5 Latinas Making an Impact in the Cannabis Industry

from left to right: Roshelly & Shanelly Peña, Priscilla Vilchis, Ruth Jazmin Aguiar, Frances González and Susie Plascencia

Growing up, many of us heard about the awful ways in which weed would ruin your life. It was la planta del diablo. That negative (and mostly false) perception of cannabis is becoming less prevalent as more and more individuals embrace the plant for its healing properties. As States continue to legalize both the usage and possession of cannabis and approve it for both recreational and medicinal use, the industry continues to legitimize itself while consumers discover the myriad of uses.

With the industry being legalized in so many states, we are left to wonder where the Latine community stands. We know brown and Black individuals were, and continue to be, disproportionately criminalized for being consumers of cannabis, and as legalization becomes a reality in many states, we are fortunately starting to see less impact on these communities.

As states also attempt to address disproportionate access to wealth-building opportunities in the industry for those who were unfairly targeted and convicted of marijuana crimes, we are also seeing some semblance of hope as more people of color entrepreneurs enter the industry. Whether people of color are taking advantage of these new opportunities as entrepreneurs or as professionals in the space, the increase in diversity numbers is a win for everyone.

These five Latinas are making strides in the cannabis industry, and we hope that after them, come many more.

Roshelly & Shanelly Peña

Sisters Roshelly and Shanelly Pena, founders of Higher Dining Experience, have transformed their unexpected journey into cannabis-infused chefs. Their lifestyle cannabis brand combines Latin flavors with a touch of high times, offering savory power dishes, desserts, and mocktails. Higher Dining has become a sought-after destination for both cannabis enthusiasts and newcomers seeking flavorful experimentation. From THC-infused chimichurri with carne asada to guava chicken wings made with canna oil, their menu tantalizes the taste buds. The culinary series also provides a social and interactive experience, allowing guests to explore different strains, enjoy handmade pre-rolled joints, and indulge in microdosed creations.

Priscilla Vilchis

Priscilla Vilchis, a native Californian, recognized the potential of cannabis as an alternative to highly addictive prescription medications during her time in a physician's office. Becoming the first Latina in the US to obtain a license for cannabis production, she established Premium Produce, a Las Vegas-based cannabis facility where she serves as CEO. Vilchis has further expanded her entrepreneurial ventures by founding her own cannabis business, Reina.

Ruth Jazmin Aguiar

Ruth Jazmin Aguiar, a cannabis industry veteran, brings nearly a decade of experience in regulation, advocacy, licensing, strategy, and social equity. With expertise in business development within Spanish-speaking markets, she bridges the communication gap between entrepreneurs and government officials in California and beyond. In 2021, Aguiar joined Locatora Productions as the cannabis business manager for their podcast, Marijuanera: a Podcast for Potheads, expanding her career into mainstream media.

Frances González

Growing up in Puerto Rico, Frances González was told a lot of things about weed. Mainly, that it was a harmful drug not to be abused. After trying it at 22, González realized the misinformation around cannabis, and she went on to start Latina Cannapreneurs to combat the misinformation about the industry. Latina Cannapreneurs is a nonprofit organization that works to educate and empower Latinas about the cannabis industry and works to promote Latina entrepreneurship within the industry.

Susie Plascencia

Susie Plascencia is a multifaceted Latina journalist, entrepreneur, and cannabis advocate. As the founder and CEO of NightShift Digital and NightShift Cannabis, she utilizes her expertise in PR, social media marketing, and the cannabis industry. Plascencia's dedication to Latina representation led to the creation of Latinas in Cannabis, an influential online community that empowers and connects Latina entrepreneurs, content creators, educators, and advocates. Furthermore, she holds significant positions as the co-founder and CMO of MOTA Glass, as well as a Co-Founder and Brand Partner at Humo.

a four image collage featuring queer actresses MJ Rodriguez, Aubrey Plaza, Tessa Thompson and Sara Ramirez

Amid the ongoing push towards equality and visibility for the LGBTQ+ community, the influence of public figures who identify as part of this community is undeniably crucial. They contribute to this narrative significantly, their impact transcending their professional boundaries to create safe spaces and ignite discussions that shatter stereotypes and nurture inclusivity. Today, we shine a spotlight on four prominent Latina trailblazers who are making their mark:

Tessa Thompson

Tessa Thompson, an Afro-Panamanian actress, has earned widespread recognition for her performances in films like "Creed" and "Thor: Ragnarok". Thompson is open about her bisexuality and uses her platform to advocate for LGBTQ+ representation in the entertainment industry. Her role in "Thor: Ragnarok" is considered a landmark as Valkyrie is one of the first explicitly queer characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While the explicitness of Valkyrie's bisexuality was contested in the cinematic release, Thompson has confirmed and embraced this aspect of the character. Thompson continues to champion diversity in media, raising the bar for representation in Hollywood.

Aubrey Plaza

Aubrey Plaza, of Puerto Rican and Irish descent, is widely known for her role as April Ludgate on "Parks and Recreation". Plaza publicly came out as bisexual in 2016, and she has since been an outspoken advocate for the LGBTQ+ community. By openly discussing her bisexuality, she has helped increase visibility and eliminate the stigma associated with non-heterosexual orientations. Additionally, her portrayal of queer characters, like in the film "Happiest Season", provides much-needed representation and adds to the authenticity of LGBTQ+ characters in media.

Sara Ramirez

Sara Ramirez, a Mexican-American actress, singer, and activist, is best known for her role as Dr. Callie Torres on "Grey's Anatomy". Ramirez, who identifies as non-binary and bisexual, has been a tireless advocate for LGBTQ+ rights. Their portrayal of Dr. Torres, one of the longest-running queer characters on television, has significantly influenced the way bisexuality is understood and depicted in popular media. Off-screen, Ramirez is heavily involved in LGBTQ+ advocacy, serving on the board of organizations like True Colors United, which works to combat homelessness among LGBTQ+ youth.

MJ Rodriguez

MJ Rodriguez, of Afro-Puerto Rican descent, has made history as a trailblazer for transgender individuals, particularly in the world of television. Rodriguez's groundbreaking role as Blanca Evangelista on "Pose" earned her critical acclaim and marked a significant milestone for trans representation on screen. Rodriguez is open about her identity as a trans woman, leveraging her platform to call attention to issues affecting the transgender community. Her achievements, both as an actress and activist, provide a beacon of hope and inspiration for transgender individuals worldwide.

Through their activism and their work in the media, these prominent figures are not only changing the conversation around LGBTQ+ rights and representation but also shaping a more inclusive and accepting future. In honoring their contributions, we also acknowledge the progress still needed and the ongoing efforts of countless others in the fight for equality and acceptance.