The following piece was contributed as part of Business News Daily's byline series:
In the late summer of 2015, the Butte Fire tore through Calaveras County, California. It destroyed 921 structures, including my family home, which we had owned for more than four decades. Thousands of Calaveras County residents were left homeless, and many of them didn't have the financial means to recover from such devastation on their own.
Two days after the fire, my brother and I rode dirt bikes through the burned territory to my family’s property. We patrolled the ash and rubble for several days and helped neighbors put out smoldering hot spots to prevent flare ups. It looked like a war zone, and I knew I had to do more to bring my community back to life.
I knew I wanted to do something about the devastation and help those who needed it while running a business I was passionate about.
Bud and bloom
Before I founded Bloom Farms, I spent five years working on Wall Street. I was ready for a change and I had always been interested in the cannabis industry. I saw potential for a major social shift that I wanted to be a part of, and with the advancements in portable vapor technology, I realized it was the perfect time to build a responsible cannabis company.
I also wanted to build something more than a business. I wanted to help guide a movement. Bloom Farms is more than our products; we're a cannabis company on a mission to better humanity through philanthropy and legitimization of the cannabis industry.
I decided that day that Bloom Farms would donate our Highlighter vape pens, our flagship product, to local Oakland dispensary Magnolia Wellness, for free. Together, we would pledge 100 percent of the proceeds to community wellness efforts in areas affected by the Butte Fire.
We raised $25,000 for Butte Fire relief efforts by partnering with Mountain Ranch Fire Relief Fund, Calaveras GROWN, Mountain Ranch Resource Center and The Resource Connection. My team and I are continuing to support the area with fundraising and our Bloom Gives One for One program: For every Bloom Farms product sold, we donate a portion of that money to defeat food insecurity in California by covering the cost of sourcing and distributing healthy meals to those in need.
Our goal with Bloom Gives is to provide 1 million meals. It’s the largest corporate social responsibility program in the medical cannabis industry.
The bigger picture
Working with local food banks and Butte Fire victims has helped me realize that corporate social responsibility is the most important value of a modern business. This goes beyond pleasing customers. This is about supporting and lifting up the community that has provided an opportunity for your success. This is about giving back to those in need without expecting favors in return. This is about ensuring thoughtful and equitable laws are being passed in a responsible way.
That's why I joined the board of the California Cannabis Industry Association (CCIA). The CCIA was formed to unite the cannabis industry in California and allow us to speak with one voice at the state and local levels. We strive to educate and act as a resource for lawmakers regarding all areas of the cannabis industry including the environment, patient access, and supporting small business.
We're doing our part at Bloom Farms to encourage job creation by organizing and hosting the first professional Cannabis Career and Job Fair, which brings the brightest talent together with top cannabis companies. To date we have connected thousands of job seekers with dozens of employers.
These are all small steps toward my larger vision of legitimizing the cannabis industry by supporting and promoting the positive, healthy lifestyles of responsible cannabis consumers. The cannabis industry is like the Wild West, but soon that's all going to change, for better or worse. The outcome rests on the shoulders of every member of the industry to do their part to create a responsible, healthy, and legitimate sphere of business.
About the author: Michael Ray is the founder of Bloom Farms, which is working to remove the negative social stigmas of cannabis. The company sells all-natural marijuana oil vaporizors. Follow them on Twitter @bloomfarms, Facebook and Instagram.
Edited for length and clarity by Shannon Gausepohl. Have a great entrepreneurial story to tell? Contact Shannon at email@example.com to learn more about our contributed content program