A car accident can change someone’s life in an instant. For Marie Paredes Saloum, it led her to open a cannabis dispensary.
After she saw cannabis’ healing properties while her husband was recovering from his car accident, Paredes Saloum became the founder and CEO of GreenPharms Dispensary. She opened her first location in Flagstaff in 2013 and then expanded into Mesa in 2016. As a female with Hispanic roots leading an industry that’s largely dominated by males and formidable investor groups, Paredes Saloum has taken an active role in advocacy, community philanthropy, cannabis education and providing medical certifications to patients across the state.
Az Business sat down with the 35-year-old pioneer of Arizona’s marijuana industry to learn about her role and what she believes is at the heart of the heavily-regulated — and, at times, controversial — cannabis industry: patients.
Az Business: What attracted you the cannabis industry?
Marie Paredes Saloum: After my husband’s car accident, cannabis is what weaned him off pills and I saw how beneficial it was. From there, my passion for cannabis has grown. From a business standpoint, it was a brand new market that hadn’t been really touched here in Arizona. From a personal standpoint, I actually stand by and believe in what it’s for. I believe that’s what drives me because I have perspective from both sides — I’m in the business, but I’m also a patient.
AB: How big is the cannabis industry in Arizona?
MPS: The first dispensary in Arizona opened in 2012 and now there are about 120. The patient count is growing by the day, so I see it expanding and growing rapidly. Hopefully, the initiative to legalize recreational cannabis will be on the ballot in 2020. If that passes, I believe the industry will reach even greater heights because more people will be able to use it.
AB: What are the biggest challenges the cannabis industry faces in Arizona?
MPS: I think more people need to be educated and ask questions to be more open-minded about cannabis. We don’t really talk about it, other than you believe in cannabis or you don’t, so by discussing what the issues are with cannabi, some progress can be made.
AB: What qualities do you have that helped you become an effective leader of your company?
MPS: It’s my passion for cannabis and its healing capabilities and building relationships with our patients. I think having my husband by my side and putting people around me that believe in the same things I do — such as cannabis industry standards — has helped me lead GreenPharms to what it is now.
AB: What professional accomplishment gives you the most pride?
MPS: What makes me proud is that people see that we care. We receive recognition and awards, which I appreciate because that means the patients see our vision for GreenPharms.
AB: What do people in Arizona need to know about the state’s cannabis industry that might surprise them?
MPS: I think it would surprise them how organized and structured the dispensaries are. We have more regulations on what we do and are forensically inspected more than probably any other industry in Arizona. We are an emerging industry that is setting standards that I hope will carry over to other industries that are not as structured as dispensaries.