Do you “vote with your dollars?”

In other words, when it comes to cannabis, do you try to support companies that not only create great products but also give back to the community?

Many people come to cannabis seeking an alternative to medicine-as-usual, which depends heavily on pharmaceuticals. In the same way, many cannabis businesses are creating an alternative to business-as-usual by truly embracing socially responsible and sustainable business practices. We believe that Lightshade is one of those businesses.

As part of the education that we provide at Leaf411, we love sharing our supporting member stories, believing that our members represent the best in the industry.

When we share these stories, we help change the outdated misconceptions around cannabis.

As a consumer, you can also help change the story, by supporting cannabis businesses that are committed to sustainability and social responsibility. First, though, it helps to see what a socially responsible, sustainable cannabis business looks like in practice.

Lightshade’s Director of Marketing and Corporate Social Responsibility, Lisa Gee

Leaf411 Founding Member Lightshade Dispensary

Our founding member Lightshade is a great example of how a successful business integrates social responsibility, community engagement, and sustainability into their core business model.

Lightshade is a natural partner for Leaf411, given our shared priority to improve awareness and education around safe use of legal cannabis.

We recently sat down with Lightshade’s Director of Marketing and Corporate Social Responsibility, Lisa Gee, to learn more about the dispensary’s work in the community and their commitment to customers.

Q: Lightshade is known for its dedication to corporate social responsibility (or as we like to call it, “cannabis social responsibility”) and supporting the community. What does that look like?

There are struggles when you go into a new neighborhood. You have to create these relationships with your community where they can see the cannabis doing good. They don’t want to think of you as just an outlet for drugs. We take it really seriously that we demonstrate dedication to the neighborhoods that we’re in. We do this through the corporate social responsibility programs that we either fund directly and/or volunteer with. It’s part of Lightshade’s ethos, and is built into everything that we do.

We also take it very seriously that our vendors volunteer with us. I know there are vendor relationships we’ve had where the vendor didn’t have a corporate social responsibility (CSR) campaign or any community relationships. And as a result of volunteering alongside us, they’ve been inspired to take on their own volunteer activities. 

Q: It sounds like you really strive to be an industry leader when it comes to CSR. Why is that important to you?

We try very hard to mentor and demonstrate all the good stuff that cannabis does, and what a company like ours can accomplish when you get your staff involved and you get your vendors involved. At the same time, it’s a challenge for us because there’s no way for us to tell the full story. Our customers a lot of times don’t really know  everything we do. That’s challenging. We’d like them to know more about some of the work that we in the community.

Another goal for us is to be a thought leader demonstrating our dedication to community by bringing more people into it, whether that’s customers, vendors, or employees. It’s about showing what can happen when you come together as a group with very different people and the kinds of impacts that you can make to your community.

Lightshade Dispensary Volunteering with Denver Urban Gardens
Lightshade Dispensary Volunteering with Denver Urban Gardens at Delaney Farms

Q: Can you share an example of how you pull together all these different groups—employees, vendors and customers?

During our Denver Urban Gardens activity, it can be 100 degrees outside. We’re out there with shovels, picks, and dirt, sweating on a workday alongside our vendor volunteers, doing six hours of work and then going back to the office. That’s definitely one of the activations that we’ve had, with people calling afterward and saying they’re going to do their own event, or that they’ve adopted a park. They’ll even ask, “Do you want to help us?” This happened with Wana Brands. We’re looking to partner with them on more events. Their values align with ours in so many ways.

Q: You’ve created a unique corporate culture in this space, because you are paying attention to all those little things and they truly matter to you to do your part to make a difference.

I’ll share a story with you. A production company contacted Kelly and Courtney at kindColorado. The production company is profiling Denver and wanted to talk about two things, homelessness and cannabis. And they randomly found Kelly and Courtney on the interwebs and reached out to them and asked, “What can you tell us about cannabis and the homeless problem it’s creating?”

Kelly and Courtney said, “First of all, we need to tell you a little bit about how your assumption is wrong. Homelessness was not caused by adult recreational use legalization in Colorado. There’s a lot of other correlations with what’s happened here. But there’s some other stories you might want to tell.”

Out of the conversation came the fact that there are cannabis companies and dispensaries who are focused on homelessness. It’s one of our pillars at Lightshade. Kelly and Courtney suggested that the production company talk to us.

As a result of our conversations, their Denver episode will focus on Aurora Warms the Night, which is one of the big homeless programs we support, and Lightshade—how we are out there on the streets volunteering with the program.

The majority of  Aurora Warms the Night’s funding comes from that marijuana tax fund for homelessness in Aurora, CO (Aurora is located in the Denver metro area).

But the best thing about Aurora Warms the Night is that when you’re there helping, you’re serving the food and pouring the drinks for the people. Then you get yourself a plate and sit down with the people you’ve served. The program’s goal is to humanize the homeless, because it’s so easy for us to walk past homeless people and not see our common humanity with them. And we all do it, even if we hate ourselves for it. So it’s just a way of being like, “You are here. Connect with these people.” And I know I did. The first day that I was out there with Aurora Warms the Night, I sat in my car and cried afterward. The people I met were fantastic but also so vulnerable. They’ve been left behind or they started in a homeless and vulnerable family. And so that’s the kind of impact that we get to tell the story about.

Lightshade Dispensary Volunteering with Aurora Warms the Night
Lightshade Dispensary Volunteering with Aurora Warms the Night

Q: Your slogan is: “The Lightshade difference is night and day.” We can definitely see that in terms of the CSR work you do. But what does it mean for consumers?

Our slogan is a play on words. First of all, Lightshade—the name of the company—comes from the need for a cannabis plant to have equal parts of sun and shade. Also, our loyalty program is called the Night and Day Club.

Our slogan is a way for us to differentiate ourselves. It is aligned a lot with CSR. It’s also about the consumer experience, about how the retail environment looks and feels.

Q: Can you describe your retail environment?

We’re really trying to help elevate the cannabis industry just by the look and feel of the retail environment.  We use a lot of reclaimed barn wood. We have natural finishes and stained concrete with rich colors. The furniture is meant to feel more like you’re in someone’s living room, a very comfortable and elegant living room.

Our Dayton store has a fireplace in the waiting area. It’s located right next to a retirement community. We get a lot of older people who shop at our Dayton dispensary, which is a very comfortable, warm and welcoming space. When people walk in, they’re comfortable and they don’t feel nervous.

We also take the training of our bartenders and our front desk staff very seriously. We do something outside the norm. Rather than use an off-the-shelf program for training, we developed our own training program and have our own training director. Our program covers product knowledge and compliance issues.

There are so many things that bartenders and front desk staff need to know. They have to have answers for everything, especially, “I’m not a doctor.” That’s where Leaf411 comes into the picture.

Lightshade Marijuana Dispensary Denver Colorado, Dayton & Alameda

Q: How does your partnership with Leaf411 help your budtenders and customers?

The partnership has created opportunities for us that we didn’t have before, because one of the keys to being a successful cannabis retailer is education. Because of the limits in our industry, there’s a lot we just cannot do.

That face-to-face relationship between the budtender and the consumer or patient is the one shot we have at providing education that they need to have. We’re not able to tell them certain things because it doesn’t fall within the legal scope. However, being able to give them a business card or the pamphlet to Leaf411 provides the opportunity to open the floodgates of education. We weren’t able to provide that before. I’ve seen it at stores, and I’ve heard it from budtenders.  

For example, we had two customers at the Dayton store the other day who had chronic pain and sleep problems. I explained to them what the budtender could tell them. We can say something like, “This is my favorite thing.” But we can’t say why. Being able to refer customers to Leaf411 is a perfect solution. It’s really important for us to be able to share a verifiable, trusted resource.

Q: As Leaf411 continues to expand, we’re getting more inquiries from dispensaries in both Colorado and other states. From the dispensary perspective, what would you tell them about partnering with Leaf411?

When we heard what you were doing, we were down. We were all in just with the idea.

Dispensaries need to have access to nurses or doctors as credible resources to refer their patients and consumers to. If you allow your budtenders to give medical advice, you’re going to be shut down in a month, maybe less. And if you don’t operate in the complete black and white area of compliance and regulatory environment, you’re not going to last long.

The only tool we have is Leaf411, outside of doctors. And sending customers to doctors is cost-prohibitive in many cases.

From a business perspective, partnering with Leaf411 is all about customer care, service and being there for your  community. You will build customer loyalty with this kind of service. You will have stories like ours, with people who have never walked into a dispensary before and receiving the support they need. They were absolutely thrilled and amazed at what came of that experience and probably changed their lives. Our partnership with the Leaf411 cannabis nurse hotline is invaluable. You know, we just couldn’t be more thrilled.

Someone told me this a number of years ago and it really stuck with me. I don’t remember jokes or poetry, but I have never forgotten this. And it’s that with nurses, you can find someone who is as curious about what’s going on with you as you are.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

For More Information

Lightshade has eight recreational dispensaries in the Denver metro area, with five of those dispensaries also serving med patients. You can learn more about Lightshade’s community partnerships here.

Leaf411 is proud to have Lightshade as one of our founding members. Lightshade is committed to elevating cannabis’s reputation by providing high-quality product, experiences and information. Their ethos align with Leaf411’s commitment to kindness and professionalism.

Additional Resources

Check out our recent post, “Planning Your First Dispensary Visit,” if you’d like additional tips before heading out the door to Lightshade or any other legal dispensary.

Whether you’re a patient or a budtender, our cannabis-trained nurses are available to answer your questions on our FREE anonymous hotline at 844-LEAF411 (844-532-3411).The Leaf411 cannabis nurse hotline provides free, anonymous education and directional support to the general public about the safe use of legal cannabis. We partner with select business members who meet our rigorous standards to extend our education and outreach efforts.