Women to Watch: Wendy Callicoat of Sarcoxie Nursery
Wendy Callicoat is a mom, a businesswoman, an entrepreneur, and now, the principal at Sarcoxie Nursery.
Callicoat, who grew up learning to “just say no,” has gone from medical marijuana advocacy to leadership of a company with historic roots all while reenergizing a Southwest Missouri community.
GW: What was your career before focusing on cannabis?
Callicoat: First and foremost, I was fortunate to be able to have a career as Mom. After many years working in customer service and sales for various companies, I transitioned to working as a stay-at-home mom raising my two children until they reached middle school. At that point I returned to the workforce and spent more than 15 years working side-by-side with my husband, Paul, managing his cardiology practice. We had a staff of 15 caring for more than 5,000 patients. Our motto, “You aren’t just a number to us; we treat you like family,” shaped what type of business we ran. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing patients in the clinic daily and many of them are still dear friends. My area of expertise was medical coding, billing and compliance for both government-based and private health insurance. In 2002, Paul entered into a joint venture with a large Oklahoma-based hospital corporation to build and staff a cardiac catheterization lab in a rural healthcare facility. I was responsible for working with CMS to ensure that the lab would be able to obtain its provider status. This proved to be complicated, because under Medicare guidelines, there wasn’t a designation for this type of facility. After months of working through the rules and regulations of CMS, a designation was determined, and the lab received its provider identification under Medicare and private insurers. Grand Lake Regional Cardiology became one of the first privately owned stand-alone cardiac catheterization labs in the country. Along with my position of managing the private practice of Regional Cardiology, I was appointed as the government and private insurance contract compliance officer for the cardiac catheterization lab. I retired in 2013.
GW: Did you always support medical marijuana?
Callicoat: I am new to the world of medical marijuana. I can honestly say that if you had asked me two years ago what medical marijuana was, I probably wouldn’t have been able to give you an answer. Growing up in the era of “Just Say No,” my position on marijuana was just that. However, my mind was changed after watching a documentary about a young child suffering from Dravet syndrome. I was amazed at the results she experienced from medical marijuana. This story tugged at my “mom” heartstrings and I wanted to find out more about this type of medical treatment. I began to read all I could to educate myself and then began meeting advocates and hearing their stories of success. Shortly thereafter I began to advocate for medical marijuana as well.
GW: How did you get involved with New Approach Missouri?
Callicoat: My son Jonathon was very involved with Amendment 2 and New Approach as an advocate and signature gatherer in Kansas City. He suggested we get involved in the campaign in our area of Southwest Missouri. We attended several meetings in Kansas City and St. Louis to educate ourselves about the Amendment 2 campaign and New Approach. Paul was asked to give a presentation on medical marijuana from a physician’s perspective at the Southwest Missouri Democrats in August 2018. We both attended the meeting and realized that there was a tremendous amount of support and excitement for Amendment 2 in our local Joplin area. The organization asked for volunteers and my hand immediately went in the air.
GW: Why do you support Amendment 2? How did you assist the campaign?
Callicoat: Amendment 2 was incredibly well written with the focus on patients. Not only did Amendment 2 provide for patient treatment, it clearly applied the rules and regulations in a manner that an entrepreneur could develop and execute a viable business model. My background in the medical field put me in an excellent position to speak to voters about Amendment 2 from a patient treatment perspective. I have seen patients in a clinical setting who struggle with the various illnesses that would qualify them as patients for treatment under Amendment 2 and I have seen patients struggle with addiction to opioids firsthand. I knew that medical marijuana provided a better, more holistic way for patients to control pain and various chronic illnesses. I have lived in the Joplin area for over 25 years and being a part of a community that long and being involved in many philanthropic organizations in the area allowed me to present Amendment 2 in various arenas. I became the Amendment 2/New Approach Volunteer Coordinator for the western half of District 7 in Missouri in August 2018. I was able to work with various organizations and to put together a team of very talented volunteers and advocates to help educate the voters of our area. The level of dedication by the grassroots advocates not only in our area but all over the state was, I believe, instrumental in the success of Amendment 2.
GW: What kind of response did Southwest Missouri have to Amendment 2?
Callicoat: When I first started as Volunteer Coordinator for our area, I was unsure how well the message would be received. I used my social media accounts to slowly spread the word about medical marijuana as a medicine. I then began to post about Amendment 2 and encouraged people in our area to become more educated voters. I was amazed by the positive response from all walks of life. Paul and I both began to speak locally and statewide on behalf of the campaign. We saw support for Amendment 2 begin to take root in our area and across the state. I credit a lot of our success to the incredible volunteers who worked the campaign alongside me. These volunteers gave of their time and talents to educate the public on the benefits of medical marijuana—how it can help patients with chronic pain, children with epilepsy, etc. If you gauge public support for Amendment 2 by the 3,000 yard signs that were distributed, I would say their efforts were hugely successful. Case in point, our district in Southwest Missouri passed Amendment 2 by a wide margin.
GW: What is your hope—professionally, personally and generally—for the industry created by Article XIV?
Callicoat: My work with Amendment 2 has given me a new mission. My family and I plan to enter this industry through our medical marijuana business, Sarcoxie Nursery. As a principal, I will be able to utilize my expertise in government-based healthcare compliance and apply it to the emerging, highly regulated medical marijuana industry. I also believe my experience as a patient advocate will be beneficial as we develop our dispensary plans. I’m excited to work with my family, a team of Missourians, to bring jobs to the state of Missouri. For the industry itself, I hope that as we move forward, we remember how and why we are in this business. At Sarcoxie Nursery our mission is to bring patients a new, high-quality option in their healthcare treatment.
GW: What inspires you about medical marijuana?
Callicoat: There are many different things that inspire me when it comes to medical marijuana. The patient stories probably have had the biggest impact on me personally. I’ve watched warrior moms advocate for their children who suffer so tragically from seizures. I’ve talked to veterans with PTSD, chronic pain, opioid addiction and other illnesses who want to use medical marijuana and still be seen at the VA. I’ve seen patients who have become addicted to opioids because they had no other options to control their pain. These stories are why I am very excited and honored to be able to be involved in the evolution of a new industry in Missouri that will allow patients to have an option that isn’t the traditional pharmaceutical-based treatment plan. My favorite part of my job is turning skeptics into believers through education.
GW: Tell me about Sarcoxie Nursery.
Callicoat: The floral business of Sarcoxie Nursery is steeped in history. The nursery is in Sarcoxie, Missouri, which was once known as the Peony Capitol of the World. It had been in operation since 1875 when the Wilde Brothers first began growing peonies and other varieties of flowers. Some time ago the original property was split up and sold off. Paul and I were driving around one Sunday morning looking for a potential site for our cultivation facility. I happened to type in “nursery” while I was searching online, and the listing for Sarcoxie Nursery came up. We drove to the 72-acre property and it was love at first sight. After seeing the original water tower, the historic barn from the mid-1800s and the rows and rows of beautiful maple trees we knew we had to have it. The property has been abandoned for six years, so we are currently working to restore the buildings. In addition, we are creating a vertically integrated cannabis company with cultivation and manufacturing facilities located on-site. The local support for our project has been overwhelming and we are so excited to be bringing life back to this beautiful spot.