Current Affairs

Cannabis Empowerment in Pittsburgh:

Cresco Yeltrah and Pure Penn Gather Pennsylvania Industry Leaders & the Community for an Educational Fundraiser

Cannabis is sweeping across North America, as well as other places on Earth, as modern Earthlings have re-educated themselves on this ancient plant. Throughout history, our ancestors recognized that powerful medicines can be extracted from plants, including cannabis. But with the advent of modern medicine, it seems plant-derived wellness was cast as solely suitable for the shaman, the hippie, or the new age star child. With frightening stories, however, of egregious side effects, pharmaceutical-related deaths, or the apathetic mental state of many people who have succumbed to pill dependency or addiction, cannabis has threatened the throne of the pharmaceutical, and healed its way onto the center stage of modern science and medicine. In fact, for many people, cannabis is the only medicine that helps.

Cresco Yeltrah and PurePenn, two of Western Pennsylvania’s grower/processor licensees, and two of the leading cannabis product manufacturers in the state, endeavored to raise donations at their mid-December “Meet the Industry” event held in Pittsburgh. Donations from philanthropic attendees were made out to PA Compassionate Caregivers to help support their mission.

Beth Bittner, Director of Communications and Outreach at Cresco Yeltrah, and Gina Rosso, Community Liaison at PurePenn, organized the gathering and provided us with insight into the event’s conception.

PA Compassionate Caregivers was founded by Diana Briggs, mother of Ryan Briggs”, Beth explained. Diana’s organization, which is currently run through funding provided by her family, assists with registering patients and caregivers for the Pennsylvania Medical Cannabis Program. “One of their goals,” Beth added, “is to pay all or part of the $50 yearly cost for a caregiver’s card, and provide caregivers with gas cards to help offset the cost of driving to dispensaries and delivering medication to patient’s homes. Caregivers play a huge roll in the program for children, home bound, and especially terminal patients.”

The role of the caregiver in the medical cannabis industry is much like that of a home-health nurse. They act on their patients’ behalves by selecting and transporting medical cannabis products. In special cases, they may need to administer the products to children. A caregiver needs to be an educated guide, and thus it’s essential that they have outlets for obtain that education.

“I have been passionately speaking about the Pennsylvania Medical [Cannabis] Program for roughly two years,” Beth explained. “In those two years, I have had the privilege of meeting incredible people, including Heather Shuker and Diana, that have been a major inspiration to me and probably the biggest driving force behind my passion for this program.”

“Back in September”, Beth continued, “while speaking on available jobs in a dispensary and/or a grow facility, it became clear there was still a gap in knowledge regarding the program and what it entails, so I suggested we hold a ‘Meet the Industry Night’.”Gina and Beth began cultivating what the proposed event would look like. “We sought to bring together investors, testing lab professionals, certifying physicians, security teams, legal professionals, data collection groups and the community,” Beth explained.

“Community is a core value of PA’s Medical [Cannabis] Program, our mission at PurePenn, and everything that Diana and Heather do,” Gina added. “We saw the need for an event for the public to learn about the incredible network in the industry and how Heather and Diana were an integral part of the program’s creation.”

Many people who are turning to medical cannabis in Western PA are very new to this industry. Often, nascent cardholders are shocked and confused by the scale of the cannabis industry’s quick evolution. It’s hard enough to keep up with trendy cultivar names, or the array of different concentrate types. Cannabinoid and terpene profiles printed on the packaging can create a dizzying sea of numbers and terms that may engulf beginners. An increasing number of people are exploring the data and experimenting with different products to find what works best for them. Or, better yet, they go to events like this one, where the brains of the industry leaders are available for picking.

Patients who cannot travel to these events or to the dispensary to communicate directly with the pharmacist, must rely on the expertise of their chosen caregiver. And caregivers, in turn,require a repository of information from industry professionals whose job it is to know the answers or where to get them.Thus, ‘Meet the Industry’ nights are an opportune way to interface inquisitive consumers with educated professionals, while simultaneously collecting generous donations for non-profit organizations looking to enact change.

“Heather, Diana, and mothers like them face challenges every day that we cannot imagine”, Beth said. “They spend many sleepless nights taking care of their children, take countless trips to the hospital, and still must keep moving the next day. Yet, they selflessly help others by speaking at events or taking patient phone calls or being caregivers for patients almost every day, sometimes driving hours to and from patient’s homes. They don’t complain, they just keep moving and doing.”

Heather Shuker and her daughter Hannah were part of a team of other mothers and their children that were instrumental in helping get the Pennsylvania Medical [Cannabis] Law passed. Medical cannabis became a passion for her as she’s seen many individuals benefit from it, including her daughter. When Heather witnessed how effective medical cannabis was at decreasing her daughter’s seizures, she realized that “medical cannabis was an essential ingredient in my recipe for life.”“That was how our company, Empower Your Odyssey, was born”, Heather explained.“Our mission with this company is to continue to educate the public on the benefits of this safe alternative treatment option. The design on our t-shirt is significant since it gets people to ask questions and provides an opportunity to educate.”

Empower Your Odyssey has the additional mission of helping to fight epilepsy via the start-up company Hannahtopia, an online boutique that benefits children suffering from medical challenges. A portion of the proceeds from Empower Your Odyssey products is donated to non-profit epilepsy organizations.

“Over $20,000 dollars was raised for PA Compassionate Caregivers and Empower Your Odyssey,” Gina reported. And people are still submitting donations. “New business relationships were forged, and old ones were reinforced,” Beth added. “The feedback has been phenomenal, and so many people have asked us to do this again.”

The proceeds Heather received from the “Meet the Industry Night” will go directly towards the production of a product she developed for children that are required to get the medical procedure, EEG. These are sold exclusively at “Those that donated and participated at the event should feel joy knowing they are making a difference in a child’s life that suffers from medical challenges daily,” Heather added.“We are so grateful for Beth from Cresco Yeltrah and Gina from PurePenn for hosting and coordinating the wonderful event, and are thankful for the generosity from people that believe in our mission and feel our passion.”

In a recent interview with Extraction Magazine, master grower Ed Rosenthal discussed the ideals of the hippie culture, obviously symbiotic with the cannabis industry, as leading to their winning of the so-called culture war, in part through their empathetic efforts for social equality. [1] Carl Sagan described cannabis as helping encourage “fellowship” amongst humanity.Stimulated empathy from cannabis ingestion can make it easier for people to comprehend that there are others out there besides themselves, and thus recognize the importance of being Earthlings, rather than building walls. Cannabis not only helps those who consume it feel better; it also augments our capacity to recognize the benefits from helping others achieve a little more happiness, harmoniousness, or comfort. The event coordinated by Beth and Gina exemplified this wonderful aspect of humanity that cannabis accentuates.

The outcome of the “Meet the Industry” should serve as a template for everyone across the cannabis industry, the privileged individuals who make a living by getting more acquainted with, and then educating others on this ancient plant.


[1] Lupoi, J. “When Rock Stars Scry”, Extraction Magazine, Issue 5, Nov-Dec 2018.

About the author

Jason S. Lupoi, Ph.D.

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