Sanctuary Spotlight: Kaleigh Ryan

  • By Jake May
  • Mar 31, 2022

Sanctuary Woburn Makes Leafly’s Best Massachusetts Dispensaries List!

How did you first break into the cannabis industry and, by extension, Sanctuary? 

I was actually lucky enough to get called for an interview when Danvers was opening. I technically applied for the Woburn location, but when I went to the interview, the GM at the time said, “If you live in Peabody, we have a location that’s opening in Danvers first.” It was the first conversation I’ve had with [Sanctuary] and I was like, “This is definitely what I want to do.” I didn’t really know [what I wanted to do] at that time;  a year before, I had applied to another medical dispensary that my friend worked at. When I interviewed, they told me that they didn’t think that I was fit for the medical side. I was kind of bummed out and saw that as my one opportunity to get into the industry.

I was just applying to a bunch of different jobs, mostly medical billing, stuff like that. I ended up getting a call [from Sanctuary] and figured I’d go to the interview just to get the experience. After sitting down with [dispensary management] and having a conversation with them, I felt that it was a little bit more than a coincidence. It felt like that was where I was supposed to be at the time. I did prefer the medical side, but that was just from talking to my friend–I had no experience whatsoever. In thinking about the industry, you have to have your medical card and a condition. From what he said, the pace was a lot slower than recreational and it wasn’t crazy all day long. 

What were some of the early lessons learned in cannabis that stick with you to this day? 

I think a big piece is doing your own research and everything that you can outside of work. When you’re at work, there’s only so much you can do while you’re here and only so much that the company can provide you. If you step outside of that, do some research and build up your knowledge every day, you feel prepared. It’s also about treating each patient differently based on their needs but the same on a respect level, treating others how you want to be treated while handling patients as separate entities. 

What makes working on the medicinal side of the cannabis market unique, challenging or exciting? 

The big challenge is definitely allotments, certification and registration because a lot of people had no idea that even existed. Having to explain to someone that wants to buy an ounce that they can only buy a couple of pre-rolls that day sometimes doesn’t go over well. You have to work on your communication skills and being helpful rather than just saying, “Oh, sorry, can’t help you today.” It’s like, okay, let’s try to get you in your MassCI Portal, call the doctor and see if there’s anything that they can push through. I think that’s definitely one of the big challenges, but it also makes it exciting given how many people have gotten their medical card since the pandemic started. We saw so many more medical patients once they shut rec down, and that definitely led to the challenge of getting higher volume while still maintaining that personalized, one-on-one experience every single time.

In terms of professional development, how has the cannabis industry helped you grow? What are some of those skills? 

I have really refined my time and project management skills juggling multiple projects at a time, prioritizing what gets done first, what gets pushed to the back burner, all while still making sure that I’m available for the team, whether it’s physically helping them out on the floor, emotionally if there’s some stuff going on or they need to talk about anything. Working under pressure and in such a fast-paced environment is another one; I don’t think, going into this job, I would have said that you’re working under pressure, but when we’re super busy and we have inventory issues going on, it definitely comes into play. I wasn’t entirely expecting it, but it’s definitely one of the areas where I’ve grown as a person.

What are some of your hopes for the future, both for yourself and the cannabis industry as a whole? 

For cannabis to keep growing! Honestly, things have come so far in five or six years. I’m starting to see some of the progression; for example, this year, when you renew the CCC Registered Agent cards, it’s a five-year or a three-year registration now instead of one year. That’s important, and I would love to see that on the patient side for med cards too because that helps alleviate those issues we talked about. I’m looking forward to federal legalization, but at the same time, I know it’s going to come with the capitalization, if you will, of the industry. Talking to different patients who do work as advocates for other patients is really cool; talking to them, hearing their ideas and where they see the industry going. 

That’s one of my favorite things about Sanctuary too; ever since I started, all the company has done is grow, and that’s super exciting from the inside and the outside. When you’re part of the company and know that you have different opportunities available, or if you see that there’s a gap or something that could be filled in, you can say, “Hey, this is something I could definitely help the company with, I’d be willing to take that on.” They’re willing to listen and understand that we’re growing and want you to grow with us. You see the heights that we can take this company to–not literally, of course (laughs). Everyone’s crushing it over in Littleton with all the products, everything in the kitchen, lab, the grow team. It’s been really cool working for a company that has such great products and such great, passionate people behind it, because you can really tell. Even with people who I know that either shop recreationally or don’t really go to dispensaries, they know Sanctuary, which is so cool.

What is the personal significance of managing and leading others in an industry often dominated by men? What do you enjoy the most about being a GM? 

I think the big thing is just that I’m here and I’m doing it. Women have that stigma of being emotional, but then you take a look at women who are in management positions–they’re crushing it, and they don’t fall into people’s stereotypes. You definitely get a sense from some patients, but in the industry–I don’t even want to say that I haven’t noticed it, but I just feel like I haven’t really run into any more challenges being a woman than a man. No one has ever said, “Maybe so-and-so who’s a guy would be better” or anything like that. I always told [leadership] that I was interested, willing to move up, willing to take the opportunity and the responsibility, and they were like, “All right, let’s go.” I’m definitely super thankful for that and for the GM who hired me and gave me the opportunity. I’m sure you could find it in other industries, but I definitely see the cannabis industry welcoming anyone, any minority group with open arms and into a judgment-free zone where it’s just, “Show us what you got.” 

My favorite thing about being a GM specifically is being able to give people the same opportunity that I was given to break into the industry. To talk about something you love all day and try to help people along the way is such a beautiful combination. Being able to help grow the younger employees by giving them inventory experience, management experience, training, all that good stuff they can carry with them throughout their professional careers–that’s what really does it for me. I know I wouldn’t be here without that opportunity and without those around me helping to foster that growth, so now I’m just returning the favor.

Favorite Sanctuary products? 

I feel like I have to break them down by categories. I got a Puffco a couple of years ago, so I got into all the concentrates, but before this job it was really just flour. As I learned more about cannabis and wanted to be more knowledgeable with patients, I started trying [concentrates] and got hooked. Honestly, I’ll try anything Zmints 11; Blue Cheese is another one. A lot of the baked goods I love, like the caramel stroopwafel cookie, the oatmeal cream cookie. The first time I had the oatmeal cream cookie, I had the bag inside-out so I could get all the icing on the inside. The new Snooze gummies have been awesome; I’ve always had trouble sleeping but never really took melatonin or anything, so those have been awesome and huge for me.