Christina (“Chrissy”) J. Visco, of Wyndmoor, an entrepreneur who was the first woman to receive a medical marijuana license in Pennsylvania, died Oct. 19 of breast cancer while traveling in Falmouth Harbor, Antigua and Barbuda.
Visco was the daughter of the late Montgomery County Sheriff John P. Durante and Jill Durante Bukata.
“It is impossible to describe my daughter in a few words, but if I had to, it would be passionate and determined,” said Bukata, who currently lives in Berwyn with her husband, Robert Bukata. “Both of those qualities were evident in what it took to win her license from the Commonwealth, and to build TerraVida to the successful business it was.”
Despite all of Visco’s many achievements, Bukata said, she regards her daughter’s children as her greatest accomplishment.
“She instilled those qualities in them and loved them with all her heart,” Bukata said. “She was extremely generous and would help anyone who needed it. I am so proud to be her mother – both for what she accomplished and for who she was as a person.”
Visco, who grew up in Conshohocken, worked for years at Boscov’s Department Store in Reading and was mentored in retail by the late owner, Al Boscov, before landing a job at David’s Bridal Shop. She subsequently opened a bakery at the Flourtown Farmer’s Market, before getting into the cannabis business.
Visco founded TerraVida Holistic Centers in 2017, opened the first of her several dispensaries in 2018, and was at one time the state’s dominant retailer of medical marijuana. She later acquired distribution permits in other states and sold the company in 2021 but remained as an executive with the new firm. At one time Visco and a staff of 135 oversaw dispensaries in Abington, Sellersville and Malvern. She used the name TerraVida (“because it means earth life”) Holistic Centers.
Overseen by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana law was passed Oct. 17, 2016, allowing for use of medical marijuana for 17 conditions. In August, 2018, five more conditions were added to help with conditions ranging from addiction substitute therapy for opioids to severe chronic pain to epilepsy and Crohn’s disease.
Visco said in a 2019 interview that she got into the medical marijuana business “at the request of parents whose children either had epilepsy or autism. I heard from the parent of an autistic child whose teacher called at noon one day after administering medical marijuana to say, ‘Whatever you are doing, keep doing it.’ It is stories like these that people need to hear that cannabis can be used in a holistic way and that patients need not get ‘high’ on marijuana to get their life back.”
Visco told us at the time that she was also a patient, saying that cannabis products had been very helpful in relieving her migraine headaches, neck pain and insomnia. “But honestly, I would want my kids to use marijuana versus drinking any day,” she said. “We sell between 60 and 75 pounds a week, and we would sell more, but that’s all that is available.”
Earlier this year, Visco was involved in a months-long dispute with neighbors in Wyndmoor over parking on the block that residents suspected was related to Visco operating a business from her residence, which she denied. Township officials later attempted to resolve the disagreement.
At work and at home, Visco was known for her kindness and empathy, her daughter, Molly, told us last week. “Let me tell you about how extremely generous Chrissy was to others. Chrissy and I were fortunate enough to attend the Eagles Super Bowl game in Arizona in 2023. While attending the Super Bowl festivities, we met two couples from Philadelphia who did not have tickets to the game. Chrissy heard this and invited the couples to an Eagles game the following season in her luxury box suite.
“I remember thinking that we probably would never see these couples again. In the time between the Super Bowl and the following Eagles' season, Chrissy was in and out of the hospital fighting the biggest battle of her life against cancer. This was a time in Chrissy’s life when it would have been warranted to focus on herself and her own health. However, Chrissy was selfless. She told me, 'Remember the couple we met in Arizona? They are going to the game with us this Sunday!' Little did we know that would be the last game she attended before passing away. Chrissy was giving and generous throughout her whole life. She had the biggest heart and was always a woman of her word. Chrissy will be so missed and forever in my heart!”
Visco left Plymouth Whitemarsh High School before graduation and later earned her GED. She studied psychology at Drexel University for a time and married William J. Visco in 1995. They had daughters Molly and Darby and son Tanner, and she divorced in 2018. In addition to her children, mother and former husband, Visco is survived by a sister, Deanna Durante, a TV reporter for NBC-10, and other relatives.
Len Lear can be reached at email@example.com