I love covering women in cannabis who may not necessarily have their hand up yelling- pick me for your next five questions! This is exactly how I discovered Priscilla Vilchis. She was not jumping up and down for attention. I found her by osmosis. She’s taken a journey into cannabis that most people have no idea about, thus my five questions. It’s a tough business to find success in, thus everyone deserves a chance to make their own way in cannabis. I believe that deeply. Now, without any more further delays, please eMeet Priscilla Vilchis, a Latina Cannabis Trailblazer. Thank you, WB.
Warren Bobrow=WB: Please tell me about yourself? Why Cannabis? What was your inspiration for the plant?
Priscilla Vilchis=PV: I grew up in a very strict and Catholic Latino family in Los Angeles. Never in my life would I have guessed that I would end up in the marijuana business. I was terrified of weed growing up. My parents told me I would die if I ever smoked it and as a little girl when the sun started to set my grandmother would get me to come inside the house by telling me the Marihuanero was coming. I didn’t even try weed until I was well over the legal age. A close friend of mine had been diagnosed with breast cancer and in solidarity with her I smoked for the first time after hearing it would help alleviate her nausea.
My journey to this industry has been very unconventional. In my 20’s I worked with some of Southern California’s top physicians and helped them navigate regulations and negotiate with insurance carriers. I dropped out of college and began to open several successful businesses within the healthcare industry.
I decided to invest in marijuana when I was 28 years old because as a medical practice consultant, I saw firsthand how opioids were destroying people and families. This motivated me to look for alternatives and I came across marijuana. I called my lawyer and before we knew it I was applying for cannabis licenses in Nevada. From the start, my lawyer told me it would cost me a lot of money and that there was a possibility I could be denied and lose my investment. The application required me to have a building and after I couldn’t find any banks to help me finance it – I had to make many sacrifices and purchase – with my own money – a $2 million dollar building. On top of that I had to pay thousands of dollars to complete other application requirements and fees. It was the biggest gamble of my life.
In 2014, I became the youngest person and the first Latina in Nevada to be licensed to grow marijuana. In 2017, I also became the first latina and first woman to receive cannabis licenses in California. I risked millions of dollars to be able to invest in this industry and many people called me crazy. Even my strict parents were taken aback when I told them I was starting a cannabis empire. Today those same people call me a genius and my parents help run our business.
Taking risks has always been part of my life and once again my intuition was right and here we are today 6 years later ready to expand into California during a pandemic.
WB: Please tell me about your company? What are your six and twelve month goals?
PV: Our cannabis company, Premium Produce is located just a few miles from the Raiders’ stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada. We produce several high quality marijuana products, like pre-rolls and vape pens, in our state-of-the-art facility and sell them to the top dispensaries across Sin City. Our prized strains include Ghost Haze Train and Strawberry Banana (Which you must try when visiting Las Vegas). We also have CBD products including full spectrum tinctures, capsules and pain relief lotions.
The name of our cannabis brand, Reina, means Queen in Spanish and was inspired by the nicknames that the media gave me: Hollyweed Queen and Queen of the Desert.
In the next few months, Reina will be available in my home state of California. We will be growing marijuana in our facility in Lynwood and delivering our products to our customers.
I’ve had to fully dedicate myself this past year to the operation of my business, expanding the Reina cannabis brand and now expanding to California, but I really look forward to returning to my mission and that’s making marijuana reimbursable by insurance carriers. I have experience navigating insurance regulations and I would like to use my knowledge to help pass a law.
I’ve spoken at many renowned marijuana conventions about diversity and inclusion in the cannabis industry and I look forward to inspiring more women of color to break the grass ceiling.
WB: What about stigmas? How do you explain to a potential client what you do?
PV: I always said, “If I can convince my strict parents and my traditional and Catholic grandparents to support marijuana – I can convince the world.” Coming from a Latino family and growing up in a very diverse neighborhood in Los Angeles, I know very well the stigmas that cannabis carries through different cultures and that’s why it’s been very easy for me to help people understand the benefits of marijuana.
But there are stigmas far beyond those associated to marijuana that I have to face and overcome everyday: the stigma of being a young latina woman in the cannabis industry. So when I talk to clients or investors – about why marijuana should be legalized or to seal a deal- I stand tall, project confidence and never see myself less than anyone else.
WB: What is your favorite food memory from childhood? What is your favorite kind of food now? From where?
PV: I love Mexican food. Especially my mother’s cooking. Everytime I am in her kitchen, it’s a journey back to my childhood and to her hometown in Jalisco, Mexico. Her tacos are and will always be my favorite food. You never know, maybe in the future we’ll have a full mexican menu with my mom’s recipes infused with marijuana.
WB: What is your passion?
PV: My family is my passion. Together we are building a legacy and it’s a blessing to have them as part of my team. Because of the success of my previous businesses, I was able to retire my parents about 5 years ago. Then they decided to join the Reina cannabis team and it’s been the best decision. My father is the security manager at our facility. My mother oversees all of our bookkeeping. My sister is our office manager and her fiance manages our cultivation facility. My other two siblings are not old enough to work with me, but I look forward to them joining the family business and bringing their bright minds to the table. Even my employees are like family. Many of my employees are senior citizens and they are the most hardworking, loyal and appreciative people who care about my family as much as we care about them. Because of COVID, we had to furlough many of them for their own safety and it was a difficult decision to make. Slowly but surely, our Reina family is uniting again.
I wouldn’t be in this unpredictable business with anyone else but my family.