Business Owner Emily McCune on Cannabis, Recovery, and a Post-Legalization World
For Emily McCune, addiction recovery began with cannabis. She had struggled through abusive relationships, financial hardships, and drug abuse – to include cocaine and alcohol. Ironically, she says she rarely touched marijuana, as the effects left her feeling good at a time when she wanted to feel bad. She was anxious, depressed, and suffering from PTSD. Where a cocktail of medications left her ill at ease, McCune says she found the beginnings of peace when she discovered the medicinal benefits of cannabis.
Today, following the federal legalization of hemp cultivation and manufacturing of hemp-derived products in 2018 and further pro-cannabis legislation in Minnesota last month, McCune marks more than three years sober and the launch of her new business, Sugar High Cannabis Consulting and Dispensary – the city's first hemp product dispensary.
Beauty in the Mundane
It started at home. McCune began creating cannabis-infused edibles for her own use in the summer of 2019, but word got around. Her clientele represented women between the ages of 50 and 80 more than any other group – some seeking a new entertainment, others looking to reduce alcohol consumption, relieve pain, or mitigate mental health challenges such as depression, anxiety, or insomnia.
"They're realizing that they've spent a lifetime not enjoying the euphoria of cannabis," McCune says. And for some, that euphoria and a sense of wonder at the mundane is reason enough.
"There's nothing wrong with that," McCune says. "Nothing."
Her success in edibles led to cannabis consultations, often with emotional outcomes.
"People would ask if I could come to their home and talk to them about marijuana use by their teenagers – they had concerns, they had questions," she recalls. "Sometimes people want to discuss options for their elderly parents. There's nowhere else for these people to turn besides the internet."
Following a consultation last spring with a mother concerned over discovering her teen smoking pot (a 3-hour visit interspersed with soul searching and tears, as she describes it), McCune knew she had stumbled onto something bigger than her cottage food business.
"I sobbed," McCune recalls. "I just never, ever, ever felt better or more joyful than I did from helping that family. That was a turning point for me."
She turned to Greater Fergus Falls (GFF), who put her in touch with an expert mentor, serial entrepreneur and GFF consultant Beth Pridday. McCune says she had come to their meeting passionate but clueless on how to proceed. The conversation allowed her to be vulnerable and test her ideas without fear of judgment. When she proposed to Pridday the notion of a non-profit cannabis consultancy, Pridday turned the concept on its head, asking, "Why not for-profit, though?"
That was March 15, three days before the third anniversary of McCune's sobriety. Every year, McCune travels out of the country to mark her "sober day," which lands on March 18. She booked a plane to Jamaica and spent the flight and vacation drafting a business plan to pitch on her return.
Sugar High Cannabis Consulting and Dispensary opened its doors for the first time officially on August 22. In the months between her Jamaican vacation and launch, McCune assembled a team of ten staff members, each trained as Certified Cannabis Caregivers through a program produced by Washington D.C.-based medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access. She says each team member brings a unique background and a passion for the burgeoning cannabis industry.
"What we're really wanting to do is lay the foundation to be ready for post legalization [of marijuana]," McCune explains. She says she's seen the medicinal benefits of cannabis products in her own life and wants to spread the word to others.
"Cannabis does not discriminate," she observes. "That's what's beautiful about it. You put it into your body and it will do what it needs to do without you having to lift a finger. I don't take creidt for that. I'm just a good vessel to get it out there."
A business partnership was also formed in June of this year to accelerate the company's big plans for the future. With the addition of partners Logan and Jasmine Sonmor, McCune sees the company moving toward the manufacturing of cannabis edibles as soon as this fall (which will require locating a secondary facility for manufacturing and provide several new jobs).
The new partnership will also enable Sugar High to begin its own hemp production as soon as next year. McCune's ten-year business plan includes cultivation, manufacturing, and CBD isolation in addition to consulting, workshops, and public education. All of it beginning with the storefront on Lincoln Avenue.
"I love the revitalization of downtown Fergus Falls and feel so honored to have a store downtown," she says. "I love the history here, I love all the redevelopment plans – I'm a huge cheerleader for Fergus Falls."
If all goes to plan, she'll retire a millionaire to a hobby farm by her 50th birthday, but she'll never leave behind her role as a voice for cannabis. After years of struggles, she says that launching a business and seeing her own impact continues to teach her things about herself she hadn't known.
"The glow-up has been really rewarding. I could die happy now, and there's so much more ahead of me," she says. "Everything that's happening is like dreams coming true that I never knew I had."
- R.C. Drews for Greater Fergus Falls
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