Presentations from the three candidates for two recreational marijuana licenses in Natick have lots of information in common: They lay out education plans, intentions to hire locals, building security efforts, product safety procedures, and more.
They also emphasize plans to contribute to the community, both in terms of the mandatory tax on revenue that will go into Natick’s coffers, and a portion of proceeds that will be donated to nonprofits.
Given that the vote among Natick residents a few years back in favor of recreational marijuana facilities was fairly close though, we wondered how willing nonprofits might be to take money from the new cannabis shops out of concern about offending patrons or clients, or keeping with their own missions. The Worcester Telegram & Gazette reported at the start of this year that marijuana shops in that area sometimes found it hard to find takers.
But with the emergence of COVID-19 since then, and the impact that has had on donations to many charities, you might expect organizations to think more broadly about what’s acceptable to them at this point. Especially given that these are legal businesses.
Revolutionary Clinics, one of the candidates for a recreational marijuana shop in Natick, lists several organizations, including Town of Natick Veterans Services, among its target donation destinations. It says in its recent public presentation that this could add up to $30K per group between donations and volunteer work, with more in the offing depending on how well the business does if it gets chosen.
“These organizations were very appreciative and willing and able to accept donations,” says Keith Cooper, CEO of the business, which has other locations nearby in Cambridge and Somerville. “Especially in these times, real, reliable and repetitive annual funding is crucial to organizations like these.”
We reached out to Natick’s Community & Economic Development office to ask what they’d been hearing about the willingness of local charities to accept donations from these newcomers, but haven’t heard back.
Perhaps not surprising in that this could be a touchy topic for the town, which stands to reap serious tax revenue, and charities. The Natick Service Council, which was ID’d as a potential donation target by at least two of the original eight candidates for recreational cannabis shops in town, hasn’t responded to our inquiry either.
For others, whether they would take such contributions remains to be seen.
Natick 180, which was identified by at least one of the original recreational marijuana shop contenders as a donation target, does not have “an express policy at this time specifically regarding potential adult use cannabis donations,” says Katie Sugarman, Prevention and Outreach Program Manager/Drug-Free Communities Grant Program Director at the Natick Health Department. “Any proposed contributions from a local business or community organization must be brought to Natick 180’s Steering Committee for consideration,” she adds.
Daivid Lavalley, executive director at TCAN, says “Our decision to accept such a donation from a legal business entity is always done after considering possible conflicts with our mission and bylaws.”
So while he didn’t directly say TCAN would be open to a donation from any specific recreational marijuana shop (Revolutionary Clinics cites TCAN as a potential target in its presentation), Lavalley did say that as a nonprofit with a large regional audience, TCAN regularly attracts unsolicited donations from new businesses.
“This is a pretty common and legal marketing practice across the nation–the business not only receives a tax deduction for their gift, but news of the donation (and the new business) spreads to the constituents of the nonprofit,” he says. “Nonprofits like TCAN depend on contributions for their survival, so they benefit as well.”
In recent years TCAN has received donations of this sort from the likes of Avenu at Natick, Needham Bank, Bill’s Pizzeria, and Total Wine & More.
Friends of Natick Trails (FONT), a nonprofit launched in 2016 to support the Cochituate Rail Trail and Natick’s expanding trail network, is another candidate for donations from the new cannabis businesses.
“Friends of Natick Trails takes no position on the license application process itself, but was pleased to learn that we were among the Natick non-profits that Revolutionary Clinics has committed to supporting,” says John Gregory, president of FONT, which is preparing to launch major fund-raising initiatives in support of the new Cochituate Rail Trail. Among those efforts: the sale of custom-engraved paver bricks and the sponsorship of amenities such as benches along the new trail.
Now those sound like benches you could really relax on…