As the landscape of the cannabis industry changes rapidly through legislation and growing acceptance in public opinion, it becomes imperative that we bring pot out of the shadows and into the ring as the major economic and public health player it’s becoming. That means dispelling the “stoner” stereotype and showcasing what your small cannabis business brings to the community.

Small businesses play a vital role in local economy. That’s why it’s important for small business owners to take that role seriously and find ways to give back to the communities they support. While this is true for any small business, it is especially so for the newly budding cannabis industry and the prejudices that accompany it. Changing the perception of pot as a legitimate business helps to ensure informed citizens, continued mainstream support, and progress toward legalization on a federal level. It may seem like a small thing to jump into local community service, but it plays a pivotal role in the big picture.

Here are six ways you can start getting involved!

Volunteer

community events, marathonVolunteering is perhaps the number one way to contribute to your community. Unlike donating, which we will see has it’s own set of complications in the cannabis industry, few organizations will turn down your time and energy. Volunteering can be a team effort too!

Organizing employees to volunteer together makes a huge statement!

Whether it’s a marathon for a great cause, the local soup kitchen, or spending time helping out the community library, volunteering makes a lasting impression and helps to build friendships and connections that last a lifetime!

Donate

Donating can be tricky businesses as a member of the marijuana industry. Many nonprofits, especially those that receive any federal funding, will not accept donations from a business that is still illegal in the eyes of the federal government for fear of losing valuable funding or inviting legal repercussions. Donations don’t always come in the form of monetary contributions though! You can donate a space for local groups to meet in or equipment for little league team. Be creative and think outside the box on this one!

Participate in Community Events

I’m not saying bring a batch of edibles to the local bake sale but, every town has it’s fair share of events that bring everyone together. They are a great opportunity to get to know people, understand the needs and priorities of the community, and help create an atmosphere of cooperation and engagement. You can set up a table for your business to promote educational material and start an email sign up for ongoing newsletters or giveaways.

Providing incentives for people to visit your store and try out products will get traffic in the door

and provide a great opportunity to spread the word about the benefits of cannabis. I’ll bet you’ll even have a great time doing this one!

Plan and Host Events Educational Events

Planning and hosting educational events is probably one of the best ways to use your role as a small business owner to spark meaningful shutterstock_318994370conversations and educate the community on the benefits of cannabis when used responsibly. You may even be able to engage the help of local law enforcement, legal minds, and medical professionals to create truly multi-disciplinary, enlightening events. Don’t forget the snacks and fun activities though! You want your event to be something people will look forward to going to, not a classroom session confined to academic discussion and a boring lectures.

Serve on a Board

One of the best ways to become involved as a business owner is to serve on a community board. Depending on your interests and values, you may choose to serve your community through any number of organizations, such as a local arts council or a non-profit helping underprivileged youth.

The most important part is choosing an organization whose mission aligns with your own

and to which you can devote the appropriate amount of time and resources. If there are no open board positions, don’t give up on the organization though! Become a member and find other ways to serve! Join a committee or help raise awareness!

Encourage Your Team

Don’t make these efforts a solo endeavor! Encourage your team to reach out in their own ways and make a difference. You can provide paid time off for employees to volunteer or match their philanthropic donations. Ask community eventsyour team for ideas and use their feedback to create meaningful engagement in the community. Find out what’s important to your team members and seek out ways to help them make an impact that’s meaningful to them. You’ll find you will not only find great ways to get involved but you’ll build a stronger, more loyal team too!

Changing Perceptions, Change the World

These are just a few examples of ways to become involved in the community and make a difference. Branching out and engaging with your town will make your business invaluable and relevant to your community. Your efforts will not only help combat propaganda and “alternative facts” that are constantly bombarding our minds, but

You’ll also help to establish the marijuana industry as a legitimate and irreplaceable part of your local economy.

Remember, it is the responsibility of businesses and individuals alike to help reverse the negative impact of  the unregulated and illicit business cannabis has been forced into by the failed “ War on Drugs.” The only way to solve these ongoing PR problems is to take advantage of the newly legitimate business path we’ve been granted. Your business’ contributions to the community are the backbone of the bridges needed to continue political and economic conversations that are changing the tides of marijuana in the US.

Amber Faust

About the author: Amber Faust is a freelance writer and editor who specializes in natural lifestyle pieces and sociopolitical commentary. Amber is a lifelong activist for social justice and environmental issues. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, painting, drumming, meditation, and yoga.