Combating Stigma Through Community Education

As new markets come online, we know there can be hesitation by those who are unfamiliar with the potential benefits of medical cannabis. Many community members and prospective patients can be worried about the stigma of using cannabis, or simply don’t know where to start when they want to sign up - and don’t know where to start when it comes to understanding product options available to them. The process can be daunting and overwhelming at the beginning. As we opened four new Cannabist dispensaries across West Virginia, a new and emerging medical market, we quickly understood the need for patient education and registration events. We partnered with the state’s Office of Medical Cannabis, ReLeaf Specialists and our local stores to host informational registration sessions. Over the course of the last year, we held multiple events and helped register approximately 200 new patients. We were proud to provide these sessions for our local communities to help break down the barriers and build a strong state medical program.

To help break down the stigma surrounding cannabis, we also believe it’s critical for local police forces to understand the industry - from the cultivation process to the products that are available - so they can better understand the potential benefits that this natural medicine could help provide as an alternative to opioids. 

Over the past year, we’ve partnered with nearly a dozen police departments across Pennsylvania to help educate law enforcement professionals, conducting “listening tours” across local departments about the shopping process, product formats available to patients, packaging requirements, and patient privacy obligations. These types of special training seminars were well-received by local police officials and drug task forces, and we believe they are a critical step in helping to reduce the negative connotations associated with cannabis as medicine.

Supply Drop: Columbia Care Partners with Weed for Warriors Project

Recognizing an alarming trend of heavy pharmaceutical use and suicides among veterans, the Weed for Warriors Project (WFW) launched in 2014 as a social justice lifestyle brand supporting holistic rehabilitation for veterans through community-based projects, proactive care advocacy, cannabis education and compassion. 

With a dense veteran population in San Diego and a strong belief in medical access to this incredible plant, we began partnering with WFW in California starting in May 2021. Columbia Care employees facilitated the collection and dissemination of donated products to veterans who attended “Supply Drops” at our Cannabist and THCSD locations. Over the past year, the team has handed out nearly 1,000 bags - each of which contained roughly $400 in products. The veterans who attended these Supply Drops never paid a cent. “Since partnering with Columbia Care, Weed for Warriors has been able to help hundreds of veterans across San Diego,” said WFW CEO Sean Kiernan. “The partnership has amplified efforts to bring cannabis as a medicine to the veteran population in southern California, furthering access in a time when we believe access is lowering suicide deaths and overdoses. Beyond the product giveaways, the culture that Cannabist and THCSD employees have created for these veterans give them a sense of excitement and shared community based on their lived experiences. It’s more than just coming for donations; the support structure this program has created - independent of the VA - emits excitement and understanding for the veteran community. Survivor’s guilt plays a huge role in the lives of our veterans, so these types of connections help catalyze healing. Through our partnership with Columbia Care, we’ve helped save lives, reduced dependence on black market activity, and invested in the community.”