Once the news broke in April, 2016, that medical cannabis had been signed into law in Pennsylvania, TerraVida's President, Chris Visco was approached by a colleague about the program. As the owner of a business consultant, marketing, and political strategy firm, Chris was invited to a meeting with a group of investors who were meeting to hear a pitch from a potential grow applicant. The investor pitch was significantly lacking in a strategic business plan, and Chris was asked to consult on the project. After further research, it was determined that this was not a viable business for this applicant.
In a casual conversation with her current business partner, Adina Birnbaum, regarding the program, there was an immediate revelation; we could do this, on our own! Both Adina and Chris have been lifelong community advocates and understood the value of medical cannabis to a state's economy and to millions of patients nationwide. They had each watched as friends and loved ones had suffered from debilitating diseases where pain and suffering could have been greatly diminished with medical cannabis.
In the blink of an eye, the women were off and running assembling a team of professionals to join them in their pursuit of a medical marijuana license in Pennsylvania. Pulling together a diverse team of highly qualified professionals was the easy part. What most people do not realize is that the process of applying was an extremely expensive process. The pursuit of investors, willing to lose their investment should a license not be awarded, was the challenge. Much of the pushback was that there were so many many "big money" people applying. The perception was that small business owners would have very little chance of winning.
Because of their experience of running successful businesses, their years of retail experience and strategic business skills eventually gained the confidence of early investors. The Pennsylvania Department of Health's regulations were very restrictive regarding locations, extensive and extremely expensive security protocols, and the limited time to complete the application process was daunting.
Working around the clock for nearly a year, the application became available on January 17th, 2017 and was completed on March 20th. In those 8 weeks, TerraVida Holistic Centers secured 4 properties in 4 unique counties and received by right zoning for all properties. Four applications were submitted with each of the four properties as the primary county. On June 28th, 2017 TerraVida received a license to operate in Montgomery, Bucks and Philadelphia Counties with the highest score in the Southeast region and the second highest score in the state from The Department of Health!
Since that date, it has been a rollercoaster ride! Medical marijuana is still federally illegal which presents many problems for state license holders including banking, insurance, resistance from property owners, fears from communities, risk assessments from investors, and a lack of patient and physician education. TerraVida has overcome many hurdles, but there is still much work to do. Marijuana dispensaries are currently required to be open for business by December 28th. Product must be purchased from Pennsylvania's 12 growers. Most growers have not broken grown as of September, which calls into question whether dispensaries will have the product to sell by the end of the year. Regardless, TerraVida is committed to doing everything we can to be open and begin serving patients as soon as possible.