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How to Strengthen Your Community Benefits Program

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January 11, 2019

Applying for a local commercial cannabis permit can be tricky.

As more cities permit commercial cannabis activity and the market matures, applications have become increasingly more demanding and sophisticated. The first thing applicants need to do is sit down, read the application, and try to understand exactly what its asking for.

When an application is asking for a business plan section, it no longer resembles the typical business plan.

Business plan sections now ask for standard operating procedures, product procurement plans, community benefits plans, and a variety of other things that a city may consider to be more important than other things.

Frequently, cities are weighing heavily in on how commercial cannabis business operators will integrate into their communities and provide more than financial endowments to local pet projects and the neighborhood watch.

How has the cannabis business application evolved?

Cities are hiring professional consultants to walk them through the process of designing an application framework and implementation process. This means that more critical thought and assessment is going into creatively assessing the intentions of an operator, as well as their ability to operate a compliant and successful business that will have the ability to generate more jobs, new business, and give back to the community.

As the market matures and the regulations are finalized, an established set of industry best practices, mechanisms for compliance and operation models are becoming more apparent.

Here’s what you need to know to help your application rise to the top.

What is a Community Benefits Plan?

One way cities are vetting commercial cannabis business applicants is through an applicant’s community benefits plan.

A community benefits plan is a plan that clearly outlines and demonstrates what an applicant will do to:

  • Integrate as seamlessly and authentically as possible into the community;

  • Get involved with local small businesses, non-profits and other community groups and programs; and

  • Be active in community improvement overall

Cities have become more vigilant about reviewing plans within the application.

Gone are the days of community benefits plans that offer the world but in reality, end up as being one lump sum donated to a charity. Cities are following up to find out who you’ve reached out to, what arrangements really have been made, and if, in the event you get a permit, that what you’ve said will happen—is happening.

Another way the application has developed is the introduction of Development Agreements.

Whatever goes onto your application will be cemented with a binding Development Agreement with the city. It is the embodiment of all the promises and plans you made on your application.

How to Strengthen Your Community Benefits Plan

Get to know the people

There are some things you should consider doing to strengthen your community benefits plan.

The first thing is to go out and get to know and understand the community in which your business is operating.

If you’re serious about discovering what makes the city tick, contact the local Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber is a non-profit sponsored by its members who are upstanding local business owners in the community. Show them how serious you are. Introduce yourself, ask them what they need, what are the current and emerging issues, and how you can help and be a part of the community.

Reach out to Local Non-Profits

Next, you’re going to want to begin conversations with local non-profits.

If you have a cause that’s close to your heart, seek out the group that works for your cause. You can even ask the Chamber which non-profits need the most assistance.

Then put yourself out there and talk to them. Find out what they need. Be available. No one will say no to money, but wouldn’t it be better if you volunteered? Or made an in-kind donation of some sort? 

Giving your time can become the basis of an ongoing relationship that will strengthen your bond to the local community instead of a one-time cash donation.

Local Small Businesses and Sourcing

Incorporate sourcing your supplies, equipment, and services your business will need with local small businesses.

One great way of establishing relationships is by doing business and supporting these small businesses. Actively creating a community model of service and business relations could be groundbreaking in refocusing the negative conceptions people have about cannabis and its impact on their public image.

Showcasing your Community Benefits Plan

The best strategy is a working strategy.

There will be lots of calls and meetings to pull this off. But in the end, you will find yourself at the helm of a new community, having established some rapport and relationships that, in the event you are issued a permit, will help bolster your credibility in the community, make the process easier and maybe even shorter!

And give your commercial cannabis business a philanthropic edge that will have the capacity to undo years of negative cannabis image projecting and service the community.

Have you been thinking about getting licensed? Have you found a location? We can help. Contact a team member today and let us help you figure the industry out.

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Filed Under: Licenses