Members of Top Hat Cannabis pose with members of the Southeast Alaska Food Bank as they make a $10,000 donation to the food bank on Friday, May 29, 2020. (Courtesy photo | John Nemeth)

Members of Top Hat Cannabis pose with members of the Southeast Alaska Food Bank as they make a $10,000 donation to the food bank on Friday, May 29, 2020. (Courtesy photo | John Nemeth)

Local cannabis company donates $10,000 to food bank

Cannabis industry donations are usually clandestine, but not this one.

For the cannabis industry, “do good by stealth” has long been the foundation of donations, as many organizations who receive federal grants are hesitant to accept money from the cannabis business.

Top Hat Cannabis seeks to break that trend, by publicly donating $10,000 to the Southeast Alaska Food Bank last Friday.

“We felt that during these times, being able to operate as an essential business, philanthropy has always been an important part of what we’re doing, giving back to the local community,” said John Nemeth, president and cofounder of Top Hat Cannabis in a phone interview. “We really wanted to give back to their community while we’ve been able to operate, knowing that a lot of people are hungry. We wanted to keep the money in the community.”

The drive within the marijuana industry is tempered by many organizations’ hesitation to accept donations for fear of jeopardizing federal grant funding, Nemeth said. Many of their donations have to be silent or plausibly deniable. But Top Hat’s staff are hoping this can be a step toward a more open future.

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“We’re philanthropic in our regular nature. It’s hard to be visibly philanthropic in the cannabis industry,” said Lacy Wilcox, president of the Alaska Marijuana Industry Association and cofounder of Top Hat Cannabis in a phone interview. “There’s a little bit of hope that other nonprofits will realize it might be worth the risk, and it’s worth advocating for our existence. If there’s a way to encourage seeing if there’s a way they can be receptive to cannabis funding.”

The open donation to the food bank will hopefully get other organizations to think about accepting donations from cannabis industry entities, Wilcox said.

“Reached out to three or four other organizations who wanted the money but couldn’t accept it,” Nemeth said. “It’s really unfortunate that as an industry as a whole, we want to be philanthropic.”

The proceeds came from a springtime promotion in which 5% of Top Hat’s sales would be donated to the food bank, Nemeth said. The company rounded up slightly to donate an even $10,000. The food bank was open to the donation, and addressed an immediate local need, Nemeth said.

“Eating is a very important thing, especially stressful times,” Nemeth said. “We felt a lot of people would be struggling with that during these times.”

Top Hat is holding a promotion for the remainder of a year, and will donate a percentage of sales from non-cannabis merchandise sold online, Nemeth said.

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757.621.1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

John Nemeth and Ben Wilcox with Top Hat Cannabis, left, pack boxes with Southeast Alaska Food Bank manager Chris Schapp on Friday, May 29, 2020. Top Hat Cannabis donated $10,000 to the food bank to support operations during the onging coronavirus epidemic. (Courtesy photo | John Nemeth)

John Nemeth and Ben Wilcox with Top Hat Cannabis, left, pack boxes with Southeast Alaska Food Bank manager Chris Schapp on Friday, May 29, 2020. Top Hat Cannabis donated $10,000 to the food bank to support operations during the onging coronavirus epidemic. (Courtesy photo | John Nemeth)

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