Connected by Cannabis

Hillary Peckham felt a different kind of pain when Maren Hall-Wieckert, whom she had been dating for four years, decided in August 2016 to leave New York to attend the University of Colorado, where he would begin a Ph.D. program in learning sciences.

“I was stunned and really hurt,” Ms. Peckham said. “This happened just after my sister’s wedding, and at a time when I thought Maren and I were about to move in together.”

It also happened at a time when Ms. Peckham, who was an avid horseback rider and runner, was still dealing with the excruciating pain that followed a failed hip surgery in 2009, which left her walking on crutches and in physical therapy for two years.

“There wasn’t a specific moment when I got hurt,” Ms. Peckham said. “But I had a labral tear and my psoas muscle was almost severed due to a structural abnormality in my hip. It wasn’t pretty.”

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CreditJose Alvarado Jr. for The New York Times

As Ms. Peckham slowly began to recover, there was yet more pain to endure. Her grandmother, Frances Keeffe, was suffering from a long and agonizing battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. In the spring of 2012, just weeks before Mr. Hall-Wieckert came into Ms. Peckham’s life, her grandmother died.

“My mother was my grandmother’s caretaker, and a doctor had suggested that she try and find medical marijuana to comfort my grandmother while she was declining in health,” Ms. Peckham said. “Though there was no legal way to procure it, my mom and I went ahead and started doing all sorts of research on the subject.”

Ms. Peckham and her mother, Amy Keeffe Peckham, considered creating their own medical marijuana business. “We had both experienced firsthand how pain management could be mismanaged,” Ms. Peckham said. “We knew that medical marijuana was an alternative that could provide for quality of life in many situations.”

Ms. Peckham and her mother began putting together a “highly skilled and knowledgeable team of industry experts” to apply for a license in New York State to grow and distribute cannabis

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CreditJose Alvarado Jr. for The New York Times
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CreditJose Alvarado Jr. for The New York Times

Their team included physicians, horticultural experts, pharmacists, manufacturing engineers, and Mr. Hall-Wieckert, who was living in Brooklyn at the time and working as a researcher for the Graduate Center Advanced Science Research Foundation of the City University of New York.

“I was spending my weekends writing sections of the license application, it became a second job,” he said. “I learned right away that the Peckhams are doers, and I was very excited and extremely motivated about being a part of their vision.”

Ms. Peckham, now 28, and Mr. Hall -Wieckert, 27, met in June 2012 at a 21st birthday party for Ms. Peckham and her twin brother, J.D. Peckham, who brought along Mr. Hall-Wieckert, a friend from Oberlin College in Ohio who was about to enter his senior year. The party was held at the Peckham family home in the Bedford Hills area of Katonah, N.Y.

“I thought Maren was really cute,” said Ms. Peckham, who was about to enter her junior year at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y. “We started talking, and I could tell that he was a very smart and thoughtful guy.”

They talked, and talked some more. Around midnight they kicked off their shoes and began dancing in the basement.

“She was very personable and a lot of fun,” Mr. Hall-Wieckert said, “and she was awfully pretty.”

They began dating, spending long hours on the phone and in their cars, with each making the 14-hour round-trip drive from Oberlin to Hamilton at least once a month.

“Maren was the first person that could turn Hillary’s head,” her mother said. “They made each other laugh, which is what made them work so well together.”

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CreditJose Alvarado Jr. for The New York Times
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CreditJose Alvarado Jr. for The New York Times
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CreditJose Alvarado Jr. for The New York Times

Mr. Hall-Wieckert learned that Ms. Peckham was one of four children born to Amy Peckham and John Robert Peckham, the owner of a construction company in White Plains who described his daughter as “a very hard-charging person who has always been very focused and aggressive about pursuing goals and challenges.”

Ms. Peckham received a business certificate from Dartmouth after graduating from Hamilton with a degree in music and a minor in biology. As a lover of animals from the time she was a child, she had dreams of becoming a veterinarian, though her injury and subsequent interest in medical marijuana led her down a different path.

“Growing up, we had four dogs, a pig, a few dozen chickens, rabbits and reptiles,” Ms. Peckham said. “I know I would have enjoyed a career being around so many different animals, especially those that needed my help.”

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CreditJose Alvarado Jr. for The New York Times

Mr. Hall-Wieckert, the oldest of two children born to Karen Wieckert and Rogers Hall, was 10 years old when his father, a professor of learning sciences at the University of California-Berkeley, moved the family to New Orleans to take on a similar role at Vanderbilt University. Mr. Hall-Wieckert’s mother soon became a Nashville-based, independent software design contractor.

In July 2014, 14 months after the Peckham team applied for a license to sell medical marijuana products, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed into law the Compassionate Care Act, legalizing medical marijuana and giving birth to their company.

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CreditJose Alvarado Jr. for The New York Times

Ms. Peckham’s mother, who is of Irish descent, named the company Etain, after an Irish goddess, and it became, and still remains, the only family-run, women-owned medical marijuana company in the state of New York.

By July 2016, Ms. Peckham, her mother, and her older sister, Keeley Peckham, a certified horticultural therapist, had grown their business into a 50-employee operation that included four medical marijuana dispensaries in Manhattan, Syracuse, Yonkers, and Kingston, N.Y., and on-site pharmacists at each dispensary. The company also constructed a cannabis manufacturing plant in Chestertown, N.Y.

Though Team Peckham’s vision had come to fruition, Mr. Hall-Wieckert’s decision to leave the team to study for a Ph.D. was something that Ms. Peckham did not see coming.

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CreditJose Alvarado Jr. for The New York Times
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CreditJose Alvarado Jr. for The New York Times
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CreditJose Alvarado Jr. for The New York Times

“It was our moment of uncertainty, and a particularly kind of devastating moment for me,” she said. “I tried to appear not to be so upset and be supportive of Maren, but I don’t think I did a good job, and things got a little bit rocky from there.”

“We talked about it at length,” she continued, “and I finally told him that if he didn’t come back, I didn’t think the relationship was going to work.”

Though Mr. Hall-Wieckert had completed a full semester of classes by the spring of 2017, he also began “feeling pretty miserable,” he said, regarding the emotional and geographical distance that he had put between himself and Ms. Peckham.

“Hillary was my best friend — the person who helped turn me into a better version of myself, a more social, outgoing, motivated and courageous person,” he said. “I knew for sure that I had made a mistake.”

He told her as much in April 2017, at a rendezvous in Budapest, where Ms. Peckham and her family was visiting her younger brother, Gregory Peckham, who was enrolled in a study-abroad program there.

“I was thrilled to hear what he had to say,” Ms. Peckham said, “because I very much missed his laughter and his unconditional support.”

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CreditJose Alvarado Jr. for The New York Times

Mr. Hall-Wieckert decided to forego the rest of his Ph.D. studies in Colorado and returned to New York the following month to be reunited with Ms. Peckham, and resume his role as Etain’s director of information and technologies.

“Maren is a pretty smart guy, so it didn’t take him too long to realize that Hillary was a lot more compelling than his PH.D. program,” said Mr. Hall-Wieckert’s mother, Karen Wieckert. “I was very happy with his decision.”

Ms. Peckham and Mr. Hall-Wieckert were engaged in September 2018 in “a mutual proposal,” as Ms. Peckham called it.

“There was no dropping to one knee or anything like that,” she said. “I picked out the ring and he bought the diamond.

“After six years of dating, I think we both had waited long enough to get engaged,” she added, laughing.

They boarded a plane for Port St. Lucie, Fla., to celebrate the occasion before getting back to the business of creating and distributing medical marijuana. They also began discussing plans to buy a home in Bedford Hills, and achieved that goal in January.

The couple married Aug. 17 in an outdoor ceremony at the Bronx Zoo, an ode to a little girl’s love for animals.

“When I was growing up, my Godmother took me to the Bronx Zoo about once a month,” Ms. Peckham said. “Now I try to go to a zoo or animal reservation on any vacation or trip I take.”

That included her trip down the aisle as a live rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” filled the air on a scorching day more fit for lions and tigers than polar bears.

“They are both crazy, determined, passionate and fun-filled people,” said J.D. Peckham, who became a Universal Life minister to marry the couple.

“They are also extraordinarily intelligent and very driven,” he added, speaking before 220 guests, not including a small colony of California sea lions yelping a short distance away as part of the Madagascar exhibit, where the cocktail hour would be held. (Dinner followed in the Schiff Family Great Hall).

“I love you to the moon and back,” the bride told the groom during the exchange of vows.

“I love you as you are, as you have been and as you will be,” said the groom, fighting back tears as he spoke. “You are a dream come true.”


When Aug. 17, 2019

Where The Bronx Zoo

Party Favors Most of the flowers and bouquets at the wedding had hemp leaves in them, and the party favors were jars of honey-based hemp lozenges produced by the bride’s company.

What They Wore The bride donned a dress from the designer Mikaella, purchased at Kleinfeld Bridal in New York; it featured a V-neck crepe bodice with guipure lace over sheer cap sleeves and sheer midriff. Her peacock-style shoes were from ParisXox. The groom wore a dark navy Hugo Boss Suit, black shoes from Alan Edmon, a shirt from Proper Cloth and bow tie from Brackish.

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