PHOTO: PREMIUM PRODUCE; ILLUSTRATION: MAITANE ROMAGOSA/THRILLIST
Priscilla Vilchis hopes the cannabis industry is more inclusive post-pandemic.
There’s no denying that 2020 has been an incredibly difficult year for just about everyone — and the cannabis industry is no exception. But one budding entrepreneur is finding the silver lining.
“The governor deemed marijuana an essential business, even though we’re federally unlawful,” says Priscilla Vilchis. “I believe that’s going to help us become federally legal a lot quicker.”
Vilchis is the founder and CEO of Premium Produce, a medical-grade cannabis cultivator in Las Vegas. The company was on track to have a stellar year. Its products were among the top sellers at dispensaries throughout the state, including the Planet 13 superstore near the Vegas Strip. However, once COVID-19 became a clear and present danger in March, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak ordered a Nevada-wide business shutdown and Premium Produce was hit with a sudden, unanticipated drop in orders.
“It affected us in a dramatic way,” says Vilchis. “We had to furlough about 80 percent of our staff.”
Much like with restaurants, curbside pickup and delivery orders helped ease the burden, but some dispensaries shifted focus to pushing house brands as a way to preserve profit margins. Plus the drop in tourism didn’t help. Nevada dispensaries are allowed to sell cannabis to anyone 21 or over, drawing heavy traffic from out-of-state visitors who might not have the same opportunity to buy legal weed back home.
As always, the health benefits of cannabis are helping legitimize the industry. While grocery stores and Walmarts were allowed to operate, the state also gave dispensaries permission to serve customers, understanding that cannabis can be a safer alternative to prescription painkillers. It’s one of the reasons Priscilla Vilchis got into the business in the first place. Working in healthcare management, she had a frontrow view of America’s opioid epidemic as it spiraled out of control. “Patients kept getting addicted,” she says. “So I wanted to make a difference.”
Published: July 29, 2020