A recent study by the Marijuana Business Daily publication indicates that women occupy at least three out of every ten managerial positions in the industry. However, people of color aspiring to venture into the cannabis industry have to overcome unnecessary obstacles just to get a foot in the door, for instance, the slow implementation of social equity programs. Despite the uneven playing field, a few Latina women have ventured and are currently thriving in the cannabis business.
A Brief History of Latinas in the Cannabis Industry
The cannabis industry has seen a surge in growth in recent years, and Latinas have been at the forefront of this movement. Of course, the new found opportunities for Latinx entrepreneurs and other people of color comes against a backdrop of a historical legacy that was openly hostile to minorities. It's no secret that the initial “Marijuana Menace” movement in the early twentieth century was born out of an anti-Mexican ethos.
From the earliest days of marijuana regulation beginning in the early twentieth century to the War on Drugs era of marijuana criminalization during President Richard Nixon's administration, anti-marijuana law and policy pushed white middle and upper class people away from smoking weed, while disproportionately impacting low income minority communities. Researchers at Stanford University studied how race and social views based around cannabis have impacted both how smokers were treated legally and how they were treated socially. The results paint a dark picture.
Despite all this, Latinas have a long history with cannabis, dating back to the early days of the plant's use in the Americas. In fact, it is believed that cannabis was introduced to the continent by Spanish settlers in the 16th century. Thus, Latinas have been involved in the cannabis industry for centuries, though their participation has often been hidden from mainstream society. In the 1960s, Latinas were some of the first people to start growing and selling cannabis. And in the 1970s, they played a key role in the development of the cannabis market in the United States.
With the recent growth of the legal cannabis industry, Latinas are finally starting to get the recognition they deserve. This is thanks in part to the tireless work of Latinx activists and entrepreneurs who are working to create opportunities for their community within the industry. They are leading the charge in advocating for legalization, working to destigmatize cannabis use, and starting their own businesses in the industry.
We can only hope that this trend continues. Rather than using this post to focus on the sins of the past, let’s take a look at some of the women looking to shape and change the cannabis industry in a more positive, inclusive direction.
Latina Women Entrepreneurs Causing Ripples In The Cannabis Industry
1. Priscilla Vilchis: Director of Premium Produce Cultivators Based In Nevada
In 2014, Priscilla decided to venture into cannabis cultivation yet she lacked the knowledge and practical experience required to germinate seeds or set up grow rooms. Once the business began thriving, she experienced a major setback when her personal account got frozen due to her active involvement with a schedule 1 drug.
Virtually all dispensaries based in Las Vegas have a high affinity for strains produced by Priscilla’s Premium Produce cultivators.
2. Claudia Mercado: Founder of Calibueno Cannabis Distribution Company
Claudia launched Calibueno Distribution in 2017 after witnessing the unfairness people of color experienced while trying to set up cannabis businesses in California. Calibueno also exists to empower cannabis brands owned by women of color since it’s hard for them to acquire new clients in a male-dominated industry.
Claudia also hosts several meetings with people of color to help them access information required to venture into the cannabis industry, as well as, partnering them with investors.
3. Frances González: Founder of Latinas Cannaprenuers
Frances once held the opinion that cannabis use causes mental health problems and turns consumers into misfits who end up behind bars. Fortunately, her first time smoking a joint turned out into a positive experience that birthed a new perspective of cannabis as a plant with numerous medical benefits.
Latinas Cannaprenuers, based in Puerto Rico, began its operations in 2019 intending to provide education and networks with investors to Latinos interested in running businesses in the industry.
4. Yvonne Perez Emerson: Founder of Make & Mary Cosmetics
Yvonne felt inspired to create a brand of Cannabidiol (CBD) based cosmetics and skincare products because of her personal experience with using this medicinal cannabinoid to reduce inflammation. In addition to her positive experience with CBD, Yvonne's 10-year experience in graphic design also played a role in motivating her to launch the business in Oregon back in 2016.
5. Larisa Bolivar: Founder of Cannabis Consumers Coalition and Bolivar Hemp Company
Larisa Bolivar stands out because she is the first Latina woman to receive a cannabis cultivation license in Colorado. It’s a major achievement because Latinos own just 10% of all Colorado-based cannabis businesses due to the slow implementation of social equity programs.
The Bolivar Hemp Company produces full-spectrum CBD & Hemp products for skincare. In addition to running a CBD business, Larisa meets with minorities and helps them get the training and licensing necessary for launching cannabis businesses in Colorado.
Indiva Is A Latina-owned Cannabis Accounting Firm
This is a topic close to our hearts because Indiva Advisors is a Latina-owned and founded business. Jessica Velazquez has always been an advocate for both cannabis and social justice, and she has dedicated much of her 20-year career to fighting for women and minority business owners. As Managing Partner, she takes the lead on advocacy and policy matters, as well as serving as one of the main experts on cannabis-specific tax matters such as IRC 280E and IRC 471. Jessica also represents clients in federal audit and collection cases. Additionally, she is bilingual and represents Spanish-speaking clients.
Indiva is dedicated to supporting all of our clients in the cannabis industry, no matter their background, gender, or ethnicity. Let’s work together to shape a future for the cannabis industry we can all be proud of.
To learn more about Indiva Advisors or schedule a free consultation, contact us today.