Union Chill launches Cannabis studies scholarship to honor late founder

Union Chill launches Cannabis studies scholarship to honor late founder

Laurie McHugh Memorial Scholarship Fund Launched for Cannabis Studies Students in Union Chill's Tribute.

After Laurie McHugh, the co-founder and chief executive officer of Hunterdon County’s first recreational dispensary, Union Chill, was killed in an August car crash, efforts are underway to launch a scholarship in her memory for students looking to explore career pathways in cannabis.

The Lambertville-based dispensary’s chief financial officer, Ryan O’Keefe, said the Laurie McHugh Memorial Scholarship Fund will initially support one student enrolled in Stockton University’s cannabis studies program who is in financial need.

Developed by Union Chill Head of Procurement Patricia Walker, with help from Rob Mejia, an adjunct professor at Stockton, O’Keefe said the recipient will also have an opportunity to gain hands-on experience at Union Chill via an internship that will enable students to see McHugh’s “vision firsthand and the people and place from which it all began.”

Walker had an existing relationship with Stockton’s program and “felt it was a tremendous opportunity” to keep her late friend’s “spirit alive within a space she loved and through a medium she highly respected,” O’Keefe said, who added, “We hope to instill the same passion in the student that Laurie had for industry.”

Laurie McHugh, the co-founder and CEO of Hunterdon County’s first recreational dispensary, Union Chill, was killed in a car crash in August. – UNION CHILL

While the scholarship will start with just one student, O’Keefe said Union Chill hopes to expand the fund to support “as many Cannabis Studies program as possible” with donations from organizations and individuals who “knew Laurie and wish to keep her memory and spirit alive,” O’Keefe said.

For more information on donations, contact [email protected]. Union Chill also said it will begin accepting student applications for the Fall 2024 semester shortly after the start of the new year.

When Union Chill opened in June, McHugh – who was also a longtime councilwoman in New Hope, Pa., and co-founder of the Bucks County Dragon Boat Association, a recreational row-boat racing nonprofit also dedicated to fighting food insecurity – described it as “an incredible journey,” saying that the business believes “in the power of the plant to change people’s lives and are passionate about the work we do and the role we play in our community.”

A cancer survivor, McHugh’s recovery was aided with CBD and cannabis, which “motivated her greatly to create change within the New Jersey cannabis industry,” said O’Keefe. “She was driven by a passion to create a safe and welcoming place and business where people can get the education and knowledge to make the best personal decisions for themselves. Her dream began with the opening of Union Chill in Lambertville and every day we continue to carry on Laurie’s passion in everything we do.”

Besides the scholarship, Union Chill is paying tribute to McHugh in several other ways, including continued public outreach efforts aimed at destigmatizing the often-negative perceptions of cannabis, he said.

Additionally, Union Chill is collecting food donations on behalf of local social services organization Fisherman’s Mark and giving a discount to customers who bring in high-demand items.

“Whether it be cannabis, Dragon Boating or her role as Vice President of New Hope Borough council, Laurie put everything she had into helping and advocating for others. She was well respected for her ability to understand or educate herself to understand both sides of an issue with the hope of bringing conflicting sides closer to a mutually beneficial outcome,” said O’Keefe. “Union Chill hopes to come together to honor Laurie and carry on her incredible spirit, her dedication and the difference she made in so many lives.”

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Region: New Jersey

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