TerraLeaf, a Pennsylvania-based, women-owned cannabis operator, has expanded to West Virginia to open a new Education Center in Huntington, W. Va, that will provide cannabis education to the company’s employees and the broader community.
The 5,000-square-foot Education Center held a VIP ribbon cutting ceremony Dec. 6 ahead of its Dec. 7 open house and grand opening to the public. It is located next door to TerraLeaf’s medical cannabis dispensary, which has been deemed operational by the state, but currently has no products for sale as the company waits for West Virginia’s growers to have cannabis available for wholesale.
“As you know, there’s a tremendous stigma about the use of cannabis, so our goal when we go into a community is to educate, educate, educate,” TerraLeaf founder Chris Visco told Cannabis Business Times and Cannabis Dispensary. “We teach people about the plant.”
TerraLeaf opened its first cannabis Education Center in Pennsylvania, where the company holds two medical cannabis licenses and currently operates three dispensaries. TerraLeaf has 45,000 unique patients across its three locations, Visco said, and the company built an Education Center when it expanded its corporate offices.
“It’s really important in each community to go first talk to the local elected officials, talk to the police department, talk to the fire department,” Visco said. “They’re all invited into our Education Center any time they would like to come.”
Staff at the Education Center lead presentations on the dispensary’s security measures, for example, as well as how cannabis businesses can help build communities. The ultimate goal of the center, Visco said, is to raise awareness about the responsible use of medical cannabis, help potential patients become registered patients in the state, and provide assistance to those looking to get their medical cannabis cards.
The Education Center also hosts classes on cannabinoids and terpenes and educates TerraLeaf’s employees on state cannabis regulations and patient care.
Visco said opening an Education Center in West Virginia was important to her to help teach the community about how cannabis can be an alternative to opioids.
“We have an opioid crisis in the United States,” she said. “West Virginia, of all states, has the highest opioid overdose per capita in the country. Huntington has the most overdoses per capita in the state. We’re needed here. We’re here to save lives, get people off of prescription medicine, but more importantly, getting them off of buying things from the street laced with fentanyl that are killing people. I spent a lot of time there in the community, talking to people, and the stories are just heartbreaking.”
Through its Education Center, TerraLeaf is working to end the stigma of cannabis, Visco added. “A lot of times, you’ll have somebody who has an addiction, and their family members won’t let them use cannabis because they feel it furthers the addiction. But the reality is, marijuana has no physically addicting properties whatsoever. We use it as an exit drug.”
Company officials have met with the mayor and members of city council, and so far, the Huntington community has welcomed TerraLeaf, Visco said.
“Everybody is really excited about the opportunity that this brings medicinally, but also, our job is to help build up the community,” she said. “We will spend time in food banks, homeless shelters, and in opioid addiction treatment centers and in elder care homes, educating and supporting the community.”
TerraLeaf plans to create 30 to 35 jobs in Huntington, and the company offers competitive wages starting at $16 an hour for entry-level positions. TerraLeaf also provides a medical insurance, a 401k plan, and disability and life insurance to its employees.
Trulieve is currently the only licensed medical cannabis cultivator in West Virginia that has product available, and Visco said more growers must become operational and sell products wholesale to the state’s dispensaries before TerraLeaf and other retailers can acquire an adequate supply of products for patients.
“It’s a definite concern,” Visco said. “Every grower has their own dispensaries. The state over-licensed. There are 100 dispensaries and 10 growers. So, if these growers are not bound to have to sell to anybody else, there could be a lot of dispensaries sitting open in West Virginia that never have anything to sell.”
While the market finds its footing, TerraLeaf continues welcoming patients into its Education Center to keep the conversation going around medical cannabis.
“Once we establish product in the market, we would definitely be interested in some sort of expansion, but we are waiting and seeing where things play out,” Visco said. “Obviously, 100 dispensaries cannot open in a state with 1.9 million people. We’re looking to see where that plays out, and ultimately, we’re hoping that we’ll legalize fully in West Virginia and that will solve a lot of problems there with product supply and patient population.”
In the meantime, TerraLeaf continues to apply for cannabis licenses in other markets. The company has been awarded licenses in Illinois and New Jersey and has pending applications in Illinois and Ohio. TerraLeaf is also in the process of applying for licenses in Connecticut, as well as additional licenses in New Jersey.
Visco said the company plans to open an Education Center in every market it enters, and Visco also founded a nonprofit organization in 2019 called TerraVida VOWD to help support the victims of the war on drugs.
“They can operate side-by-side to educate people on the racist principles of the prohibition of cannabis, and how African Americans are disproportionately incarcerated over others, and then they’re locked out of the cannabis industry in a lot of states,” Visco said.