Corporate pharmaceutical employee to entrepreneur in the medical cannabis industry… why I have embraced this exciting and unusual career path?

My name is Megan Shank and I am the founder of ANANDA Medical. I have been in the health and wellness field for over 10 years, mainly working for pharmaceutical companies. My last experience in the pharmaceutical industry changed my perspective and career goals. I was truly shocked as I witnessed the horrific opioid epidemic in the USA. Did you know that in 2014 there were over 14,000 deaths from prescription pain medications? I realized that many patients became addicted to these drugs after taking them for routine procedures and surgeries. In fact, 4 in 5 new heroin users actually started with prescription pain pills. I worked for a company that sold a drug indicated for addiction to opioids, both legal and illegal forms. The prescription product we promoted helped many patients improve their quality of life and reduce their risk of overdose. While working in South Carolina, many pain management doctors and addiction specialists said that patients often used cannabis medically to ease withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and pain. I learned that patients from all over the country were substituting cannabis for multiple prescription drugs in order to minimize side effects. Many doctors in SC were not alarmed by illegal cannabis use because it has a strong safety profile and there has never been a single death from a cannabis overdose. It’s disturbing that patients in SC and many other states, who are suffering from chronic pain, can’t get safe access to cannabis when they can easily purchase potentially dangerous pills.

While I loved the friendly people and sunny weather in Charleston, SC, I am grateful that we had an opportunity to move since it changed my perspective and career path forever. We left South Carolina when my husband got a job in Europe. I was hired to teach United States Culture & Geography to students in Stuttgart, Germany. In 2013, there was exciting medical cannabis legislation and emerging evidence about the anti-seizure effects of cannabis. I vividly remember explaining to my class of international students that in the USA laws vary by state and that hundreds of families were moving to Colorado to get safe access to cannabis for their children with epilepsy. While preparing for my lecture, I came to the realization that when we moved back to the US, I could educate the public about cannabis as an adjunct to traditional medications. I decided to learn everything there is to know about medical cannabis, ardently studying the endocannabinoid system and countless research studies.

When we moved back to the states in 2014, I was hired by PharmaCann, one of the largest medical cannabis companies in the US. I became familiar with the cultivation, processing and dispensary aspects of their business which is located in Illinois. I completed accredited medical cannabis courses and attended scientific conferences with world-renowned researchers. Yet, the most compelling knowledge I gained has come from my experience working directly with patients. It’s been rewarding to help patients of all ages find relief for a variety ailments including chronic pain, neuropathy, insomnia, muscle spasms, seizures, anxiety, and depression. Patients are ecstatic when they are finally able to lower their dose and often completely stop taking prescription opioids.

One of my favorite experiences working with patients was attending a focus group with elderly medical cannabis patients. These seventy to eighty-five-year-olds shared experiences of medical cannabis replacing multiple prescription medications for pain, inflammation, sleep and depressive disorders. All of these seniors were adamant that cannabis had drastically improved their quality of life in a way that no traditional pharmaceutical had in the past. I am looking forward to hearing more incredible success stories as we work with new patients and medical providers in Maryland.

It’s lovely to be back in the great state of Maryland, my childhood home. The Maryland Medical Cannabis Program has the potential to help thousands of patients get safe access to cannabis. We have created ANANDA Medical to build a network of informed medical professionals and increase patient access to this powerful plant based medicine. In future blogs, we will highlight the risks and benefits, administrative methods, side effects, and optimal dosing strategies. Please contact us if you need any assistance. Thank you!