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Maryland Pot Patient and Industry Executive Shannon Sweeney

After turning to medicinal Cannabis to heal, Sweeney soon entered the industry and climbed the ladder to a new career.

At 29, Shannon Sweeney has reached a level of contentment with her life she hadn’t previously envisioned possible.

Serving as the Director of Wholesale Sales and Marketing for Evermore Cannabis Company, Shannon finds herself working a dream job – an occurrence she chalks up to divine intervention.

“I went to school to be a weather lady,” laughs Shannon, who earned a bachelor’s degree in geography from Salisbury University. “I interned at WBOC 16 in Salisbury my senior year and discovered that a career in front of the camera was not for me; I’m more introverted.”

Her path to peace, she says, involved navigating the pitfalls of a failed dream and pushing beyond the cloud of doubt that surfaced in its ruins.

“After graduating, I found myself working random, unfulfilling jobs to make ends meet,” she said. “I waited tables and bartended for a bit.”

A recreational user since the age of 17, Shannon’s interest in plant cultivation was piqued by a homegrown hobby of nurturing succulents and cacti. In 2016, she followed the botanical grapevine into Rohrersville, Maryland, where she served as a wine associate for Big Cork Vineyards for four-plus years.

In 2019, she had a tasting with Brandon Allen, a partner and educator at Trichome Institute – a Cannabis-specific organization that provided certificate-level programs to educate consumers, dispensary staff, entrepreneurs and more. Brandon convinced Shannon to become a Cannabis Sommelier, learning to evaluate Cannabis flower for total quality control, as well as its psychotropic effects. While taking the course, the cosmos aligned, Shannon says.

“I had just become a medical patient and now I was learning how to interpret terpenes,” she said. “That year, I had started my blog, The Stoned Sommelier, where I paired local wines with local Cannabis. And at the same time, [Maryland Leaf Magazine] came out with its [September issue of] Tannins and Terpenes. So it just felt like I was being nudged in that direction. It was a beautiful conglomeration.”

Three months later, Shannon was hired by Curaleaf (now known as Kind Tree), working as a trimmer.

“I was a trimmer for a few months, but spent most of my time in cultivation and propagation,” she said.  

Shannon was then hired as the marketing coordinator by District Cannabis, who had just entered the Maryland market at the time.

“I started in the trim room and then they moved me over to marketing,” she said. “It started out as me begging them to let me do pop-up events and eventually opened the door to design, copywriting, blogging and content creation. We really brought life to the [DC] brand in its first year.”

After a year and a half with District Cannabis, Shannon was given the opportunity to be the Director of Marketing for Evermore Brands – a vertically-integrated medical Cannabis company in Baltimore. She has served in that role since this past January.

“It’s just been a dream,” she said, heaping praise onto her team. “Evermore cares about the patients and they make sure we stay true to the nature of the plant. They have a lot of integrity, and that’s what I look for when I am affiliating myself with a brand.”

A sufferer of an eating disorder known as ARFID (Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder), Shannon makes it a point to remind herself why she is in the industry: the patients. She was especially delighted to be a part of the Tannins and Terpenes issue, bringing her journey full circle.

“Having been in the market for three years, I’ve seen the education of the patients evolve,” she said. “Patients really do have a good grasp of the terpenes. And since so many new strains come to the market, there’s always something to explore.”

Experimenting, she says, can bring some levity to the healing journey. Shannon still does wine and Cannabis pairings, but recently gravitated to IPA beers, which feature the terpene myrcene. She advises operating in moderation as the pairing experience can be extremely psychoactive. Safety (place and setting) is also an important consideration. Shannon often chooses a wine from the menu, purchases a bottle from the vineyard, finds a pre-roll to match and conducts the tasting in the comfort of her home.

“It’s an experience,” she smiled. “I usually start by researching a local brewery or winery, and look at what they have to offer. In the northern part of the state, you might get shale-heavy soil, so the flavor is mineral rich. Whereas the Eastern Shore is sandy, you get this loamy soil, and it just imparts a different flavor onto the grapes.”

Shannon encourages beginners to trust their palate above all else.

“Smell and taste are so connected,” she said. “If you smell or taste a nuance in your weed, but someone else has a different experience, neither of you are wrong. It’s a spectrum.”

With the Maryland Marijuana Legalization Amendment on the ballot November 8, she hopes if residents vote in favor of a recreational bill, that Cannabis lounges will soon follow suit. She’s come a long way from forecasting weather patterns, to now speculating on market trends regarding a flower she loves.

“No matter where the future takes me, a huge chunk of my heart will always stay in those grow rooms. That’s family!” she said. “So much magic happens behind those closed doors and it’s my job to capture it.”

“The camaraderie … the music … the 80-degree heat,” she reminisced, getting nostalgic. “I’m not sure what the algorithm is exactly, but it’s symbiosis in its purest form. Happy people equal happy plants – equal happy patients.” 

This article was originally published in the September 2022 issue of Maryland Leaf.

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