Marie Paredes Saloum, owner of GreenPharms Dispensaries, has been a pillar in Arizona’s cannabis community since medical legalization was passed in 2010, eventually opening her first GreenPharms location in 2013. Saloum’s decision to join the cannabis industry was born out of a personal decision to take her husband’s care in a more holistic and natural direction after a severe car accident left him badly injured. Since then, GreenPharms has carved out a top-quality, family-first reputation, collectively dubbing the dispensary’s employees the Pharmily. 

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to the cannabis industry?

In 2008 my husband had a rollover car accident. He broke his back, ribs and they put him on very heavy narcotics and we saw the effects and we looked to something to ween him off and it was cannabis that helped us and we saw the benefits. That’s how the passion started, to try and do this for other people. 

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company? 

I have a patient of ours who has been coming to GreenPharms in Mesa since it opened. When he started coming to us, he was in a wheelchair and on dozens of medications – everything you can think of. He started using cannabis and now he’s still a loyal patient of ours, but he walks in now. He’s out of the wheelchair and he’s on less than half of his prescription pills. 

Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

That I need to make it my mission to educate more people and make them believe in the power and benefits of this plant to show that it should be treated like any other prescription you see at a pharmacy. 

Do you have a funny story about how someone you knew reacted when they first heard you were getting into the cannabis industry? 

I was at the Mesa dispensary one night and my neighbor’s father walks in to the shop. My neighbor does not believe in cannabis and still thinks people only use it to get “high”. If I tell you we both did not know what to say we just stood there and looked at each other, then finally he said don’t tell my daughter you saw me here. I was like I didn’t see nothing. I’m not sure if he ever told my neighbor but he sure did tell his retirement home because he has been a great referral source 

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

It’s my partner in life and everything I do, my husband. He was my inspiration. He was my drive and hasn’t ever left my side. He’s a leader in his own right. Also, my family and my brothers were there from the beginning. They helped me build everything, literally, from the walls up in our Mesa location. To see me succeed, not for their own benefit. That’s what family does. 

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people? 

Our newest project is our very own CBD line, which is Wunder. We’re planning to go national with that one. CBD Wunder is a passion of mine. It’s what I saw we needed in the industry. The CBD here in Arizona was iffy. You didn’t know where it was sourced or derived from. My grandmother suffers from pain and I wasn’t willing to give her anything on the market so I said I’m going to do my own. It has turned into looking at what we’re missing and looking at what people are asking for that we don’t have out here and filling those needs. It’s more about it actually working. That’s the big goal for Wunder, is making sure this works. There are a lot of products available where they barely put anything in it and it’s expensive. I want something that any person can use, but still feel they got a quality product without spending a lot. It’s not about the profit with me. 

Ok. Thank you for all that. Let’s now jump to the  main core of our interview. Despite great progress that has been made we still have a lot more work to do to achieve gender parity in this industry.  According to this report in Entrepreneur, less than 25 percent of cannabis businesses are run by women. In your opinion or experience, what 3 things can be done by a)individuals b)companies and/or c) society to support greater gender parity moving forward?

Stop living in the past and thinking about how things used to be 30 years ago. Women have come a long way since then. Now is the time to take what we bring to the table and put it into the cannabis industry. We bring a special touch that is different than men because we look at things differently. We care about things that men may overlook. There are great benefits to what women can bring to the cannabis industry. We are just as smart and business savvy. Let’s change the way that we think and stop being stuck back in time. 

You are a “Cannabis Insider”. If you had to advise someone about 5 non intuitive things one should know to succeed in the cannabis industry, what would you say? Can you please give a story or an example for each. 

It’s a very long and expensive process that you jump though a lot of hoops that a lot of other industries don’t need to. You will be judged once people hear you’re in cannabis. Expect to lose some friends that don’t agree or believe in the benefits of cannabis. Expect to be a target. Expect to be looked at under a microscope in everything you do. It will affect your family, your children, your school, your church. You’ll see who is who once you break into cannabis. It shouldn’t deter you. If you really want to be in cannabis, keep doing what you’re doing. 

Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the cannabis industry?

It’s a new industry so we are learning every single day.

It’s fun to see who is coming out of the “canna closet”, so to speak. 

You meet people from all walks of life in this industry that have the same passion, but all started from very different places. 

Can you share 3 things that most concern you about the industry? If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to reform or improve the industry, what would you suggest? 

How the industry is perceived by other people is concerning. They think a certain way about you, which is not the case. Another thing that concerns me is corporations that are starting to build in the industry and monopolizing. It used to be about helping patients, now it’s about the profit. It’s also concerning that regular retail is jumping on the CBD train and it’s oversaturating the market with products that aren’t quality because the market isn’t regulated. A lot of times there are products where we don’t even know where it’s derived. 

What are your thoughts about federal legalization of cannabis? If you could speak to your Senator, what would be your most persuasive argument regarding why they should or should not pursue federal legalization?

I think people should take the time to really look at the pros and cons of legalizing marijuana. Make sure they do it to benefit the country itself. The movement is already happening.  

Today, cigarettes are legal, but they are heavily regulated, highly taxed, and they are somewhat socially marginalized. Would you like cannabis to have a similar status to cigarettes or different? Can you explain?

Cannabis should be taxed similarly to pharmaceuticals and how those are taxed. We believe cannabis is a medicine, so I don’t think it should be in the same category as cigarettes. What we’ve seen in California, they tax it like cigarettes even more that it doesn’t benefit what we’re trying to do because you make the black market stronger because people don’t want to pay those taxes. With cigarettes they don’t have a choice. With cannabis, we still have a black market out there with stuff that comes in from God only knows where. So, if they over tax cannabis, people will be trying to get it from an unregulated place. 

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life? 

Not everybody will like you, but not everybody matters. There are a lot of two-faced people and people who look at you negatively because you’re in this industry. At the end of the day, does it really matter? No. I’m not here for them. 

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Everybody gets a hit so everybody can relax and realize that life is good.