Q&A Session with the National Hispanic Cannabis Council
Q.1 What is your role at Cresco Labs in the legal cannabis industry? How did you achieve this role?
My current role is in Community Integration and serving as the Regional Director for Illinois. But like most professionals, I support outside my area and manage projects where we have a presence in the Midwest and on the East Coast. Community Integration and a slightly more intentional type of corporate social responsibility (CSR). My areas of impact include community engagement and special intuitively, health, substance abuse and recovery, veterans, LGTBQIA+ Community, local, small and minority own businesses, patient education, population experiencing homelessness and food insecurity, people with disabilities, senior citizens, and urban gardens and sustainability. I have always wanted to do CSR and have been inching towards growing my experience and skillset to do so whenever I was able to transition into a new role. When the opportunity came up to apply to work at Cresco Labs, I had the experience of working with diverse communities on the ground, working at the state-wide level with different communities, and built a portfolio of experience in fundraising and relationship management. I am where I have always wanted to be – I just never imagined I would help impact communities under the umbrella of cannabis.
Q.2. What motivated you to enter the legal cannabis industry?
Having been in fundraising my entire career, I know the importance of having individuals on the “giving/investment side” that know communities and can visualize the real impact that organizations make on the ground. I jumped on the opportunity to apply to Cresco Labs and join a team dedicated to legitimately working with communities at the hyper-local level. As a new industry, there was an opportunity to create structures and processes that could set the standards for CSR work nationwide under this new industry. To be given the opportunity to do so was too enticing to pass up. I knew it meant a lot of work – but I was ready to embrace it. I also realized that entering the industry would be an opportunity to educate and open the door to other Latino professionals that could also create an impact. Together I believe we can begin to destigmatize the taboo around cannabis and careers in the industry.
Q.3 What type of education prepared you for the role you play in the cannabis industry?
I have a communications degree and a master degree in public administration. In general, since cannabis is SO new, there really are no experts “in the industry” unless you are on the science side of operations. What you do have are experts in “skillsets.” Everyone at Cresco Labs is an expert in their skillset and brings value to their roles in that manner. I bring a strong background in relationship management and impact assessment. If anything, I think my masters degree has helped identify risk – which is important in a very highly regulated industry.
Q.4. As a Latino, what was your family’s initial reaction with your career decision in the cannabis industry? How did you overcome this stigma, if any?
When I informed my mother about my decision to join Cresco Labs, her literal words were, “So… you are a drug dealer? All that education and professional development… you ended up selling drugs anyway?!” I had to do a significant amount of explaining about the industry, how it has changed, the opportunities, and how cannabis is seen differently across diverse communities and cultures. To be honest, there is still continuous dialogue – it is definitely a work in progress. However, she often asks if we have mixed cannabis with alcohol yet to alleviate elbow pain – so I believe she is coming to terms with the industry and its potential benefit.
Q.5. What advice would you offer other Latino’s wanting to explore a career in the legal cannabis industry?
NOW is the time to get involved. Being that the industry is new, there is opportunity to bring your expertise and create impact – more so than in already established industries. There is stigma around the industry in our Latino community, even among professionals, but we need to look past that and understand that we can work for cannabis and be lawyers, accountants, marketing professionals, do supply chain management, run social media, and manage human resource departments etc. Apply, apply, apply.