Why Colorado nonprofits are taking a risk accepting donations from pot businesses

One out of 10 nonprofits has actively tried to get contributions from the marijuana industry, Colorado Nonprofit Association found.

DENVER - When is a donation not necessarily something you want to take straight to the bank?

Kaya Cannabis, in Denver, is donating a portion to medical marijuana sales to three nonprofit organizations.

"Nothing is simple in cannabis, I've learned," said Amanda Gonzalez, CEO of Kaya Cannabis. "Many non-profits are part of national organizations or their of board of directors is just a little bit more conservative and nervous about what's still a relatively new industry."

Kaya medical marijuana customers are given a copy of their receipt to put in a basket in front of one of three charities:

  • Rocky Mountain MS Center
  • West Colfax Association of Neighbors
  • Denver Fire Department Foundation (this is not the Denver Fire Department, but rather a nonprofit that benefits firefighters)

"The MS Charity that we are giving to, it was a yearlong process with their board of directors to make sure that they were able to accept these kinds of donations," said Gonzalez.

Rocky Mountain MS Center told Next:

"The mission of the Rocky Mountain MS Center is to improve the quality of life of individuals and their families living with MS and related neurological diseases through care, support, education and research. We are dedicated to raising money to support these efforts."

In Colorado, marijuana is legal. In the eyes of the federal government, it's still illegal, essentially making donations from a pot shop, drug money.

"Some nonprofits want the waters tested a little bit more," said Gonzalez.

"There is still some legal risk that a nonprofit would need to evaluate, but from the experts we've talked to, it seems small at this point," said Renny Fagan, CEO of Colorado Nonprofit Association.

The Colorado Nonprofit Association sent out an annual survey last year that asked about marijuana industry donations.

One in 10 nonprofits had actively sought out contributions, but two-thirds would consider accepting a donation if offered.

"If the nonprofit receives federal funds through a contract or grant, that contract or grant will probably prohibit a violation of federal law as a condition of receiving those funds, so for those nonprofits, they should not accept donations from a marijuana retailer," said Fagan. "Most nonprofits do not directly receive federal funds, and so for them, the issue of whether to accept sponsorship or donations from the marijuana industry, really comes down to, how does that fit with their donor base overall and is it consistent with their mission."

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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