State sanctioned recreational marijuana is replacing more affordable and less regulated, medical marijuana in Washington State. As a result, cancer patients face higher costs for marijuana.
One seller, Caviar Gold, found a solution. The licensed seller has stashed 5 percent of its gross sales from products marked with a green check mark, and intends to give the money to the local American Cancer Society office.
“We had to do something like this because we were a company that provided marijuana to anyone that is terminal,” said Scott McKinley, who runs Caviar's Washington franchise.
“We can no longer give pot to patients. We decided to give (money) to someone who pushed research to either find a cure for cancer or find out what starts it.”
The business of Caviar Gold has grown to be an award winning product line that specializes in the infusion of THC back into the plant controlling the amount of THC in the flower. The company is headquartered in the rural, scenic farming community of Arlington, about 47 miles north and east of Seattle.
“But with the legalization of recreational marijuana in Washington comes a hefty amount of regulations, and one of those regulations is that you cannot give pot away, even to the terminally ill,” said McKinley.
It wasn’t easy for the company, which opened in 2011 for medical marijuana and has spent the last three months retailing recreational products, to obtain a recreational license in a state that involves a painstakingly thorough process.
“A lot of brands could not keep up with the red tape,” explains McKinley. “Caviar Gold was one of the first brands to get their [Initiative] 502 licenses; took two and a half years.”
Caviar Gold has vowed to invest in researching the diseases medical marijuana laws were meant to combat as Washington steps away from the medical industry. Surprisingly, McKinley said it was not easy finding a cancer charity to take his donation.
Many non-profit organizations run the risk of losing federal grants if they receive money from marijuana sales.
After two months of speaking with doctors and other groups, they connected with the American Cancer Society office in Everett, WA. The response was a slow recognition that there was no reason not to take a donation from someone who wanted to help cancer patients.
“Our company accepts donations from legal businesses,” said Christina Kelly, American Cancer Society spokesperson. “In states with legalized marijuana businesses, those businesses that want to help cancer patients may make a donation to the Society. However, we do not enter into partnerships with marijuana-related businesses. And, the Society has not taken a position on the use of marijuana for medical purposes because of the need for more scientific research on marijuana’s potential benefits and harms.”
Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board regulate cannabis production and sales. The board has successfully closed down many medical access points while issuing licenses to specific individuals responsible for cultivation and production of cannabis.
According to the state, the word “medicine” is now prohibited on all products being sold; however, Caviar Gold obtained permission to say the fundraiser is for “medicinal purposes.”
The first products hit the market earlier this month.
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Currently, 34 Caviar Gold products are labeled with the green check mark notifying each customer of the valuable donation from their purchase and include, flower, Cavi Cones, Cavi Taffy, and oil syringes, all with a variety of flavors.
Products with the trademarked check mark are currently available at Mari J’s Highway Pot Shop in Everett and Herban Legends in the Belltown neighborhood of Seattle, with more locations to be added.
“Hopefully we can get other brands to step up, put this symbol on their products and start giving back to [cancer research] and turn a lot of things around,” he added.
When the total reaches $10,000, the funds will be presented to Washington’s American Cancer Society. Should 80,000 products be sold monthly, donations could reach as much as $40,000 per month. McKinley has faith that more brands will join the cause, which could see up to $1 million per month towards cancer research.
It’s a valiant effort to set a new precedent for the cannabis business, and pays homage to the early beginnings of medicinal marijuana. Caviar Gold has set the stage for what could be a historic fundraising effort in an industry just getting its foothold.
McKinley knows the Society’s vision is a world free from the pain and suffering of cancer. He’s hoping his contributions, and those of others in the industry, play a part in achieving that goal.