Planting Roots: Cannabis Sellers Joining Chambers of Commerce


With the current state of new media and online advertising, joining a local chamber of commerce may seem like an antiquated idea. However, joining a local chamber still has its benefits in spite of what businesses are able to do for themselves. While there is growing acceptance of cannabis, and joining a chamber can be a definite advantage, cannabis is still unwelcome in some communities.

In its most simple terms, the purpose of a chamber of commerce—local, state or national—is to give a business a public face and show that it is supported by the community. Chambers often hold events for new residents to inform them of local businesses, hold conventions to tout local enterprises and they help define the personality of the town they represent. Being part of a chamber not only provides networking opportunities, it affords members a certain level of clout in the community.

Many local chambers have embraced medical and recreational cannabis, such as Bellingham, Washington; Glenville, New York, and Salida, Colorado. In Bellingham, for instance, seven cannabis sellers are members of the local chamber—four recreational shops and three medical.

In September 2014, the Salida Chamber of Commerce welcomed the 3D Cannabis Center as a member. This is 3D Cannabis Center’s second location; the first location is in Denver and was the first retail outlet in Colorado to sell recreational cannabis on January 1, 2014.

When the Salida location was welcomed into the community, it was given Gold Medallion Sponsorship status, with the likes of CenturyLink, McDonalds and RE/MAX. The dispensary’s admission was not without objection though and the owner noted that in the past, neighborhoods had protested against it. This is not dissimilar to many communities across the United States.

The side of the country’s voice that opposes recreational cannabis was made clear in June of this year in Arizona. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry stated its opposition of legalizing recreational cannabis through 2016 and keeping it off the ballot, with the president and CEO Glenn Hammer going as far as saying that, “There is no upside to the legalization of recreational marijuana.”

Hammer went on to point out the adverse affects that the substance can have on an adolescent’s brain, directly leading to a negative effect on the state’s workforce. He voiced this stance specifically citing the negative impact on state’s image, and that “Legalization sends the wrong message to the companies we want to grow and invest here.”

Other communities, such as Dayton, Ohio, remain on the fence. Ohio’s big concern mirrors Arizona’s in how it will affect employment, though the Dayton commerce seems more concerned with safety issues. Chris Kershner, the vice president of public policy for the Dayton Chamber, specifically brought attention to the fact that there is currently no accurate way of testing for levels of impairment.

As is the case with most issues surrounding cannabis, those that oppose cannabis-related businesses joining chambers of commerce—or even the legalization of cannabis—have a “wait and see” point of view. Everyone is keeping an eye on Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Colorado to see not only the benefits of new tax revenue, but also the impact of cannabis and how it radiates through business communities.

Josh Browning is a writer and editor based in Washington and has a background working in the technology, education and creative writing fields. He earned his MA from Western Washington University and his BSS from Ohio University.

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