In the Works: Gente de Canna
Leila’s first hospice patient was a 98-years old Salvadoran woman named Eva. Leila recounts with a warm smile on her face, “she was gangsta in her attitude and she would yell at me if her food tasted bad. And it always tasted bad. She was on so much morphine that it affected the taste of all her food.
“The mental stress of taking care of her was heavy. I wanted her to have dignity. I wanted her to feel respected. But I also wanted to step-in and force-feed her. I wanted to take care of her like a child, like my daughter. I just didn’t want her to feel so sick and nauseous anymore”.
And so, with Eva’s approval, Leila decided to add cannabis-infused olive oil to Eva’s soup. They saw a dramatic improvement in her digestion, pain management, and mood. Leila on the other hand, saw her first glimpse of her future life-path.
“Looking back on my days at hospice, I’ve empowered so many families to cook for their loved ones with cannabis. They now cook for their families and provide this wellness to their communities. It’s trickle-down wellness.
Today, Leila is building upon all of these experiences as the founder of Gente de Canna, an education platform for Latino immigrants and an upcoming cannabis-infused sauce company. Gente de Canna is Leila’s vision to destigmatize cannabis-medicine, educate Spanish-speaking communities, and create a cannabis brand that celebrates her Latina roots.
“Food decriminalizes everything. Once you break bread with people, it breaks the barrier.”How do I empower people to look at this like a normal nutrient? like a part of your family’s pantry?
Once Leila got the idea to found Gente de Canna, it only took her a few weeks to start the process of making her dream come to life. “I started researching licenses, and I found the equity program on the website. I was also really looking for an organization that was helping undocumented immigrants feel safe to medicate, and I couldn’t find a single thing. I felt discouraged.
“The cannabis industry frequently touts its compassion efforts but here was a huge group of humans that were left out and in many ways, facing a double stigma: the longtime stigma of the Latino community against cannabis and the stigmas which undocumented immigrants uniquely experiece. “I knew that this would be an incredible resource, and I was motivated to build it myself”.
In addition to education, Leila is also launching her own cannabis infused-sauce brand. She has spent the past few years perfecting the art of cannabis infusions as the sous chef at The Cannaisseur Series, an elegant dinner series where dosing is integral to the multi-course cannabis experience. “After working alongside Coreen and other strong women like Jessie Alvarez, I have the confidence and determination to pursue a project of my own.
“Food decriminalizes everything. Once you break bread with people, it breaks the barrier.”
And while her grit is undeniable, the equity licensing process has been anything but easy for Leila. The San Francisco Cannabis Equity Program was created to create business opportunities for those negatively impacted by the War on Drugs. Equity applicants who meet eligibility criteria based on residency, income, criminal justice involvement, and housing insecurity can receive access to reduced-cost licensing, prioritized applications, and incubator partnerships.
Despite its good intentions, the program is frequently criticized for gaps in its implementation.
A few years after its launch, applicants like Leila still struggle with a lack of consistent resources and support. “There is no blueprint for doing this and there isn’t anyone that can sit down, and show you how to get through the process. It’s so new that those who have made it through, have only recently done so. The process is going to be long and slow. I’m going to have to work at this every day to get all the documentation and check all the boxes. But I’m gonna finish this. I’m gonna do this”.
In terms of advice for aspiring equity applicants, Leila offers that industry events and workshops are a big part of the application process.”If you’re able to relate your exact questions, there will be somebody to lead you on the path. Community is essential to the mental strength needed to get through this application process so get your network going”. Through Covid shelter-in-place restrictions, look to Zoom meetups as an alternative!
“The process needs to be processed. The patience with myself has been necessary. I have to have the mental capacity to pivot and pivot and pivot, even though I just pivoted. If these big fishes are already drowning, I have to keep swimming. I’m like fucking Dory, bitch. I have to keep swimming, keep swimming”.