Women to Watch: Erin Montroy
Erin Montroy is co-founder of GreenSeed Insurance Services, based out of Kansas City and specializing in cannabis business policies. Montroy is an effervescent force, passionately advocating for business solutions and legal reform. Montroy and co-founder Andy Ericson are active with NORML and Bleeding Kansas Advocates, crossing a sometimes invisible wall between industry and activism.
“We are an independent agency comprised of experts in not only insurance and compliance but activists with more knowledge on cannabis than you’re going to find anywhere else,” Montroy said. “We’ve fought alongside this community, and being a part of this major accomplishment and progress for something that’s been unattainable for patients unless they chose to risk breaking the law. We are so excited.
“We’ve modeled GreenSeed in a way we feel represents the industry we’ve created it for. These are personable, good-hearted business owners; many who’ve worked unbelievably hard to get to this point, so we want to support that at all times. We are ‘personal agents.’ Think of an on-call handler. If you’re standing on the sidewalk watching the police comb through what’s left of your robbed dispensary, worried about the future and what you might lose, that’s when you call me, or Andy, and we get out of bed. We’ll come to stand on the sidewalk with you and tell you you’re safe. That’s what we want for this community, and that’s why we’re going to be the best agents you can get.”
Montroy’s path into insurance for MRBs has been bumpy but meaningful. She got divorced and lost her pharmaceutical contract the day she signed for a loft that she could no longer afford by the end of the day. She told Greenway Magazine she was in dire straights, broke, and unable to find a job in her pay grade.
“I was pretty close to losing everything,” Montroy said. “My partner, Andy Ericson worked in insurance with his father, Jack. I was already, coincidently, licensed, and Jack took the risk of letting me start as an agent then moving to CEO, so I could get back to the pay grade I’d worked so hard for. Jack Ericson saved my life. When the amendment passed, we decided to branch out with a new agency serving only the cannabis industry. We wanted to mix together our expertise in insurance with our activism in cannabis. At 82, Jack was full of energy for this new adventure. Unfortunately, we lost our beloved leader on June 31, after he fell asleep under the fruit trees he loved so much and never woke up. He hasn’t been able to see what’s grown out of all of this. It’s very important to us to make changes he would have been proud of. We’ve worked hard for that, now that it’s just the two of us.”
She strikes a tone familiar to many in the industry, as well – formerly in the big pharma business, but inspired by the legalization of medical marijuana.
“While cannabis is an amazing solution for so many of these disorders, it can’t fix them all, and we need to remember that. While I loved helping the patients in drug trials, I believe broadening awareness and making valuable research available in cannabis is a more worthy cause, because this drug could eliminate the need for extreme medicinal treatments. The pharma patients are covered. These patients still need to be advocated for.”
Montroy credits not only her pharma experience for crafting who she is as an executive but also her experience in corporate America in New York.
“This industry is much different and is comprised of different professionals,” Montroy said. “I do think some of my hard/ruthless character traits in those industries does benefit me in a lot of ways. Especially since this industry is facing constant battles with giant entities.”
Missouri’s newest industry causes constant professional shifts and teaches professional lessons from each corner.
“The cannabis market is one of the most unique in history because one day the industry didn’t exist, the next day it did,” Montroy said. “This never really happens in commerce, and the end of a prohibition is a big deal; they have to get it right.”
“The dot com boom is the only comparable scenario in modern history of that gigantic explosion of a brand new market, and for insurance people, unknown risks are the highest risks, and there’s no data to go on from past losses to give us an idea on how to cover this market.”
Cannabis products are valuable and the conflicting state and federal laws complicate banking. Montroy said the new industry provides challenges for companies that are unlikely to be underwritten in a traditional policy.
“The types of policies they will be getting are fairly comparable to the policies they would get for a traditional business,” Montroy said. “But, this is stuff like a new risk product inside the vehicle that’s worth twice the vehicle itself two times over. If you see a quote put in front of you that is comparable to a traditional commercial policy, something is wrong. Period. Those prices aren’t attainable because they don’t exist.”
Montroy hopes her company will provide true insurance solutions for MRBs – and prevent owners of MRBs from potentially risking it all over some ink.
“We’ve seen a lot of people under the impression that their current policy quotes are going to cover them, but they’re not aware of or have been misled, in various policy quirks,” Montroy said. “For example, contractors working with a facility. They think they’re covered in their commercial policy. Something goes wrong, and they file a claim. No one told them there was a Schedule 1 exclusion on that policy. The insurance company will ask if they were doing business with a cannabis company, and when they say yes, the claim will be denied. Period. This kind of mistake will cause some folks to lose everything.”
Montroy says her company offers all the policies that a MRB may need and may be hard to find.
“We are lucky enough to have an agency with 30 years of experience in insurance,” she said. “It means we have more relationships with these carriers. Some of them are the only ones offering a certain type of coverage, and we have to contracts set up to make sure we’ve got a one-stop-shop for our guys. We’ve even set it up to give our clients almost every type of insurance they need – auto, home, renters, property insurance for things like boats and jet skis. This can all be done in-house, so they won’t have to deal with talking to their insurance company, because it’s a pain in the a**. We’re like their guardians.”
Montroy has limited free time – while she and Andy lead GreenSeed, they’re also selling a different agency – and she jokes about how crazy it can be between the two. But, when she does have free time, she likes to spend it with her daughter, Harper.
“During the summer, it’s too hot in the day to go treading around on the concrete, so we’ll go out in the evening and walk around,” Montroy said. “Sometimes we’ll stay out walking after it gets dark because the city is busier at night in the summer, so we’re pretty safe. But she thinks it’s the greatest thing she’s ever gotten away with. I love those times with her, talking about her philosophies on life and her grievances with it as well.”
“In truth, we’ve grown to adore our downtown home, and every night, when we round that particular curve on I-35 and the city comes into view, we say, ‘There’s our city, all lit up and pretty,’” Montroy said.
Montroy joins most in the industry who have seen medical marijuana or cannabidiol (CBD) change lives. She said the most important thing to her is her daughter, who uses CBD to partially manage her ADD.
“I have debilitating ADD and am literally incapable of holding down a job without medication,” Montroy said. “I’ve managed to get mine under control, but my daughter has suffered immensely. I made the tough decision to put her on medication when she was six. I had her analyzed and tested by the best doctors in the city multiple times, but I had to pay thousands out of pocket to get anything beyond the computer testing insurance would pay for.
“She was miserable,” Montroy said. “She would tell me she knew she wasn’t behaving like everyone else, and she wanted to, but then she just couldn’t. Kindergarten was a nightmare for her. Her IQ scores are extremely high, which often goes along with ADD, but it is crushed by the disorder. Teachers react as if these kids have behavioral disorders, discipline them accordingly, label them, ostracize them, and create a psyche they will carry with them like a heavy bag of sand slung over their shoulders. It made me furious. Her teacher once made her leave the table and sit in a single desk, alone in the corner of the classroom because she couldn’t stop interacting with the other kids during class. I was never told about this by her teacher, and it was the most inappropriate thing I’d ever seen. Once she was on the meds, she changed completely. It’s devastating to see your 5-year-old daughter loathe herself with the sadness of an adult. But once the decision was made, everything changed for her. She gets upset when she doesn’t have her patch on at school if we’ve forgotten because she knows she’ll get in trouble that day. For this, big pharma has saved our lives. No exaggeration.
“For her emotional problems that come with it, CBD has been the answer. She was given psychotropics as many kids are, but they were scary and could change her in irreversible ways. In that instance, cannabis was what made the difference. I got into this because of her. She needs to know how to fight for something so clearly right.
“I want to raise a strong fighter of a woman,” she said. “Someone who’s nobody’s fool. A woman that knows who to speak up and speak out for herself and others. Explaining this plant and this industry to her has made her proud of what I do, even though she’s been told that someday, someone will say her mother is a criminal.”
Montroy also has a niece who has Dravet’s Syndrome – her brother and his wife moved to Colorado with their daughter as prohibition refugees to access medicine, but have struggled to obtain a supply.
“My brother and his wife were forced to move to Colorado in hopes they could get ahold of the Charlotte’s Web strain extract that has helped children with Dravet’s Syndrome,” Montroy said. “It’s a debilitating seizure disorder that has very little and ineffective treatment, but this one oil changes everything for them.”
Montroy and GreenSeed also serve Kansas, where they’re hoping to see real progress so that all of the Kansas City area have access to the benefits and opportunities created by medical marijuana.
“I also think this will do great things for Kansas, where there are real issues being ignored and vehemently opposed by local law enforcement and in the courts,” she said. “My partner, Andy Ericson, and I have worked hard in Kansas to bring the same changes to the state. It will be difficult now for their constituency to accept not being given the same rights as others who are part of the same city, metro, community. We’ve worked really, really hard to work on putting together some new outreach with Bleeding Kansas Advocates, and are really excited to help participate in that momentum. And these people deserve the same rights, and Bleeding Kansas deserves the same win. So this win in Missouri is another small win for everyone.”
Her experience in Missouri has been an inspiring tone for the future of the industry and the success of GreenSeed.
“I think there is an energy going on in this community right now that is almost infectious,” she said. “When I go to these events and talk with those that I know and meet new people, there is a really powerful sense of electricity in these people and seeing such a large group of good, devoted people getting to feel a sense of real joy. It’s intoxicating. And the best part is, that joy is completely based on helping other people than themselves.”