Charity organizations are reluctant to take donations from cannabis companies, even if the state has legalized the industry. Organa Brands learned this the hard way. The company was flush with success and wanted to give back to the community, but charities just said no.
“It felt like a slap in the face,” said Organa Brands President Chris Driessen. “Because the message was essentially you’re a drug dealer.” Organa Brands is the parent company of O.penVAPE, one of the largest cannabis vape companies in the country. Organa is also home to cannabis brands Bakked, District Edibles, Magic Buzz and Organa Labs. Driessen said that if a charity was willing to take the money, it wanted it to be anonymous. “The optics were more important than helping the people,” he said. Some of the charities that turned down Organa included Wounded Warriors, American Cancer Society, Children’s Hospital Foundation.
This created a conundrum for the company. Was the donation to be public in order to pat the company on its back for its generosity or was it simply an attempt to be considered as legitimate as other businesses? Does a public donation bring more attention to the company making the donation or does it bring attention to the charity itself? Driessen knew that Organa felt it should not have to hide in the shadows.