Priscilla Vilchis, CEO of Cali Premium Produce, is the only Latina woman on the list of the 13 pre-approved applicants, helping to bridge the barrier between multi-million dollar companies and people trying to enter the cannabis industry.
Her hometown of Lynwood—population nearly 70,000—kick-started the momentum by being among the first within Los Angeles County to give out permits since weed was legalized last November under Prop 64.
“Being a pioneer in this space also helps pave a path for other women and minorities to get involved,” Vilchis told LA Weekly.
Indeed an achievement in the male-dominated cannabis industry, where executive positions tend to be held by white men.
It is well known that the federal government’s discriminatory practices, exacerbated by the War on Drugs, target people of color, resulting in them being prevented from participating in the legal cannabis industry.
But a recent federal lawsuit seeks to remedy that issue.
Meanwhile, Vilchis is on the move. Her company already won two licenses in Nevada in 2014.
“One of my goals is to educate the public about the benefits of cannabis and, as a Latina, I am especially excited to begin outreach efforts with my Hispanic community,” she said.
Not only is Vilchis confronting a white boys’ club in local weed sales, she’s having to convince her own community to change its perception of pot—that it’s a medicine and not a loser’s drug.
She started with her family.
“Before entering this industry, I had a long discussion with my parents and grandparents, who are traditionally conservative, and they understand that cannabis is a medicine for children with epilepsy and for pain,” Vilchis told Telemundo. “They fully support my business goals and mission to promote cannabis as an alternative to opioids.”
Like many in the burgeoning industry, Vilchis did not start out in cannabis. She became an entrepreneur in her early 20’s as a consultant for medical practices, where she helped doctors navigate regulations and negotiate with insurance companies to treat patients suffering from occupational injuries.
Through her work in health care, Vilchis saw the growing opioid epidemic first hand, which spurred her to learn about medical marijuana as an alternative.
Now, Vilchis says she hopes to eventually get medical cannabis into the hands of the doctors she worked with in her previous career.
“My goal is one day to get marijuana reimbursable in place of an opioid,” she said. “I hope to be the front and center of that.”