From First Grade Teacher to Dispensary Owner

Northern Specialty Health Penny

The Story of One Michigan Mother, Wife, and Entrepreneur

Content Sponsored by Northern Specialty Health 

Written by CannaLance

If you ask folks in the cannabis sector how they got into the business, they have an interesting story regarding how it happened. Some choose the ganjapreneur path after seeing a loved one benefit from cannabis, some can’t pass the opportunity for future generational wealth, others get in it because they simply love the plant. Regardless of the reason, more people are seeking and gaining employment in the vastly expanding cannabis sector. You might be surprised where some of them came from. Most of us know where names like Joe Montana, Mike Tyson, and Whoopie Goldberg came from but what about Penny Milkey? 

Penny is a mom, a wife, and along with her husband they are the owners of Northern Specialty Health in Houghton, Michigan. Penny has always had a passion for helping others and wanting to make the world a bit better of a place. As a teacher, she was highly respected by her colleagues, the administration, principal, superintendent, parents, and students alike. After several years of helping sculpt the minds of children during the beginning of their academic studies, Penny decided to make a career change influenced by an accident her husband had. In her new line of work Penny still helps educate people. Penny has to have compassion, conviction, and dedication to succeed on top of being knowledgeable in this field. Penny says, “the hours I spent in the classroom prepped me for this.” 

Getting into the dispensary business came with many ups and downs as it does for many. For Penny and her husband, the most rewarding and challenging obstacles they faced together was obtaining a license under the MMFLA. Penny stated the following in regard;

“I was and still am so thankful for all of my years in the public school system.  As for the cannabis industry, the biggest obstacle was the licensing process for the MMFLA.  That process almost broke us. We want to be here for the patients that need us.  Without that license, they’d be left with no options.  It was a very difficult process and to be given this opportunity, was a huge reward. “ 

Penny’s husband, Ryan, experienced a terrible ATV accident in 2007, which resulted in him breaking his neck and back. Opiates nearly took his life but, he was given a second chance. Cannabis gave him that second chance. During her husband’s recovery, Penny and her husband saw first-hand how effective cannabis is as a medicine.  This was an event that changed them both. The passion that was invoked in both of their lives for this plant was something they knew they wanted to help others experience, so in 2013, they opened a dispensary. Because Penny was still a school teacher, Ryan operated the dispensary himself.

 In 2016, Penny resigned from her career as a 1st-grade teacher to help her husband with the business venture. It was a change fueled by her passion for helping. A passion which was born in the classroom. While you may not think that there are similarities between being a 1st-grade teacher and owning a dispensary, you may be surprised. To Penny, the most significant similarity was with being under the scrutiny of the public eye. 

“As a public school teacher, you’re under the watch of the administration and school board, the parents, and the students, themselves. As a cannabis business owner, you’re under the watch of LARA, the supporters and non-supporters, and most importantly, the patients.”

With Penny coming from an educational background, I asked if she felt there was a need for cannabis education within the educational system and how she sees cannabis tax dollars helping support education in the state of Michigan. Penny answered,

“Absolutely!  There needs to be an understanding and change of thinking about cannabis.  Teachers are amazing people.  I know how hard they work and how hard they try, and they deserve as much support as they can get.  Any tax dollars collected would benefit the schools in ways from more adults per child, more materials for the classrooms, more after-school programs, and more everything.  For some kids, the hours they spend at school are the safest and best hours of their day.  Cannabis sales in Michigan could help even more.” 

While there are many differences in being a 1st-grade teacher and running a cannabis dispensary, there are also many similarities. Passion, patience, persistence and a genuine love for people are some of those similarities. Find all of these qualities and more every time you visit Northern Specialty Health in Houghton, Michigan.

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