Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
As the war in Ukraine carries on, much of the free world is standing behind the country and its leaders, as its citizens and military battle Russian aggression. Their way of life, their livelihoods, their culture and people are being wiped out; their independence is at stake.
We’ve seen industries from all corners of the world band together to show their support in various ways, and it’s no surprise the cannabis community has rallied around the cause. Unlike other industries having supply chain disruptions due to the war, the cannabis industry in the U.S. is mostly unscathed. But that doesn’t mean it’s untouched.
Here leaders of three California-based companies talk to Green Entrepreneur about how they’re helping the people of Ukraine, and why it’s so important right now.
From San Francisco dispensary to sunflowers
Misha Breyburg takes the Russian invasion of Ukraine personally. The horror he feels as he watches his hometown of Odessa “being blown to smithereens” is almost too great. As CEO of San Francisco’s MediThrive dispensary, and as a Ukrainian-American, he was more than motivated to find a way to help.
One way was to donate an entire day of sales, and 10 percent of sales for the week, to Sunflower of Peace, which provides medical and humanitarian aid to those in Ukraine.
“I see how difficult it is for my parents to process what’s happening, my mom is literally taking sedatives to be able to sleep. And also as a Jewish person, I clearly see the parallels between what’s happening in Ukraine again and what happened during the second World War. I know that if my company and I did nothing, I would never be able to forgive myself,” Breyburgs says. “As far as the cannabis industry is concerned, there is nothing more or less special about this industry than any other industry in regards to war. Every human being on earth should be concerned about what’s happening over there.”
In addition to donating to Sunflower of Peach, Breyburg hopes to set up his own charity, and personally take proceeds to those who need it most in Ukraine.
War veterans helping feed Ukraine
Veteran-owned and operated cannabis manufacturing company Helmand Valley Growers already donates 100 percent of profits to a good cause — veterans. But for now, until at least the end of April, they’re donating proceeds to the Jose Andres-led World Central Kitchen, which has been on the ground feeding refugees both in Ukraine and Poland.
“This is a humanitarian crisis the likes of which we haven’t seen since WWII,” says director of sales Corey Potter. “Over the course of our two years in business, we’ve been incredibly lucky to have received so much support from so many. The cannabis community as a whole has really embraced us and our mission to save lives with open arms. We’re not a household name, yet, but through the kindness of strangers and their belief in our mission, we’ve been able to achieve a lot, in just a short period of time.”
“When we were building this brand, we made a commitment to one another that we’d always use the platform that we were given to promote positivity, and hopefully inspire others to take action in their community,” he adds. “There’s never a wrong time to do the right thing. We’re glad we can help, and hopeful that others will join us, chip in, or find a charity of their own that they’d like to support.”
Why World Central Kitchen? “We saw a news story about a mother from Ukraine carrying her disabled daughter for three days straight to escape the invasion on a hospice train bound for Poland. She never stopped walking, nor put her daughter down to rest. She just kept going until she reached the train. I don’t have kids, but I cried like a baby seeing that woman and thinking of the heartache of having to flee the country with her daughter like that. That story was followed by another segment that spoke about the World Central Kitchen and their work to feed those in need around the world. I went from being completely consumed with anger, to hopeful, when I saw what they were doing along the border of Poland and Ukraine to help feed the refugees. In a nutshell, it kind of restored my faith in humanity.”
“We looked into World Central Kitchen to learn more about their operation, and their needs, and knew we had to get involved. For the past two years we’ve worked with a handful of our retail partners to help feed the needy around the holidays. Food and water is a basic human right, and sadly food scarcity/insecurity is a major issue around the world. Again, this goes back to the kindness of others.”
“Cannabis users are often stereotyped as lazy, or unmotivated, etc., but one thing they’re not lacking is compassion. The kindness and generosity I’ve witnessed with my own eyes over the last two years has been nothing short of amazing. As people learn about our efforts to help the Ukrainians and the World Central Kitchen team, we hope they’ll find a way to lend a hand as well. Every little bit helps, especially now.”
Helping the most marginalized communities
Lime, a cannabis manufacturer in California has decided to donate a portion of their March sales to Hope for Ukraine — a non-profit organization dedicated to serving Ukraine’s most vulnerable citizens.
For co-founders Sergey Vasilyev and Giovanti Humphries, everything they do is about community. “The cannabis industry has always led by example when it comes to supporting one another — it’s what makes our culture and community so unique and promising,” they said. “We’ve decided to donate a portion of our March sales to a non-profit organization dedicated to serving Ukraine’s most vulnerable citizens. We chose this organization because we know that marginalized communities are always the most affected in times of crises.”