Priscilla Vilchis was in grade school when she first inquired about cannabis. She was walking through a park with her family near their home in the Sacramento, California area. Cannabis was heavy in the air and she asked her mom what that peculiar smell was.
“It’s just skunk!” her mother quickly replied.
Vilchis was raised in a strict Hispanic-Catholic household, not a place where cannabis is normally tolerated, to say the least. Vilchis and her siblings grew being told that drugs were not only bad but that they’d die or succumb some horrible fate if they were to experiment with drugs, even with common over-the-counter medicines. Marijuana was the most taboo all. Vilchis didn’t have her second encounter with cannabis until she was 21.
She shared the experience with a friend while in college in Chicago. Her friend was diagnosed with stage-four breast cancer and the doctor recommended cannabis to battle the side effects the chemotherapy treatments she was about to embark on. After they blazed up Vilchis reports a “funny” experience that she will never forget. Coughing, laughing and being enamored by the snow’s beauty. That single experience of being stoned in the midwestern winter planted a seed that would grow into a cannabis empire.
After college Vilchis made her living in in the health care industry, helping doctors and physicians navigate health insurance and other regulations. Vilchis was incredibly successful in this industry, expanding the business from California to a multi-million-dollar operation with a national presence. During her time in the healthcare industry, she realized how detrimental and counterproductive the current system was when helping patients manage their pain. She witnessed firsthand, controlled substances like opioids and other pain medication zombifying patients – creating addicts over a matter of weeks and them returning, practically beating down the door to get refills.
“Physicians do what they know best, prescribe meds,” Vilchis said in a matter of fact tone.
Vilchis thought back to her giggly college experience with her friend and felt that cannabis could be the next giant industry in medicine. If cannabis helped her friend with breast cancer, why couldn’t it help millions more with pain tolerance and management issues?
Vilchis made some calls to her lawyer and asked them to investigate states with recreational cannabis industries. They eventually decided on Nevada because it had the highest floor lucrative business.
“Marijuana is going to be something big,” she told her lawyer.
A competitive grab for Nevada licenses in 2013 made it challenging for Vilchis to get her foot in the door, but once she did, she kicked the door down and quickly became of the most prominent people in the cannabis industry. Vilchis is the CEO and CMO of Premium Produce, her flagship cannabis brand in Nevada. She was the youngest and first-ever minority female CEO to be awarded licenses to cultivate and produce medical cannabis in Nevada, according to an MJBIZCON press release.
On top of Perfect Produce and the dozen or so cannabis licenses she owns across multiple states, she’s regularly consulted by the press and has been featured in publications like Bloomberg, Telemundo, Forbes, CNN Money, and LA Weekly. She was featured on the cover of Cannabis Business Times and was featured in televised segments with CNN-HLN, NBC, CBS, Telemundo, and LATV’s ‘The Zoo’. Her blistering spiderweb throughout the cannabis industry over the last five years in the cannabis industry has garnered her the title of Queen Of The Desert; a moniker Vilchis bestows proudly.
“The name chose me, believe it or not,” Vilchis says with an enigmatic smile.
A reporter came to speak with her on her quick rise in the Nevada cannabis game and told her “you’re like the Queen Of The Desert,” likely basing it off a popular 1994 movie called The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert; a story about two transgender drag queens traveling across the desert performing cabernet. An unlikely homage but a fitting title none the less, Queen Of The Desert stuck; Vilchis has named her first product line Reina, the Spanish word for queen.
Reina’s cannabis is produced in a 26,000 square-feet facility in a quiet Las Vegas business complex, several miles from the bright lights of the Las Vegas strip. The facility is clean, sterilized and contains seven grow rooms with a solventless-extraction chamber, and seven more grow rooms on the way. There wasn’t much flower in the facility other than a few babies in the vegetation stage, but Vilchis mentioned strains like GG #4 and Purple Glue in the works. Without seeing the flower first-hand, it’s hard to tell how effective their facility will be, but Vilchis and her team are confident in their operation and professed rave reviews from the flower budtenders sampled.
Vilchis has big plans in California’s recreational market in the form of the nation’s first consumption lounge. While nothing is set in stone just yet, Vilchis’s excitement about the project sparkled through her eyes, while her words about the project’s certainty remained measured. If approved, it could spark a wave of regulated cannabis consumption lounges, something Nevada cannabis retailer Planet 13 also has in the works for 2019.
Vilchis’s mother and father look back on their children’s upbringing around drug education, and they can’t help but laugh. Their daughter’s success changed their tune about what cannabis is and can do for people, especially as a form of medicine, but may not to hyped on its recreational use just yet, Vilchis states with a laugh.
Many parents are in the same boat, spreading misinformation to their kids, not out of malcontent, but woeful ignorance due to decades of cannabis propaganda and misinformation that plagued mainstream culture and still has its corrupt tendrils wrapped around many walks of our society to this day.
Vilchis saw her parent’s cannabis awakening as an opportunity to educate the masses on cannabis and help change the conversation to enact the same changes she saw in her parents on a global scale. It’s been one of her prime directives and passions since entering the industry in 2013. She was a commencement speaker for the first-ever graduating class of the USC-Iovine and Young Academy and spoke at Teens Exploring Technology, speaks at conferences like MJBIZCON, and others.
She also performs community outreach in places like Lynnwood, California where some of the Latino population still hold on to old cannabis stigmas like worn rosary beads. She educates communities on cannabis zoning laws, to ensure that pot shops can’t be built next to schools and other common myths and misconceptions around the cannabis industry. Vilchis is dedicated to shifting the conversation around cannabis to a positive one, backed by business plans, research, laws, regulations, and anecdotal evidence from the people it helps first hand.
Becoming a cannabis business magnate while simultaneously empowering women and Latino people around the world was never a goal for Vilchis, just something that happened as a result of disciplined work ethic and the overwhelming desire to educate people about the benefits a free cannabis market presents.
“I just wake up doing what I know best, I didn’t wake up saying ‘I’m going to make history today’,” Vilchis continued, “I’m humbled.”