Career path widens for women in medical marijuana industry

First State Compassion, Delaware’s medical marijuana pioneer, paved the way for a robust and sustainable Delaware industry that set the bar as a model for the country.

It is doing it again by building a more inclusive workforce. “When we opened Delaware’s first medical marijuana dispensary in Wilmington in 2015, it was revolutionary,” said CEO Mark Lally. “Today, we are focused on widening that pioneering path even more. I am especially proud of our diverse leadership team and the significant role women play in our organization.”

Nearly 37 percent of senior-level jobs at cannabis companies are held by women, according to a Marijuana Business Daily survey. That compares with the national average of 21 percent female business executives.

In the predominantly male-dominated industry of medical marijuana, FSC has helped narrow the local gender gap by increasing female executive leadership opportunities at its dispensary locations through great career pathways in human resources, sales, patient engagement and regulatory compliance.

FSC workforce members quickly let clients know they are fierce advocates for the natural healing powers of the cannabis plant. They strive daily to reduce the stigma around treatment. Beyond that, they all share two particular common denominators: empathy and a love for helping people in pain have a better quality of life.

Here are some members of the Delaware medical marijuana industry’s next generation of female pioneers.

Morgan Hewes, human resource generalist, said her initial reason for getting involved in the industry was a personal one: her chronic lyme disease diagnosis. The discomfort of the disease was exacerbated by symptoms of joint pain, muscle spasms and nausea – all qualifying conditions treatable with cannabis medicine. Her reason for staying in the industry is people-oriented. “I’ve hired about 45 percent of the FSC workforce. These employees are what get me up and going to work every day. Their hard work, dedication and passion to helping our clients get better is incredibly inspiring to me,” said Hewes.

As Compliance and Purchasing Senior Manager, Deborah Springer wears a couple of different hats. She ensures the company is compliant with all state and regulatory requirements, and also makes sure all supplies and resources are available for the end-to-end production of medical marijuana. “The entire seed-to-sale process is so interesting; the different plants, the extraction process, the strains and products – so much to learn.” With her regulatory, control and operations background, Springer said wanted to apply these skills to her work within the industry.

Haley Schell, director of regional retail operations, overseas the overall well being and efficiency of the dispensaries and the employees who work there. “I believe in the power of cannabis as a medicine and want to eliminate the stigma associated with the plant,” she said. Giving back by finding solutions through holistic healing options is one of her driving forces. “This is an exciting and rewarding industry with endless opportunity from the ground floor up,” said Schell.

Unique Richardson, senior manager of inventory, is responsible for making sure each department gets enough materials to meet the needs of the 9,000 patients served monthly. After six months on the job, she knew that medical marijuana would be the career and industry she will retire from. “It’s a thrill every day that I’ve helped someone with a medical condition feel less pain or even walk again in comfort!” She has set her sights on being involved in the production and sale of medical edibles at FSC once the state-of-the-art culinary facility is built. “The bakery, kitchen, store front, developing recipes- it’s an open door for my future,” said Richardson.

FSC’s Senior Communications Manager Lauren Foraker collaborates daily with the CEO and regional director of retail operations on advocating for medical cannabis treatment. Previously, while working in higher education, Foraker sustained a life-threatening and excruciatingly painful neck injury. Medical marijuana was her saving grace. As a patient, she was introduced to an FSC tincture medicine. She said, “In the 12 minutes it took to take full effect, my life changed for the better.” After having joined the FSC staff, it was interaction with another patient that gave her new insight. “I was telling an elderly patient that I could relate to her chronic pain and could help her. The feeling I got afterwards was the moment I knew I had found my new career,” she said.

Savannah Phillips, Lewes dispensary manager, was looking for work that would make a difference to people’s lives. “After completing my human services degree, I knew I did not want to go in the traditional route working for social services but still wanted to make a positive impact on the community.” The decision to build a career in the medical marijuana industry was sparked by an interaction with one of her patients. “As an FSC patient advisor, I suggested a salve for a woman suffering from severe fibromyalgia. A week later, she was able to move her fingertips as she never had before. That moment that I knew I could genuinely help people solidified that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” said Phillips.

“This is an exciting new world,” said Lally. “One of the biggest and best changes in recent years has been to the stigma associated with cannabis. These women, like our entire staff, have dedicated themselves to helping patients and doctors alike start to understand and appreciate the life-changing benefits medical marijuana can bring to the pain and suffering of qualifying conditions like cancer, arthritis, PTSD and epilepsy. Their commitment to this medicine and to patient needs has already opened doors for a more inclusive industry.”

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