three-day events where they donate 4.20% of their profits to organizations like the Humane Society, Brock Mission and Cameron House (a women’s shelter), Hospice Huntsville, and Table Foundation (which helps feed the homeless). “It really gives us an avenue to break down the walls of cannabis,” says Aren. “It helps normalize the industry. Just like any other store would give back to a community, we feel like it’s the right thing to do.”
High Tea Cannabis Co., Brampton, Ontario
For High Tea Cannabis Co. — which has five Ontario locations, with five more coming soon — it’s all about the neighbourhood. They partner with local artists to help create the look of each of their stores, like the graffiti created by Toronto artist, Duro The at their Brampton store, and that hyper-local philosophy extends to their charitable initiatives, too. “Our stores are surrounded by distinct communities,” says company President and General Manager Jeff Prete, “so there’s a unique focus at each be it housing, heart and stroke, clothing… every area needs something slightly different.”
High Tea recently ran a promotion where 50% of proceeds went to Hand Up Toronto, a charity focused on feeding hungry families in the GTA. They did a Thanksgiving food drive and they have plans to expand the fundraising product bundles that their sister stores, Jima Cannabis in B.C., sell to raise money for LGBTQ organizations. “Community engagement helps break down those barriers to understanding who we are and who cannabis consumers are,” says Prette.
Cannabis Cannabis, Stratford, Ontario
Cannabis Cannabis only opened their doors in July 2021, but they wanted to build their socially conscious cred from the ground up, starting with a complicated renovation of a heritage building that focused on sustainable materials. They then stocked their store with, yes, of course, cannabis, but also with a slew of skateboards designed by Stratford artist Kellen Hatanaka. All of the profits from the board sales go to local charities. “It’s a small little town with a really cool local skatepark,” says co-founder Jordan Eady. “A lot of our customers are skaters and we’re trying to do as much as we can to give back to Stratford.”
While Cannabis Cannabis has plans to do more fundraising partnerships with local creators, their favourite community play is their High Dining series on Instagram, a series of videos where their budtender features a Licensed Producer or strain and pairs it with a dish from a local restaurant, coffee shop or other foodie hotspot. On the launch day for each episode of the series, Cannabis Cannabis gives away gift certificates so customers can experience the featured spot. “If your store is in the heart of a community,” says Eady, “you should do everything you can to integrate, pay it forward and spread the love.”
Neat Cannabis Company, London, Ontario
It’s all about the bees at Neat Cannabis Company. When brand director Leeanna Newton was looking for an eco-initiative the store could support, she ended up creating her own. Neat launched the 1-Hive project, which raises awareness of the importance of bee preservation one hive at a time. Working in collaboration with cannabis accessories company Bzz Box Cannabis and a local beekeeper, Dan Heffernan of Heff’s Hives, Neat built a custom beehive that sits behind their Komoka location. Now they’re hoping other cannabis stores will join them in erecting hives on their properties. “Bees are so necessary to pollinate the flowers and crops that support the soil,” she says. “A world without bees is a world without healthy food!”
Neat has also taken pains to ensure they have a diverse, locally based workforce and they use a strict eco- and social-ethics-based framework for their buying decisions that favours smaller companies and local artists. Both Neat locations are decorated with murals by Indigenous artist Robin Henry, and Henry’s work is seen throughout Neat’s branding, too.
Canvas Cannabis, Multiple Locations
Canvas Cannabis is at four locations (and counting) and charitable works are firmly rooted in each of their stores’ neighbourhoods. Not only do they try to hire locals, in early 2021 they launched Canvas Cares, a community-based initiative where Canvas staff engage with their communities and support charitable endeavours like food banks. They also clean up the streets... literally. “Our neighbourhood cleanup program started out of noticing there was just so much trash left strewn around the streets,” explains Joe Smith-Engelhardt, the company’s Supervisor of Communications and Products. “We just wanted to make things feel a little nicer."
About once a month you’ll find Canvas staff — in full protective gear and with trash bags in hand — doing a little bit of neighbourhood tidying. They also run food drives once a season, donating the food to nearby organizations like Native Child and Family Services and Eastview Neighbourhood Community Centre. “The more we show we care about the community,” says Smith-Engelhardt, “the more our customers want to give back.”