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Priscilla Vilchis, owner and CEO of Premium Produce, was the first licensed female minority in L.A. County, California, and the youngest female minority to be licensed in Nevada. She recently spoke to us about her experience in the cannabis industry, advice for newcomers, and more.
Priscilla Vilchis, owner and CEO of Premium Produce, a medical and recreational cultivation and processing company with operations in Las Vegas, Nevada, and Lynwood, California, and additional delivery and distribution licenses in California, has quickly become a major player in the cannabis industry. Vilchis was the first licensed female minority in L.A. County and the youngest female minority to be licensed in Nevada-both very hardwon
achievements. Here Vilchis discusses the process she went through to start her businesses, advice for people starting out, and hopes for the future.
You’ve been nicknamed the “Queen of the Desert” or “Queen of Cannabis.” Can you tell us how you got so involved in the cannabis industry? How do you feel about those nicknames?
I got my start in the healthcare industry managing several physicians throughout Southern California and rapidly expanded to different states. I learned a lot about the use as well as the abuse of prescription drugs and became interested in alternatives to opioid-based medications.
I discovered that cannabis and cannabinoids have a wide range of therapeutic potential. I believe that the use of medical cannabis will result in savings to health insurance systems. This is what brought me to the cannabis industry initially, and it is my goal to use my experience in the healthcare industry to generate reimbursements for medical cannabis.
I am flattered that people refer to me as the “Queen of Cannabis.” It is truly motivating. I am humbled.
What made you want to start cannabis businesses in California and Nevada?
California and Nevada have been leaders of the legalization movement. I entered this business in Nevada because of the comprehensive, common-sense regulations. I expanded operations to my home state of California when the state implemented a regulatory framework for the industry. I am passionate about bringing the law into line with reality and creating safe and effective cannabis products for medical marijuana patients and responsible recreational users. The market demand in these states is huge. Los Angeles is predicted to be the biggest cannabis market in the world, and Las Vegas is the ultimate cannabis tourist destination.
What was the process like to get your licenses? How did it differ from California to Nevada?
The medical marijuana establishment application process in Nevada was extremely rigorous and competitive. It was only open for a brief period of time, and drew more than 500 applications. We had to include an incredibly detailed business plan outlining everything from sales tracking to security measures and demonstrate that we had the financial backing to execute our plan.
The California applications are also very rigorous, but the process is a bit different. Unlike in Nevada where the cannabis industry was brand new, cannabis businesses have been operating in a legal gray area in California for many years. The state began continuously accepting applications
on January 1, 2018 and has created “temporary licenses” to bridge the gap and allow cannabis businesses with local authorization to stay in operation while the detailed annual license applications are under review. Another thing that is different about California are higher application
or license fees and taxes on cannabis operations. These are very high barriers to entry, and many established cannabis operators are struggling to make the transition into the legal market.
What is the most difficult aspect of running a cultivation and processing business? Are there specific tools or technology that are a big help?
There are an extraordinary amount of construction and design costs when building a cannabis operation. In addition to all the fees paid for licensing, the build out costs are substantial.
Our Nevada facility features a custom-made Link4 environmental control system, which cost more than $1 million to purchase and install. It controls temperature, humidity, and airflow, and monitors irrigation to warn staff when parts-per-million levels are too high and when filters need to be changed. It also plugs into light sensors to alert the team when a light bulb needs to be changed before grow room light levels become uneven. The automation is a big help and worth every penny.
What advice would you offer to others looking to start a cultivation and processing business?
Make sure that you enter the cannabis industry with the best team-from your legal staff to your workers on the front lines of your grow operation. Always plan ahead and expect the unexpected when it comes to this industry.
What is one thing you hope to see happen in the cannabis industry in the next 5–10 years?
Legal cannabis is the fastest growing industry in the United States. While state legalization is an exciting trend, the continued federal prohibition of marijuana has created a fragmented and broken regulatory system that is extremely difficult to navigate. I strongly believe that the laws will change and things will get better for our industry in Nevada, California, and across the United States. Federal lawmakers have proposed numerous pieces of legislation that would protect the growing marijuana industry. States that have already legalized cannabis are also taking a stand. I am looking forward to a great banking system, which would lead to more safety and transparency in the industry.
M. L'Heureux, Cannabis Science and Technology1(3), 14-15 (2018).