Cynthia Villamizar

Cookies California

Q&A Session with the National Hispanic Cannabis Council

Q.1  What is your role at Cookies?  How long have you been in this role?

I’ve served on the Cookies Social Impact team for the past five months and my work is focused specifically on spotlighting LatinX voices in the cannabis community and beyond.  

Q.2.  What movitaved you to enter the legal cannabis industry?

I started my career as a 21-year old intern at Google and I spent the next six years working in a variety of roles from Sales to Operations and Marketing both in the U.S and Latin America.  It was an incredible ride, but at a certain point, I’d grown so anxious I could barely sleep at night, and found myself in a loop of exhausted and stressed days. I regained my balance by starting to incorporate cannabis into my wellness and fitness routines and saw an improvement in my sleep cycles and my workouts. 

I went through a ‘green renaissance’ and went on to educate myself on the science of the plant, and the product innovation that had come to the industry.  I knew that I wanted to work towards a mission that resonated with me, and that speaks to a variety of needs in our communities: wellness, economic-equity, environmental sustainability, workforce development. I jumped head-first into my daydream and haven’t looked back since! 

Q.3  What type of education prepared you for the role you play today?

I tried all the things! I read books like The Cannabis Manifesto: A New Paradigm for Wellness and Cannabis Pharmacy: The Practical Guide to Medical Marijuana. I took Green Flower’s Cannabis Fundamentals course, and followed cannabis pages on social media (where you can also get a more first-hand understanding of the cannabis community and their work/advocacy). I attended as many events and met as many people as I could, and I even started my own platform to share my journey in cannabis. 

It was all worth it, but if there was one experience that was most transformative, I’d say that it was my experience working as a Brand Educator for Kikoko, a Women’s cannabis startup. I got to visit dispensaries every single day to educate dispensary-teams and customers and it really tested my understanding of what is happening in customer’s minds, what retail buyers are looking for, and what challenges faced the industry on the production, distribution and retail levels. I really internalized that the people making these products and buying them are real people. The people running dispensaries and cannabis brands are real too! There’s a lot of real people trying to make it in the cannabis industry, and it’s simply not an easy thing to do. 

Q.4.  As a Latina, what was your family’s initial reaction with your career decision to enter the cannabis industry?  How did you overcome this stigma, if any?

I got really lucky and my family got to see first-hand the positive impact that cannabis had on my physical and mental wellness. They were surprised, and asked LOTS of questions, but once they felt educated, they were fully supportive and have been great supporters ever since! 

Learning new things keeps me motivated, and the cannabis industry has afforded me the opportunity to pursue my dream of working in an environment that if nothing else, keeps you learning. I truly couldn’t be more thrilled that my day-job is a daily effort to maximize the potential impact of cannabis on healthy, inclusive, and financially thriving people and communities. My parents are happy that I’m so happy. 

Q.5.  What advice would you offer other Latino/a’s wanting to explore a career in the legal cannabis industry?

Get excited, this is going to be the ride of your life!  But also Get Educated. The cannabis industry isn’t just one thing. It’s an entire supply chain and there are MANY things to figure out . There are people and organizations working to solve issues far and wide, from making cultivation sites sustainable, to perfecting the art of cannabis extractions, and making cannabis accessible for medical patients. Don’t get discouraged! Just put on your learner’s hat, and never take it off. 

I’d also advise steadfastness. A passion for cannabis is not entirely necessary, but passion for something is a must whether it be a commitment to diversity & inclusion, restorative justice, or plant wellness etc. As the industry becomes more accessible, guidelines and restrictions will keep changing, which means that the days are hectic and the obstacles numerous. There’s gotta be a mission that keeps you  here, fighting the good fight to make this an industry and community we’re proud of.