PONCA CITY, Okla. - A public school district turned down the offer of a monetary donation, saying it’s too risky because it was made by a local medical marijuana dispensary.
Flippin Farms is a growing dispensary chain in Oklahoma with four working retail locations and four more being developed.
“We’re here to help not only our patients, but we also want to give back to the local community – they support us,” said part-owner Corey Fisher.
Giving to schools seemed like an obvious choice.
“Our schools are underfunded; they have programs that are cut annually. Our salaries for our teachers is amongst the lowest in the country,” Fisher said.
But when he and his partner tried to make a donation to Ponca City Public Schools, they said it was rejected immediately.
“They pretty very shortly said, 'Not interested; we can’t do business with you,'” Fisher said.
Fisher said they were barely given a reason.
In a statement to News 4, Ponca City Schools Superintendent Shelly Arrott said, "The Ponca City Schools appreciates the generous offer made from Flippin Farms; however, accepting donations from a medical marijuana dispensary is uncharted territory for Oklahoma school districts in relation to federal funding sources. At this time, the district cannot risk compromising these funding sources which are relied on heavily for the education of students. In the future, we would certainly appreciate the opportunity to work with Mr. Flippin to accept donations to help our students if it will not in any way jeopardize district revenue sources."
A representative for the Oklahoma Department of Education told News 4 that school districts can accept monetary donations from any company as long as that business is compliant with state law, and it’s in accordance with that Board of Education’s policies and procedures.
Fisher said another school district has already agreed to accept a monetary donation from the dispensary that will be used to improve the school’s campus.
He also pointed out that 75 percent of the surplus tax revenue that comes from medical marijuana sales goes to public schools already.
“If it’s ok for them to take tax money from this industry, why not be able to take money straight from this industry,” Fisher said. “We were just kind of confused and alarmed that in a school district that is constantly underfunded, we`re willing to walk in there, and hey, I can write you a personal check even, and they just declined.”
But for now, he said they refuse to give up.
“Hopefully we can strike a good cord with the school district and we can come to an understanding,” Fisher said. “And if nothing else, just open a dialogue.”