Wonder Women Of Weed is a weekly column featuring accomplished female leaders in the cannabis industry. Yvonne DeLaRosa Green, a TV and film actress turned marijuana entrepreneur, was the first to obtain a cannabis business license in Los Angeles.
Yvonne DeLaRosa asked if I'm familiar with the "Eagle and the Condor" prophecy.
I assumed it has something to do with the great American Eagle and the majestic Condor of the South American Andes. After all, Yvonne’s mother was born in Colombia, while her father was Native American.
It turns out my assumption was spot on. DeLaRosa Green said she comes from a long line of “curanderas,” or Latin American natural healers, and that, being raised by her mom and her grandparents, she found natural healing early in life.
“I feel like the embodiment of the Eagle and the Condor prophecy," DeLaRosa Green told me in a recent conversation.
The entrepreneur said she embraces her American identity while honoring her lineage.
"I'm healing people with this natural medicine that was originally ours, used by natural healers in South America."
One or two generations were made to feel ashamed of marijuana, DeLaRosa said.
“So, I'm just really, really feeling grateful and blessed that these natural plant medicines are coming back into the mainstream, to see people realizing that they don't have to race over to the pharmacy and pharmaceuticals that can hurt them or even kill them, that they can actually heal themselves naturally.”
From Entertainment To Cannabis
In order to understand why DeLaRosa Green was the first person to snag a cannabis business license in Los Angeles County, we need to rewind the tape a little bit.
She's an actress by trade. You might have seen her in films or TV shows like "NYPD Blue," "Judging Amy," "The King of Queens," "The Closer," "Weeds" and "How I Met Your Mother." DeLaRosa Green holds a master’s degree from UCLA.
“At a certain point, even though I was getting all this recognition from my film, TV and theater roles, I was only playing roles like being a maid, or being a poor immigrant,” she said. “And I don’t mind portraying that every once in a while; but when those are the only roles coming your way, and you are a woman with a master’s degree from UCLA, it makes you ask yourself: 'where are the good roles?'”
While DeLaRosa Green was dealing with the frustrations of being a stereotyped Latina in Hollywood, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. “Given the whole history of natural healing in our background, we both asked: what would grandmother do right now?
“My mom made the really brave decision to not do chemo, to not do radiation and not do any of those drugs. She tried healing herself naturally instead: she became 100-percent vegan, she was juicing and really watching everything she ate.”
DeLaRosa Green recommended cannabis. Her mother didn’t even drink and was hesitant at first.
“But I had heard of people that had cured themselves and healed themselves from many illnesses using cannabis, so I told her there were oils and things like that she could try."
While advocates like DeLaRosa Green believe marijuana is a valid cancer treatment, it has not been shown to control or cure the disease, according to the American Cancer Society.
As Yvonne and her mom visited countless dispensaries in California — in 2006 — search of the best treatment option available, the experience was “mortifying," she said.
“Every dispensary had the scary security guard and the bars on the windows. One even had a pit bull in the corner growling — and I love pit bulls, I've had two of them — but when there's one at a dispensary where I'm going to go get healed, a growling pit bull on the corner is not something I want."
It made sense, whether medical or recreational, that dispensaries should carry an ambience of wellness and well-being.
A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats
Surprised by how off-putting the dispensary experience had been, DeLaRosa Green said she realized Americans needed high-end dispensaries: places where any mother, grandmother or any patient would feel comfortable.
It took her less than a year to turn this thought into a business. By 2007, Yvonne and her husband Sam Boyer had opened what she claims was “the world's first upscale dispensary” in Venice Beach. They called it 99 High Art and combined cannabis retail with art.
The dispensary caught the attention of the press and celebrities alike. In just a few months, 99 High Art became a place where “famous authors and artists and musicians and DJs would come in and celebrate cannabis, have a good time and share what they knew about plant medicine,” she said.
The early success of this store, the brand and the concept behind it led Yvonne and her husband to open another dispensary in Malibu: 99 High Tide.
“We had Tommy Chong and the mayor of Malibu in our opening. This really showed everybody how the tide had really turned in cannabis,” she said.
Now it's three years later, and DeLaRosa Green has a new Malibu location, the first cannabis business license in LA County and is being named California's best dispensary by multiple publications, she said.
“Being the first person in history to get a Los Angeles cannabis business license is amazing. I was born in LA, and it’s my hometown no matter where I go in the world. And being a woman of color made it even more special because I see how other young Latinas feel inspired and validated by my story,” she said. “Pursuing a dream in cannabis is not only possible, but also honorable. The cannabis industry offers unprecedented opportunities for women never seen in corporate America before.”
Focusing On What’s Important
One of the things that make DeLaRosa Green's dispensaries great is her attention to detail: she said she's committed to offering a great patient experience, and that includes having a unique, highly qualified staff.
“Not only do we have knowledgeable staff who know what to recommend and who understand natural healing, but all of our cannabis consultants have different healing modalities,” she said. “Our general manager Vanessa is an acupuncturist and many of our consultants are herbalists or Reiki healers or body workers. Everybody comes from the world of healing.”
Yvonne plans to open the world’s first CBD spa right next to 99 High Tide.
“When you’re sick, you don’t just want to do cannabis, you want to change your whole lifestyle."
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