Often compared to the “Queen of the South”, this Queen is ruling marijuana the legal way. She’s a visionary with a strong personality, a powerful Latina and courageous “Queen’’ of a cannabis empire. It’s no wonder, Priscilla Vilchis, CEO of Premium Produce, is so often compared to Sándra Ávila Beltran, the real-life Mexican drug cartel […]
Often compared to the “Queen of the South”, this Queen is ruling marijuana the legal way.
She’s a visionary with a strong personality, a powerful Latina and courageous “Queen’’ of a cannabis empire. It’s no wonder, Priscilla Vilchis, CEO of Premium Produce, is so often compared to Sándra Ávila Beltran, the real-life Mexican drug cartel leader who inspired USA Network and Telemundo’s narco-drama series, Queen of the South.
However, beyond the beauty and brains, there is a big difference between these two ‘Queens’: Vilchis has a throne in the legal marijuana kingdom. An empire that was built with hard work; without the bloodshed and ruthless actions in the era of the Queen of the South.
Priscilla Vilchis, coined by the media as the “Queen of the Desert”, is a self-made magnate who dropped out of college to pursue a business in the healthcare industry. By age 21, she had grown and managed multi-million dollar enterprises for some of Southern California’s top physicians, helping them navigate regulations within the healthcare industry. This experience not only made her successful at such a young age, but it also gave her a firsthand look at the opioid epidemic and consequently a new purpose in life: Get medical marijuana reimbursed by insurance carriers.
“I knew I had to do something to end this crisis, so I started to research pain management alternatives and that’s when I came across medical marijuana,” Vilchis remembers, “I called my lawyer and I told him to find the state with the most enlightened cannabis laws and within months we filed to invest in Las Vegas, Nevada.”
All odds were against Vilchis. She was up against men, billionaires and entrepreneurs who had been in business longer than she’d been alive. Nonetheless in 2014, Vilchis became the youngest and first Latina with licenses to produce and cultivate marijuana in the Silver State and in 2017 was the first female to obtain several cannabis licenses in California.
Vilchis pragmatism has enabled her to thrive in an industry that is still illegal federally, and very much a male-dominated field. Her tenacity to push forward with her idea to enter the industry, even after being dismissed over and over again, her assertiveness and self-confidence in a room full of men are qualities that have allowed Vilchis to break the glass ceiling.
“The cannabis bud is female for a reason.” Vilchis says with a grin.
It’s not a secret that a Queen cannot rule an empire all by herself, and through the trials and errors, she always had people by her side: her familia.
“I grew up in a strict Mexican-American Catholic home and the use of drugs was highly frowned upon. I was terrified of marijuana growing up,” Vilchis recalls, “It wasn’t until I was an adult that I began to see it’s benefits and when I told my parents I was going to invest in the cannabis industry, they were skeptical but easy to convince, because I had already proven to them that I was an intelligent businesswoman and they were open to hear my plans and how it could change the world.”
Today, most of her staff is made up of her immediate family. From her father working security at the facility, her mother running the books and her sister the office, to her cousin being her right hand man and her brother-in-law managing the cultivation side of the business.
Vilchis also recently released her innovative cannabis line, Reina, which means Queen in Spanish, packaged in luxurious black and gold glass containers with the sophistication and minimalism of high-end fashion brands and sexy curves. Reina is favorited by seasoned cannabis connoisseurs and tourists who enjoy the finer things in life.
“It’s a legacy in the making,” states the Queen of the Desert.
Vilchis’ Reina brand consists of many popular strains like Ghost Train Haze, vape pens, lip balms, and within a few weeks there will lubricants, topicals and much more at Planet 13, Nevada Made and the Grove in Las Vegas and Henderson.
“A Full-Spectrum CBD line is coming soon. We just purchased the hemp processing facility and we are ready to take our product line from the dispensaries to your local grocery store,” says Vilchis, “This is only the beginning. We are going to revolutionize this industry and keep paving the road for future female cannabis queens.”
Up close and personal with Priscilla Vilchis:
Vegas Cannabis Magazine: How did you get your start in the cannabis industry?
Priscilla Vilchis: I got my start in the healthcare industry managing physicians throughout Southern California and rapidly expanded to other states. While working in healthcare, I saw that the opioid epidemic had become a serious issue afflicting the U.S. I decided to enter the cannabis industry after I learned that cannabis had many therapeutic effects and could be used as an alternative medication for many health ailments. My goal is to get medical cannabis reimbursable by health insurance systems.
VCM: As a Latino woman, what skepticism did you encounter from your friends and family in California as you embarked on this journey?
PV: At first, my family and friends were skeptical of me entering the industry. Coming from a religious Latino family, I was always told marijuana was evil and I would die if I used it. After sitting down with my family and explaining how cannabis was beneficial for patients suffering from debilitating diseases such as cancer, epilepsy, and chronic pain, I was able to get them on board and had their full support.
VCM: How does it feel to be the first licensed, female minority in LA County? What licenses do you hold there?
PV: It feels amazing to be a trailblazer in this industry for women and minorities. I currently hold four licenses in Lynwood, California: Cultivation, Manufacturing, Distribution, and Delivery licenses.
VCM: And now, you are the youngest, female minority to be licensed in Nevada, what challenges did you encounter while going through the Nevada licensing process? What licenses do you hold?
PV: In Nevada, I am dual-licensed for cultivation and production. One of the biggest challenges I had to face in Nevada was purchasing my state-of-the-art Las Vegas facility. Banks were unwilling to finance a cannabis company because of the outdated federal prohibition. I purchased the facility myself for $2million in cash, and closed escrow in 15 days. That day is now known as the “2 million dollar day.”
VCM: Tell us about your cultivation facility here in Nevada.
PV: My Nevada facility is 25,000 square feet and currently has 5 operational cultivation rooms. The building features a custom-made environmental control system which cost more than $1 million to purchase and install. It controls temperature, humidity, airflow, monitors irrigation, and warns staff when grow room lighting is uneven and lights need to be changed.
VCM: Tell us about your product lineup here in Nevada.
PV: We are currently offering high-quality cannabis flower, pre-rolls, a sleek assortment of cannabis vape pens, THC lip balm, and have plans to add more products to our lineup in the upcoming months.
VCM: What advice would you give to women and/or minorities entering the cannabis space?
PV: Always see yourself as an equal at the table, and never let anyone tell you what you can or can’t do. Work hard and always deliver on your promises – success will follow. Feed off the support of your friends and family; surround yourself with others who also dream big.
VCM: What motivates you? PV: It is motivating to be an inspiration to others who are like myself and in pursuit of their own goals. To be a trailblazer and break that glass-ceiling for minority, female entrepreneurs everywhere is truly fulfilling. I am paving the way for future female entrepreneurs, and have proven that my age, gender, and race have not negatively affected my determination to achieve my goals.
VCM: Biggest hurdles you have faced in the industry?
PV: The largest hurdle I’ve had to face is not having any support from the banks. This makes it extremely difficult as a business-owner when you must deal in cash and don’t have access to traditional services such as loans. I am lucky to have been well capitalized when applying for my licenses, but that is not always the case. You must do your due diligence in understanding all regulations when entering the industry.
VCM: What can we expect from you and Premium Produce in the future?
PV: You can expect to see our Reina branded cannabis products in dispensaries throughout Nevada. We have plans to add our own line of CBD wellness products as well. We will be dropping our Reina CBD full spectrum line within the next couple of weeks. We will also begin building out a new facility in Lynwood, CA.