When I co-founded Sira Naturals, a Massachusetts based cannabis company, I didn’t do so because I was looking for a way to cash in on the Green Rush (in 2014 that wasn’t even a thing). Nor did I do it simply to create personal wealth-- though who doesn’t want to find a pathway to passive income? No, for me it began as a sermon. Literally.
On Yom Kippur 2014, I stood in front of my then-congregation and challenged them to find new ways to think about wealth, new platforms for charitable giving, and a new business model to replace worn out non-profits. Simply put, I was tired of begging for money to cover the costs of running my synagogue, an organization that puts the “non” in non-profit.
Think about this. What inspirational businesses or organizations do you know that define themselves by what they are not? “NON”-Profit? Really? You don’t know what they stand for. You don’t know what they do. You don’t know why they exist. You just know that they don’t make money, certainly not enough to be profitable.
Well isn’t that inspiring!
Fine, I could live with uninspired if the model was impactful, all the better if impactful and sustainable. But it isn’t impactful, certainly isn’t sustainable, not like it could be or should be. Certainly not like the for-profit sector.
Hands down, the most important and impactful changes and change agents in our lifetime have come from the for-profit, not the nonprofit, sector. Yes, there are still many important nonprofits doing good work. However, where do they get their funding to do their good work? From donations. And where do those donations come from? From outside organizations or individuals who made their money in the for-profit sector.
Profits are not bad. Money is not evil. It is amoral. How we make it and how we spend it determines it’s morality. If it is made immorally or if it is spent immorally, then it is immoral -- regardless of whether or not it is run through a nonprofit.
If, however, it is made in a moral way and spent in a moral way then it is moral -- not in spite of the fact that a for-profit company made it, but because of it. In fact, money can even be holy. A it is written in the Bible, "Love the Lord your God… with all your might" (Deut. 6:5) “All your might” is interpreted as your means, your possessions, your money. We serve God in all capacities, not the least of which is how we generate and distribute our wealth.
The creation of profits. The use of profits. The sharing of profits. That should be our focus. Not some archaic tax category “nonprofit,” defining us by the profits we don’t make, or can’t make, or will never make — and therefore, the good we can’t do, or won’t do, or will never do because we don’t have the profits to do it.
What we need are new paradigms and new language. Nonprofit or for-profit is binary, it’s either/or, it’s win/lose. How about borrowing a play from the food industry and the old carnivore vs. vegetarian dilemma. Until recently you were limited to one or the other: delicious meat made in a disgusting manner, or disgusting veggie burgers made in a far kinder process. Today, however, there’s a third choice like Beyond Meat. These aren’t your grandfather’s veggie burgers. These aren’t marginal tweaks and twists on a fundamentally flawed culinary concept (trying to sell veggie burgers as meat). These aren’t even veggie burgers. They’re meat, albeit plant based meat, but meat!
Like them or not, they are true paradigm shifts which we’d do well to incorporate into our businesses, our organizations and our mindset -- especially as it relates to cannabis.
The nascent cannabis industry is perfectly poised to be a pioneer in this conversation. Why? It is brand new industry with time to still shape its direction. It is grass roots (so to speak) driven by idealists and individuals who truly want to make a difference within the world. It is holistic, touching upon health and wellness, politics, economics, social justice and so much more. And it is, of course, one of the most powerful profit machines of our lifetime. And that is the question -will it become just another Big Industry: Big Pharma, Big Tobacco, Big Alcohol, with all of its Big problems? Or will it become an industry that moves Beyond Profits to make a profound and sustainable impact upon the world for generations to come?
Non Profits. For Profits. Or Beyond Profits. What do you think?