Cannabis use in Arizona has come a long way.

From the early days when the state legalized medical marijuana use and possession in 2010, to recreational use in 2020, and now looking ahead at upcoming milestones, there has been a drastic change in the way cannabis is perceived.

About a decade ago, having a dispensary in the neighborhood was a harrowing thought for some communities. However, today, dispensaries are viewed like pharmacies – they offer essential services that help to provide medicine and relief to individuals who battle life-altering pain and illnesses, from cancer and epilepsy to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, as well as neurologic conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder.

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Similarly, Arizona’s cannabis industry has become a lifeblood for a host of nonprofits dedicated to improving the status quo for thousands of underserved groups and communities.

Beyond the $261 million in excise taxes collected from January 2021 through February 2022 in Arizona that go toward education, law enforcement and other critical services, dispensaries are helping many grassroots organizations. Whether through awareness-generating partnerships, unique programs to benefit recipients or funding of crucial programs and services, the cannabis community has stepped up in droves to assist.

Co-Founders Raul Molina and Eivan Shahara in the Mint Cafe.

Members of the Arizona Dispensaries Association are active in charitable giving, supporting veterans, hunger causes, cancer research, environmental protection, and more. Additionally, every month, the association donates food to organizations like Tom’s Palms to positively impact the homeless in Arizona.

For Mint Cannabis, giving back to the communities we serve is a fundamental cornerstone of our organization and what drives us to do better every day. Our community giving program is rooted in serving grassroots initiatives that make a lasting impact in areas of health, homelessness, and Veteran services.

Last year alone, the Mint donated more than $1 million to nonprofits, families, and individuals and organizations. This has included monetary donations, marketing outreach and additional support for local nonprofits like the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), the Epilepsy Foundation in Arizona, Wings for Warriors, Cloud Covered Streets, Cancer Support Community Arizona and Check for a Lump.

Bigger than monetary donations is our power to reach people. We created a nationally recognized awareness campaign with Check for a Lump that collected 12,000 lbs. of gently used bras, which were recycled and netted the organization thousands of dollars. The campaign was overlaid with a series of free on-site breast cancer screening events that attracted women who wouldn’t have otherwise had the wherewithal to be tested.

We’ve worked with well-known restaurants on kitchen takeovers of the Mint Café, our first-in-the-nation cannabis kitchen, creating infused foods, to jointly raise money and awareness of homelessness in partnership with Cloud Covered Streets and are embarking on a mission to help end homelessness in our state.

The Mint has also introduced several discounted- and free-product programs for patients suffering from cancer, or those who are Veterans or senior citizens. If a patient reveals that they have cancer, they will automatically receive a free extract of cannabis oil to help them with their symptoms.

In addition to offering Veterans a 22% discount year-round, the most deeply discounted offering from a dispensary in the state, we invest in supporting life-changing medical research happening in Arizona. We have an ongoing partnership with a nationally recognized cancer researcher in Scottsdale who is exploring the benefits of medical marijuana to treat late-state cancer patients and Veterans suffering from PTSD.

In addition to working with nonprofits, the cannabis industry is spearheading public-private partnerships to bridge gaps and create stronger communities. As an example, our company is working directly with the Town of Guadalupe, home of our flagship dispensary location, to launch a nonprofit initiative. Its goal is to improve the social and economic health of those who live in Guadalupe, which has some of the most startling poverty, high school graduation, and teen pregnancy statistics in the state.

These examples are a minute cross-section of the Mint’s greater corporate and social responsibility program. With everything we do, as a company and as an industry, we believe that giving back shouldn’t be rooted in responsibility, which can often be associated as a task or expectation, but rather in benevolence and a deeply ingrained desire to do good for those who are struggling. Together, the cannabis industry is changing the landscape of our communities and building a stronger future for every Arizonan.

Author: Eivan Shahara is Chief Executive Officer of Mint Cannabis, which is headquartered in Guadalupe, Ariz. and operates dispensaries in Phoenix, Mesa, and Guadalupe, Ariz. The Mint is a multi-state operator of innovative retail cannabis dispensaries and growing facilities across the nation.