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Cannabis Philanthropy

"We're all activists first."

Puff, puff…

Pass out a $10,000 check?

After witnessing a crippling of the local economy at the hands of a worldwide pandemic, Juneau’s John Nemeth and his colleagues at Top Hat Concentrates (THC) Alaska decided to step in and lend a hand to their friends at the South East Alaska Food Bank (SEAFB).

Nemeth, the company’s President and CEO, was joined by Founder Ben Wilcox in personally delivering a five-digit donation to help families in need during these troublesome times.

“They reached out to us last May and said, ‘Hey, we want to help out the communities,’” SEAFB Manager Chris Schapp recalled. “It’s not very often you get a $10,000 donation.” 

The financial aid came at the right time.

The food bank was able to provide healthy and nutritious food to 42 non-profit agencies across Southeastern Alaska. SEAFB witnessed more than a doubling of applications for assistance – rising from an average of 65 per week to a high of 193 at the peak of the pandemic.  

“In a COVID year, it was a little different,” Schapp said. “We got hit really bad. For us in Juneau, so much of our economy is driven by the tourist industry.” 

The state was hit hard following a shutdown of international travel through Canadian waters, nullifying an estimated 1.4 million tourists expected to travel to Alaska by way of cruise. As the region’s hub and the state’s capital, 99% of the ships stop in Juneau. Alaska’s tourism economy accounts for one in 10 jobs in the state, and results in more than $4 billion in total revenue. 

“I just think that in the early stages of 2020, not knowing what was going to happen, we felt as though it was a good opportunity to give back,” said Nemeth, whose previous philanthropic endeavors include service to Habitat for Humanity and the United Way.

The THC Alaska team is composed of like-minded activists and their outreach in 2020 only empowered their natural inclination, leading the group to expand its efforts in 2021.

“There are a lot of problems on Earth – it’s about climate change, social equity and reform,” Nemeth said. “Our initial goal was to set a trend and get other Cannabis organizations involved. 2020 really opened our eyes to new opportunities.” 

THC Alaska has set its course for its next philanthropic adventure, working in concert with The Last Prisoner Project – a non-profit organization dedicated to Cannabis criminal justice reform. Leading the fight is political liaison, Lacy Wilcox, who is also the President of the Alaska Marijuana Industry Association (AMIA). 

“We’re all activists first,” said Wilcox. “Our hearts are for the plant, but also for building the industry and making a difference. It was really important that when we all came in, we understood this was an evolution and would need fine tuning, possibly for decades.”

THC Alaska has delivered Cannabis products, including CO2 extracted concentrates, to the most northern parts of the United States since 2015. The Cannabis is grown through farming and grazing practices that are geared towards helping reverse climate change.

This article was originally published in the issue of all Leaf Magazines.

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