SunBlazed and the cannabis company is finding ways to give back to the community—without involving marijuana.
The group scattered, translucent green trash bags in hand, across the sand as the sun began setting against the Pacific Ocean. They had met at Venice Beach’s famed graffiti wall for Island Cannabis Co.’s latest beach clean-up event. The cannabis product manufacturer brought the small crowd of 15 together to do something more for the local community—something not completely related to cannabis.
“When we were first thinking about ways we could make an impact … beach clean-ups and participating in ocean-minded activities was one way that we thought we could get directly involved,” Island COO Brandon Mills tells Cannabis Dispensary. “The beach clean-up was a way to do something physically and tangibly and just be a part of a community, so that we can help sort of bring visibly to the fact that cannabis companies aren’t a bad thing. In southern California, it’s kind of interesting: Most of the beach cities here actually have a moratorium on cannabis retail.”
Venice is unique among SoCal beach communities in that it boasts several licensed dispensaries. MedMen’s latest location opened on Abbot Kinney Boulevard, a stone’s throw from the beach. But further south along the spine of State Rt. 1, cities like Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, Torrance and Palos Verdes do not allow cannabis retail businesses.
Mills says the beach clean-ups are one way of meeting local public officials halfway and showing them—and the southern California community at large—that there’s a lot more to the industry than high-THC flower. Although, of course, there’s that.
Headquartered in Redondo Beach, Island started in 2014 as a coastal brand aligned with the aesthetics and cultural imagery of southern California: Surfboards and palm trees play intrinsic roles in the brand’s marketing materials.
California’s legal adult-use market went live on Jan. 1, but a broad spectrum of regulatory hurdles tempered the thrill of Prop. 64 promises. Major cities like Los Angeles got out in front of the market, developing regulatory departments and enforcing new tax codes, but still a full two-thirds of the state has instituted one form or another of moratorium on the industry. The way Island’s team sees it, part of surmounting those walls is outreach and education.
“It just seems that the cannabis industry doesn’t have a meaningful physical presence in these beach communities,” Mills says. “We thought beach clean-ups were one way that we could get involved and meet the people that are local and involved in these types of activities and share our story that cannabis companies are chock-full of smart young professional well meaningful people like us.”
On the beach, the volunteers found bottle caps, napkins, cups, tent poles, even a love letter lost to the LA tide. After the beach clean-up, the team and the sprightly corps of volunteers headed over the Bank of Venice for a few rounds of draft beer, cocktails and tacos. Beneath high-vaulted ceilings, they caught up on life and talked about pets, LA and work. Cannabis didn’t really come up at all.
“Island, as a brand, one of the things that we’ve embraced from the beginning is that cannabis is a part of a lot of people’s lives, but it’s not all of people’s lives,” Mills says. “We’ve been trying to … participate in events that aren’t necessarily cannabis-focused. Whether that’s doing a beach clean-up or volunteering at a local 5k [or] 10k run to hand out water or any of the things where our brand doesn’t really have a presence, we’re just out there participating and it doesn’t have to be cannabis-related [to be] important to us.”
One key to successfully hosting events like this—and building a following—is the power of partnerships.
Island hosted its first beach clean-ups in conjunction with 99 High Tide Collective in Malibu. (“That was the only other retail organization that we knew of that was doing any kind of beach clean-up activity in the cannabis space,” Mills says.) In Venice, the team joined kNew Health founder James Maskell and his family; they live in the area and they’ve been out here on the beach for evening clean-ups, putting in the work that they’d like to see on a grander scale in their community.
To those who are interested—and to those companies who see an example in Island’s outreach efforts—the team is planning more of these beach clean-up events Follow @islandcannaco on Instagram for future event details.
“We’re trying to find all the little ways we can make a difference,” Mills says.