Christine De La Rosa, CEO & Board member of The People’s Dispensary, is an influential leader, whose work within the cannabis industry is providing healing not only to those in need of cannabis, but to those in need of jobs, community support, and education.
The People’s Dispensary uplifts, empowers, and employs marginalized communities, creating a much-needed model for social equity in the cannabis industry. Her work has a palpable impact on POC/LGBTQ communities.
Candid Chronicle had the opportunity to connect with De La Rosa about her passion for cannabis, the communities she reaches, and her introduction to the plant.
De La Rosa believes it is more challenging for a woman to operate in the cannabis industry, for the same reasons that it is a challenge in other industries. According to a report by MJBizDaily, the 2017 US National average of women executives in cannabis was only 26.9%.
Although much of De La Rosa’s equity-focused work is subverting the machine, she doesn’t find that working with local governments is negatively affected by her mission to foster diversity and social equity in cannabis.
“I think we are in the middle of a time in our country where the people want change. We are the physical manifestation of that needed change. We work with local governments as thought partners on how to shift the paradigm on how this brand new industry could be. My hope is that municipalities see us as allies to help them think through how to make this industry equitable day one for POC, formerly incarcerated, women and those most harmed by the war on drugs,” explains De La Rosa.
De La Rosa’s experience with cannabis bloomed out of an arduous journey with chronic illness. Christine, also known as Miz Chris, was diagnosed with Lupus in 2009. The regiment of 11 daily pills that she was prescribed included 5 opioids, plus a monthly chemo-like infusion.
“Becoming a chronically ill person radically shifted my view of the world,” said Christine.
Before being introduced to CBD in 2015, Christine had to use a cane. Since then, she utilizes THC and CBD to treat her Lupus and has been in remission for three years. Christine is no longer taking synthetic prescriptions, receiving monthly infusions, or using a cane.
De La Rosa, whose favorite strain is Jack Herer, described her daily medication routine, “I take 25mg of CBD a day and 10mg of an indica tincture at night. It has not changed in the last three years. If I am in a Lupus flare I will add additional CBD via an edible or sublingual to my daily dosing.”
Combining her passion for cannabis and uplifting communities happened organically for De La Rosa, who said she’s been doing this work for years, even when she didn’t know that was what she was doing. When she became sick, Christine wasn’t able to work, so she left the tech industry. Following, De La Rosa dedicated herself to providing others with access to cannabis, in a way that improves communities that need it.
“… I believe this is one of the most important things I will do in my lifetime,” Christine De La Rosa.
De La Rosa, who is an advocate for LGBTQ and POC communities, is focused entirely on cannabis at this point in her life. “I don’t wear many hats anymore because to me I cannot give my all to equity in cannabis if my focus is splintered. As a person who lives with chronic illness, I had to make a choice and I chose this business and this fight. I believe wholeheartedly that cannabis can change health, wealth and entire communities and that is where I want my attention to be,” says De La Rosa.
De La Rosa founded the Benefit Health Collective with Co-Founders Chaney Turner, Charlene Caabay, and Michael Schlieker in 2016. Two years later, they shifted the collective into The People’s Dispensary.
With locations in Portland and Oakland, The People’s Dispensary empowers their local communities by working with small growers and providing employment to people who were imprisoned. In addition, TPD offers a unique investor model which allows individuals who don’t meet traditional investor models to invest in their company.
“It is not just about disproportionate arrest rates but also about how this industry should absolutely not allow guys in ties to make millions while folks are in jail for the exact same practices. I am not trying to change hearts and minds, I am simply demanding that this industry be equitable in the face of the atrocious injustices suffered by mostly black and brown people,” Christine De La Rosa told Candid Chronicle.
Candid Chronicle asked De La Rosa what it took for her to open a dispensary, to which she said “Money, friends, and community. We would not be where we are today if we did not have the community around us to uplift what we are doing. Every day I am grateful for all the love and support we have received.”
It’s clear that the community does support The People’s Dispensary. According to De La Rosa, the dispensary does little marketing and most of their business has been word of mouth. “We have about an 84% retention rate for our customers and I truly believe that is because they believe in our mission to empower communities through cannabis.”
To readers that wish to participate and support social equity in cannabis, De La Rosa says: “BE VOCAL! Call your legislators and ask them, “How will POC, formerly incarcerated, and women own day one in this industry?” If they can’t answer that basic question then there is no equity. As a citizen, you must demand it for it to happen.”
When it comes to other dispensaries supporting marginalized communities, De La Rosa has this message: “Reflect all communities in your company. Do not tokenize POC/LGBTQ and don’t hire them to check a box. Be invested in their success as much as you’re invested in your business’ success. Make sure they are in positions of leadership and above all be respectful of every single person who is part of your team.”