Entrepreneur, innovator, advocate, friend — these are the words used most often to describe Laurie McHugh.
From opening Union Chill cannabis dispensary in Lambertville, to co-founding a recreational row-boat racing nonprofit also dedicated to fighting food insecurity, or her work on the New Hope Borough Council, McHugh was all about serving her community.
McHugh, 58, died Aug. 21 in a collision with a large tractor-trailer in Buckingham Township, Pennsylvania.
“Our esteemed CEO and co-founder, Laurie McHugh, passed suddenly and tragically yesterday. The entire Union Chill family is filled with sorrow as we come to terms with this unexpected loss. Laurie’s departure leaves a profound void in our hearts,” Union Chill wrote on their LinkedIn page.
Union Chill Cannabis Company, a majority women-owned dispensary, opened its Lambertville cannabis store on June 14.
“Laurie’s impact extended far beyond our organization,” Union Chill officials wrote. “Her involvement as the vice president of the New Hope Borough Council and her co-founding role in the Bucks County Dragon Boat Association showcased her exceptional dedication to the community.
“These endeavors reflected her unwavering passion, experience, and vitality, which she also channeled into the establishment of Union Chill Cannabis Co.”
Her friends and colleagues said she shared her passion with everyone she interacted with. She had a way of making those around her feel seen and heard, they said.
“Something really special about Laurie was that no matter if you knew her for five minutes or 50 years, she always made everyone feel loved and important, and so incredibly welcome,” said Patricia Walker, cannabis consultant, friend and colleague of McHugh’s.
“Over the years, I’ve had the chance to introduce Laurie to a lot of people, and every single time she was just radiating a smile and warmth and friendship with every single person she met,” said Walker. “There was never a time that you could walk into a room or walk into Union Chill where Laurie was and not feel like you’ve known her for years.”
McHugh’s enthusiasm for cannabis went beyond simply opening a business.
“She was always a little hesitant to share her full story. But she was a cancer survivor, and she was a fighter. That was one of her biggest reasons for building a cannabis business and being such an advocate for cannabis,” Walker said. “It wasn’t just because she wanted to hop onto the green rush. She believed in something bigger than that. She believed in bringing it to people on a bigger scale.”
A large part of her legacy will be how she imbued her energy into all of her work and relationships.
“While I could praise Laurie endlessly for her talents as an executive, including launching Union Chill as one of the very first adult-use only licenses here in the state of New Jersey, Laurie was an even more wonderful person,” Michael McQueeny, partner at Foley Hoag LLP, the law firm that represented McHugh, said on his LinkedIn post about her passing.
He said that McHugh built Union Chill from concept to multi-state operator, winning some of the first and most coveted adult use licenses in both New York and New Jersey.
Besides her business acumen in both the real estate and cannabis markets, the Philly native was best known for her warm and inviting personality.
“What I’ll remember most is that every conversation with Laurie always began and ended with a smile, an overture as to how you were doing personally, and the ever-present feeling that she cared about you and your well being,” said McQueeny.
McHugh is survived by several siblings and her adopted daughter, Aya. Her family has not yet announced a date for her memorialization, but foresees a service coming in the next three to four weeks.
Condolences may be sent to the McHugh family by visiting mcgheegivnish.com.
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Laurie McHugh, New Hope Borough politician and founder of Union Chill dispensary in Lambertville, is remembered as a passionate leader. Read More