First State Compassion Widens Career Path for Women

First State Compassion (FSC), 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. They are 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.”

Fact: Nearly 37% of senior-level jobs at cannabis companies are held by women, according to a Marijuana Business Daily survey. Compared to the national female business executive percentage of 21%, that’s an impressive number regardless of the industry! In the predominantly male-dominated industry of medical marijuana, FSC has helped narrow the local gender gap by increasing female executive leadership opportunities at their dispensary locations through great career pathways in human resources, sales, patient engagement and regulatory compliance.  

The workforce at FSC have a genuine passion for the industry: they quickly let you know they are fierce advocates for the natural healing powers of the cannabis plant and 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. Meet the Delaware medical marijuana industry’s next generation of female pioneers:

Morgan Hewes, Human Resource Generalist, Wilmington/Lewes

Morgan Hewes is FSC’s Human Resource Generalist, Wilmington/Lewes. 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% 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. They’re unstoppable!”

Deborah Springer, Compliance & Purchasing Senior Manager, Wilmington/Lewes

As FSC’s Compliance & Purchasing Senior Manager, Wilmington/Lewes, 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, Deborah wanted to apply these skills to her work within the industry. “I definitely feel I’m in the right place to help with the growth of this company.” 

Haley Schell, Director of Regional Retail Operations, Wilmington/Lewes

Haley Schell, FSC’s Director of Regional Retail Operations, Wilmington/Lewes, oversees the overall wellbeing and efficiency of the dispensaries and the employees that work there. “I believe in the power of cannabis as a medicine and want to eliminate the stigma associated with the plant. This is 100% my career!” Haley’s passion goes back to her love for helping people live a better quality of life, especially in her home state of Delaware. 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.”

Natalie Landolfi, Senior Manager of Extraction & Packing, Wilmington

“I wanted to be part of the industry for many reasons, but primarily to help people and spread knowledge about cannabis.” That’s how Senior Manager of Extraction & Packing, Wilmington, Natalie Landolfi describes her inspiration for working with medical marijuana at FSC, where she is mastering the various techniques for marijuana extraction, refinement, formulation and infusion. She still finds herself surprised at all the science involved in her role as well as how it’s impacted her personal growth. “If you would have told me where I’d be today, I wouldn’t have believed it. The self-worth and confidence I’ve developed here has contributed to who I am today. There is a saying: When you love what you do, you never work a day in your life. Boy, that’s true.”

Unique Richardson, FSC Senior Manager of Inventory, Wilmington/Lewes

Unique Richardson, the FSC Senior Manager of Inventory, Wilmington/Lewes, is responsible for making sure each department gets enough materials to meet the needs of the 9000 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!”

Lauren Forake, Senior Communications Manager, Wilmington/Lewes

FSC’s Senior Communications Manager, Wilmington/Lewes, Lauren Foraker collaborates daily with the CEO and regional director of retail operations on advocating for medical cannabis treatment. Previously, while working in the higher education industry, Lauren sustained a life-threatening and excruciatingly painful neck injury: medical marijuana was her saving grace. As a then patient, she was introduced to an FSC tincture medicine: “In the 12 minutes it took to take full effect, my life changed for the better.” Joining 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.”

Sheila Cole, Manager of Quality Assurance & Control, Wilmington

Sheila Cole is FSC’s Manager of Quality Assurance & Control, Wilmington. She runs audits to make sure product is properly packed, and ensures testing is done to ensure no contaminants are found. Numbers are her life, unsurprising after her former role working 47 years in the banking industry.  After retiring, she wanted a change of pace but something that still involved helping people.  “My fiancée was an FSC patient. He told me about the wonderful camaraderie and upbeat atmosphere at FSC – so I applied for a job.” Biggest surprise? “How many different forms the medication can take – tinctures, capsules, lotions. So many ways to help people. I love it and want to keep doing it for the rest of my working life.”

Gina Davis, Wilmington Dispensary Manager

Gina Davis is FSC’s Wilmington Dispensary Manager. She started work in the ‘pack and trim’ department, then promoted to Patient Advisor and Lead Patient Advisor before her current position. “I’m amazed at how hard people work, from growing the plants to taking care of patient needs.” Gina learned about the benefits of medical marijuana treatment from a friend, and fell in love with it: “I was not a fan of opioids as medication.” Before considering working in the industry she did her research – starting with visiting dispensaries on the west coast. “I’ve always had jobs helping people, but I wanted to get involved in something new that was still growing. I expect to stay in this industry for a very long time.”

Savannah Phillips, Lewes Dispensary Manager

Savannah Phillips, FSC’s 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.”

 “This is an exciting new world,” says CEO 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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