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An unlikely partnership, optimistic about their coalition
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By Ernest Gurulé

During election years and, perhaps especially this election year, strange bedfellows come together. This cycle is no different. Lions and lambs, oil and water, and night and day have melded in an effort to push forward common goals at all levels. One of the new relationships formed has CLLARO, a longtime Latino advocacy group and Lightshade, a Colorado-based chain of cannabis dispensaries forming a new partnership.

“I’ve been pleasantly surprised,” said Mike Cortes, CLLARO Executive Director, of the seasonal marriage between his organization and Lightshade. “It’s one of the best relationships we’ve had with a for-profit business.”

Lightshade, which has operations in Denver and Aurora, has opened its properties to CLLARO volunteers to do voter registration and U.S. Census participation with patrons who may be transacting with Lightshade. “We position ourselves outside the building where people may be passing by,” said Cortes. “If anyone shows an interest, we ask them ‘is your voter registration up to date?” If a contact has forgotten to update their information or failed to register to vote, a CLLARO volunteer can sign them up on the spot.

CLLARO, whose mission is to “empower Latinos through leadership development, advocacy and policy research to strengthen Colorado,” and Lightshade, have been more than pleased with this new arrangement.

“Lightshade has a deep-rooted commitment to being a good corporate citizen, and we have been focusing a fair amount of that effort on the Latinx community for a couple of reasons,” said Lightshade’s Lisa Farramond-Gee. “Many of our staff are members of the Latino community and part of our diversity and inclusion program.”

More fundamentally, said the Lightshade spokesperson, the parallels of purpose between the two entities run deeper than they might first appear. “As a non-profit singularly focused on creating positive impact through their leadership programs, Lightshade and CLLARO we have found common purpose.” Farramond-Gee said Lightshade’s new relationship with the community-based non-profit will, ideally, continue to grow. The end of the election cycle and the U.S. Census will play a part in how the relationship grows, she said. Both sides will continue to explore the possibilities.

Lightshade, said Farramond-Gee, and CLLARO, as a relationship, is a potential long-term pipeline for Latinos who may want to consider a career in the cannabis industry. Also, the new coalition just makes sense. Approximately 20 percent of Lightshade’s business is Latino.

Because of CLLARO’s mission, the relationship may have caught some by surprise. But, said Cortes, not him. CLLARO is neither endorsing Lightshade nor its mission of selling cannabis, which he made the point of emphasizing, is legal in Colorado. “It’s the law of the land,” he said. “We’re not getting involved in their business affairs or marketing product. We’re sticking to our mission. Adults can make their own decisions,” he said.

“We set up our table with the name of our organization,” said Cortes. Anyone who desires can obtain literature on voter registration or on the U.S. Census. “We only talk about what CLLARO is doing,” when organizational volunteers stake out spots on Lightshade properties.

U.S. Census information is particularly important to Latinos. Information gathered in this Constitutionally mandated undertaking is important to Latinos. Data gleaned from the U.S. Census determines Congressional representation, where federal dollars are allocated for everything from schools to hospitals and even for basic infrastructure spending.

The CLLARO-Lightshade relationship is being conducted at Lightshade operations in Montbello and Federal Heights. No definitive plans have been announced about what path it will take following the election. But to date, both sides say that they feel good about this new coalition. “We have found common purpose,” said Farramond-Gee, and hope to “continue developing our relationship by expanding our support of CLLARO’s many excellent initiatives---both financially and with our volunteer efforts.”





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