By Maria Francis Pocono Record, Stroudsburg, Pa.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Chris Visco and her partner Adina Birnbaum are the first and only certified women owners of a marijuana dispensary in Pennsylvania. Prior to applying for a license, Visco was a retail merchant. She was once a major buyer for Boscov's department stores and later also with David's Bridal.
At one time, Chris Visco made a living as a retail merchant.
Now, she's the president of TerraVida Holistic Centers, one of 40 licensed medial marijuana dispensaries in Pennsylvania.
"A good buyer can buy dresses or shoes or anything else, and now even cannabis," Visco told the crowd at East Stroudsburg University on Tuesday.
ESU welcomed Visco to campus to speak about entrepreneurial leadership and risk-taking as part of ESU's Women's History Month.
TerraVida Holistic Centers is a certified medical marijuana company operating three dispensaries in Sellersville, Abington and Malvern.
Visco, along with her partner, Adina Birnbaum, were awarded a medical marijuana dispensary license by the commonwealth of Pennsylvania in June 2017 with the highest score in the Southeast region and the second highest score in the Commonwealth. Visco and her partner are the first and only certified woman owners of a marijuana dispensary.
Prior to applying for a license, Visco was a retail merchant. She was once a major buyer for Boscov's department stores and later also with David's Bridal. When asked what attracted her to the business, she replied, "I was an experienced user. As a teen I smoked weed, I knew a lot about weed. I also knew all about being a buyer and retail, so why not?"
There are approximately 40 licensed medical marijuana dispensaries and could see growth potential of up to 150 dispensaries.
These dispensaries are supplied by 25 growers in the state of Pennsylvania. There are currently 21 qualifying conditions for medical marijuana, chronic pain topping the list.
Medical marijuana is still federally illegal and presents issues for state license holders, including banking and insurance. It is therefore a cash-only business.
"We are swimming in cash," Visco said. "It is all we can accept and only way to pay our employees. We cannot apply for credit card machines or accept insurance, like other drug companies would."
The marijuana business faces challenges from within communities, property owners, investors and lack of patient-physician education.
Visco said there is growing support for legalizing marijuana in the state of Pennsylvania.
"As a society we have been brainwashed that only chemically manufactured drugs in a lab by big pharma will work as opposed to a natural plant, containing no chemicals or additives; of which no one has died from," she said. "Also there is a big misconception of what a marijuana user looks like."
Her average user is 58 with a chronic health condition. She said that since legalizing marijuana in parts of the country, marijuana use among young adults under 21 has declined by about 12 percent.
Marijuana is an $8 billion industry in the United States and is expected to grow over $21 billion by 2021.
Legalizing marijuana nationwide would forecast it over $40 billion.
Bill HB50 has been introduced to legalize recreational marijuana in Pennsylvania. The proposed bill could bring in an estimated $580 million in revenue and provide incentives for businesses to partner with Pennsylvania farmers, as well as provide investments in student debt forgiveness, after-school programs and affordable housing.
Visco said her business runs the highest selling medical marijuana dispensary in the state and is proud of her accomplishment so far. However, she said is looking forward to the new law passing, legalizing recreational marijuana in the state of Pennsylvania.