This story was originally published in the October 2017 issue of Marijuana Venture, on sale now online at a store near you.
Founder | iCann Health | Berkeley, California
Sue Taylor has an infectious charisma that is hard to nail down. Perhaps it’s the homespun inflection that hangs off the end of her sentences or the earnest way she talks to each person — friends and strangers alike — as if she’d been waiting to hear from them all day.
Or maybe it’s just her genuine enthusiasm for life.
“It chose me,” Taylor says of the cannabis industry. “I didn’t choose it. The universe used my son to tell me.”
The mother of three is an ordained minister, a member of the Alameda County Advisory Commission on Aging, a former Catholic school principal and co-author of a book on parenting called, “Who’s Running the Show?” She has degrees in social science, education and divinity and has been certified by the state to provide medical marijuana education to health-care providers and administrators. She also moonlights as an aerobics instructor.
And she’s a leading entrepreneur in California’s blossoming cannabis industry with plans to open her own dispensary, iCann Health in Oakland, about six blocks from her prior life as school principal for the Oakland Catholic Diocese.
Her son was the first person to try and convince her of cannabis being a viable medicine, but at that time, more than a decade ago, she had a completely different perspective on the plant.
“My immediate thought was ‘Lord, where did I go wrong?” Taylor says. “I sent him to college, put him in a good Catholic school and now he tells me he wants to sell weed.”
Taylor was originally devastated, but she researched some information on the medical uses of cannabis provided by her son.
“I read what he sent me and I packed up all my stuff within two weeks and I haven’t gone back,” Taylor says. “I have a home in Buckhead, Georgia that I haven’t been to since.”
Her conversion to cannabis advocate didn’t happen overnight — it actually took years — but seeing the medical benefits firsthand made her a true believer.
“I could not turn my back on the healing I witnessed,” Taylor says.
After being converted, Taylor’s passion took over. She spent five years as the senior outreach representative for Harborside Health Center in Berkeley, traveling to senior care facilities to give presentations on the benefits and detriments of medical cannabis, while also learning the concerns seniors have about cannabis products. After learning the finer points of the cannabis industry and its relationship with seniors, Taylor set out to open her own dispensary.
Construction of the dispensary is being completed and, despite the city’s slow permitting process, iCann Health is slated to open Oct. 2. Taylor says if the city continues to drag its feet she may “go over there and expedite the process” herself. Given her penchant for discourse and attention to detail, nobody would be surprised if that kicked city officials into high gear. But in the event the opening gets pushed back a little, Taylor admits that it might be for the best.
“The way I see things, that dispensary is going to open when it’s supposed to,” Taylor says. “Because everything I do is perfectly in the right order and this is no different.”
While iCann will serve both recreational customers and medical patients, the retail outlet will primarily focus on seniors as its core demographic. Taylor’s background in education helps ensure all employees are properly trained to handle issues seniors face that cannabis can alleviate.
“We want to have a place where seniors can come and feel comfortable,” Taylor says. “We’ll train staff on how to talk to elders, because, you see, in the United States, there is an overall lack of respect for elders in our country and I aim to bring that back.”
Taylor says the first time she went to a dispensary, patience was a missing virtue. When a senior visits a dispensary and asks the same question several times, it’s not because they don’t understand the answer, Taylor says; it’s because the employee doesn’t understand the question.
Taylor, like many Americans, is also concerned about the increasing dependence on pharmaceutical solutions for ailments.
“Most seniors have a bag of pills when I meet them,” Taylor says.
But she is careful to point out that cannabis isn’t a miracle cure for all ailments. She wants to make sure patients take a broader approach their wellbeing.
“I’ll promote total health for the body, mind and spirit,” Taylor says. “You want to be the best you, while you walk this Earth. It all works together; cannabis is just one part of it. It’s a spiritual approach to cannabis for me.”