Q&A Session with the National Hispanic Cannabis Council
Q.1 What is your role at Cresco Labs? How did you achieve this role?
VP of Product Development. I achieved this role by proving myself as the resident subject matter expert on all things concentrates, vapes and medicinals. I joined the company in 2018 as VP of Extraction and oversaw operations for turning biomass into oil. In 2019 my role changed to VP of Manufacturing where I oversaw all operations in the network and supported getting our skus out the door and onto the shelf. In 2020 our growth was tremendous and I then narrowed my focus as VP, Manufacturing West Region where I oversaw Manufacturing operations in CA, AZ and IL. In 2021 our company had a strong desire for innovation which created the need for a new department. Early 2021 I co-founded Product Development within Cresco Labs and is now my full focus. My team now dedicates our time to supporting the development of best-in-class products.
Q.2. What motivated you to enter the legal cannabis industry?
I grew a personal interest in college during my tenure at CU Boulder where I had the opportunity to help one of my good friend’s mom build one of the first cultivation/cannabis labs in Denver CO. However, what really made me take a hard commitment into the industry was in 2015 when my mothers life threatening car crash changed our families lives overnight. Her injuries were severe and required significant medical attention. During this pivotal time, it became very apparent I had to become the family’s breadwinner fast. I realized I didn’t have time for internships or climbing up the corporate ladder. Back in those times, CA was a “green rush” and the whole state was in need of oil processing. I knew then I had to head west.
Q.3 What type of education prepared you for the role you play in the cannabis industry?
I believe my entrepreneurial spirit was imbedded into me by my mothers influence but I studied Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Colorado Boulder. I also attained a Business minor from the Leeds School of Business at CU Boulder. This paired education has really enabled me to thrive in my current environment. It has allowed me to understand the technical aspects of the job but has also rounded me as a businessman.
Q.4. As a Latino, what was your family’s initial reaction to your career decision in the cannabis industry? How did you overcome this stigma, if any?
I kept this a secret for a long time. During my mom’s recovery, I never told her, as I feared it would be detrimental to her recovery. Initially, I told my two brothers and found a tremendous amount of support. However I knew I couldn’t lie forever, nor did I want to stay in the shadows. In late 2018 I was invited to speak at an international medical cannabis symposium held in Mexico City: CannabiSalud. I humbly accepted and immediately asked if I could bring a +1. I knew that I had been presented with a perfect opportunity to tell my mom. Sure enough, we traveled to Mexico City, my mothers homeland where she saw me take the stage for the first time as an internationally recognized scientist who specialized in cannabis. She was blown away. The delivery was bittersweet and bumpy to say the least. Firstly, she could not fathom what was happening and what she had just witnessed her son do, but secondly she was torn on if to be uber proud of her son or to be disappointed because of the specific subject matter cannabis. She wept and gave me a hug I will never forget. She let me know she understood why I did what I did and gave me her blessing. The rest is history. Nowadays she perhaps doesn’t broadcast it to the world but she definitely is accepting, uses cannabis products and is a regular advocate for the efficacy of products for pediatrics.
Q.5. What advice would you offer other Latino’s wanting to explore a career in the legal cannabis industry?
Don’t allow the cultural stigma to keep you from getting in the race! Stigma will come from all places, friends, foe’s and family. Our culture worries about the legitimacy of the industry and has a strong notion of it’s connections to “narcotrafficking”. Times have changed and our culture needs to get an update. Be the change you wish to see in the world. Personally, I have had the pleasure to see many Latinos make a legal career out of cannabis which has then enabled them to take care of their families. This in our culture is the most respected.