Meet Priscilla Vilchis—Queen of the Desert and Ganjapreneur
Priscilla Vilchis. Priscilla is the owner and CEO of Premium Produce, a medical and recreational cultivation and processing company with operations in Las Vegas, Nevada, and Lynwood, California and has quickly become a significant player in the cannabis industry. At 27 she became the youngest female Latinx to be licensed in Nevada and was the first licensed female Latinx in L.A. County—talk about an all-around badass! MJ’s Brittney Mesica asks the questions we are all wondering.
What was life like for you growing up in your household?
I grew up in a typical Mexican-American and Catholic household in Los Angeles, California. I was the oldest of 4 and always very overprotective and of my little two sisters and brother. My best memories were the large family gatherings at our house our my grandparent's home. My grandma loves talking about how I've always been a leader, even when I was little. She tells the story of how I would walk into Thanksgiving dinner and start giving orders right away, "set the plates on the table, put the turkey over there, kids sit here, adults over there..." I always think back and never would I have imagined that I would be in the cannabis industry - my parents would always warn us to stay away from the "marihuaneros" and told us we would die if we smoked.
What kind of work were you doing before you started your company, Premium Produce?
Before Premium Produce, I dropped out of college to pursue my dream as a business owner. I quickly built and grew several multimillion-dollar businesses and managed some of Southern California’s premier physicians – helping them navigate regulations within the healthcare industry – and quickly expanded my businesses to states across the country.
What inspired you to become involved in the cannabis industry?
A considerable part of my business was interacting with doctors at their facilities and clinics. So I was able to see and observe a lot of patients. I came to face to face with the opioid epidemic. I saw patients who would come in for pain relief and keep coming back -- each time a little more aggressive.
I became interested in researching alternatives to some over prescribed pain medications, and I came across cannabis. After completely submerging myself in the topic—I decided to call my lawyer to ask how I could get involved.
He told me the state of Nevada had the most enlightened views and laws regarding cannabis. Without much thought, in 2014, at the age of 27, I applied for licenses to grow and distribute marijuana. That same year, I became the first Latina in the Silver State to be awarded those licenses.
When did you begin your transition from the pharmaceutical industry into cannabis, and what were some of the obstacles that you met?
In 2014, I started transitioning into the cannabis industry. I gambled almost a million dollars in fees just to apply for licenses that I could possibly not get. But, my heart was in the right place, and I knew I would receive them, and I did. I wish I could say that the licensing process was the hardest part but what was to come after -- I didn't expect. My personal bank accounts were closed; I had to buy a multi-million dollar business CASH in about 24 hours. I had to find a way to pay business bills, payroll, and taxes in cash and navigate through many new and unwritten laws. Even today, I still find myself having to solve obstacles during the middle of the night because obstacles never sleep.
Were your family and friends supportive of your move into cannabis, or was it more of a personal journey?
Before I told my immediate family my plans to invest in the cannabis industry, I became very informed on the topic. I knew that I would have to be patient and that I would have to accept whatever their reaction would be.
But it didn't take a lot for them to see what I saw. My mother was moved by the effect it had on children with epilepsy and my father by the relief it provided to cancer patients. They supported me since day one and now work alongside me to make this dream come true.
Tell us more about your company, Premium Produce.
We are a company that provides patients in states with medical cannabis programs access to safe, efficacious cannabinoid medicines and cultivates our own cannabis products. Premium Produce is a woman-owned company that puts the health and safety of cannabis patients first.
We started as a small company based out of Nevada, and have now grown to into a full-scale medical cannabis cultivator with our line of top-shelf products called Reina, which means queen in Spanish. We also recently launched our very own CBD products which will be available nationwide.
How do you ensure sustainable practice and social responsibility within your company?
When we built our facility - we didn't go cheap. We made sure to use some of the most innovative grow and lighting systems to not only provide the best products to our consumers but also to be respectful to our environment. In addition, we package most of our products in glass jars to reduce the use of plastic and keep our flower safe from some contaminates and fresh for those who purchase Reina products.
What sets Premium Produce apart from other, similar businesses in the cannabis industry?
Our branding is unique. It's classy, high-end, and a big step in the right direction to end the pot smoker stigma. It's a business owned by a woman -- a Latina woman and a business made possible by the work of tireless people from different walks of life.
What are some of the biggest challenges you have encountered as a young, female minority in the cannabis workspace, and how have you overcome them?
Working in the health industry with top physicians - who tend to be mostly male - set me up for success. I learned how to be a woman in a man's world without feeling inferior and without feeling afraid to speak up. Being a business owner and growing several businesses also prepared me to react to unforeseen circumstances and the ups and downs of running a business. I learned to see my ethnicity and my gender as a strength and not a weakness before I ever entered the cannabis business.
You’ve gained titles like, “Queen of the Desert” and “Hollyweed Queen,” how do those translate to you?
I'm honored, to say the least.
The media coined me "Queen of the Desert" because of a very famous movie named "Priscilla: Queen of the Desert." I was starting a business in the middle of the desert (in Las Vegas) so the name just fit right in.
How I got the name, Hollyweed Queen is my favorite. A few years back when the Hollywood sign was changed to "Hollyweed" I got so many calls from friends and family asking if I had done it! I lived close to the sign, and they knew about my cannabis endeavor! Of course, I had nothing to do with that, but I became the "Hollyweed Queen" to my closest friends and family from that day forward.
What kind of work have you been doing within the Hispanic communities in California and Nevada?
I work hard every day so that I can change the way Latinos are seen on mainstream media. They are not all "bringing in drugs and crime"— as a matter of fact; the great majority are not. I hope that by putting my face out there, they see a role model.
What do you consider your greatest achievements to date?
My greatest achievement has been following my gut and taking a risk I strongly believed in. I didn't care if I would lose or win. People called me crazy for investing in marijuana at its early stages of legalization. Now those same people call me a genius.
What are some of the goals you have set for yourself that you would like to meet in the next five years?
My ultimate goal is to generate reimbursements from health insurance providers for medical cannabis.
Who are your biggest inspirations?
My mother is one of my biggest inspirations. She is my rock and the person I turned to when things go south.
With today’s political climate in America, do you have any words of encouragement to offer other entrepreneurial women of minorities?
Have a thick skin, always keep your word and never see yourself less than others. Wake up every day with a mission and keep your eyes on the prize! Today's political climate should be fuel for your cause!
What is your current mantra?
Get Sh*t Done!
ABOUT THE JOURNALIST: Brittney Mesica is a Los Angeles native and Southern Oregon transplant with a passion for travel, music, fashion, and canna-culture. Currently working as a freelance writer and special events coordinator, Brittney has hosted many Cannabis commerce events such as Marijuana Mixers and Private Industry Parties. She has experience in publications with articles that have been featured in all three issues if MJ Lifestyle, Oregon’s 1859 Magazine and Sunset Magazine.