In this Cannabis Creative Blog, I sit down with Veronica Castillo, also known as Vee the Traveling Vegan Cannabis Writer. We dive into Castillo’s journey with cannabis, her focus on Black, brown, and women-owned businesses, and her upcoming projects with Ganjaprenuer.
If I had to describe my wildest fantasy job, it would involve lots of travel, exploring cannabis and hemp farms, and trying tons of new products. Oh, and writing for national publications every week.
For Veronica Castillo, that fantasy job is her every day.
Castillo isn’t just any writer; she is the traveling vegan cannabis writer. Her work regularly ranks #1 on Google, she collaborates with brands run by Lil Wayne and Jay-Z, and when it comes to elevating the work of Black, brown, and women-owned canna-businesses, no one does what she does.
Though Castillo always knew she was going to be a writer, her love affair with cannabis took her by surprise. Growing up in the South, Castillo firmly believed in the “devil’s lettuce.” But dealing with chronic migraines and the side effects of multiple medications left her willing to try anything. So in 2015, she took her first hit off a joint in an attempt to ward off a migraine, and she never looked back.
Coming to cannabis crystalized what she had always known about herself- it was time to embrace her destiny and become a full-time writer. So she sold her house in Ohio, packed everything she needed in her car, and hit the road headed towards the West Coast.
Her journey to the national writing stage was anything but easy. Her focus in the industry is on Black, brown, and women-owned businesses, and Castillo quickly realized that many national publications didn’t have room for, or simply didn’t want- a voice like hers. But Castillo is nothing if not mission-oriented, and she refused to let the “no’s” deter her.
There was no one day that made her realize this was her focus, but as she says, “It’s the mirror.” Fed up with headlines about white moms consuming CBD, Castillo turned her gaze on elevating the people, and the businesses typically left behind by mainstream publications.
Today, Castillo’s work is in high demand (pun intended). If you want her voice and her SEO results for your publication, then you better be ready to accept the stories she wants to focus on. She says that it was simply a process of weeding out the publications that didn’t want her and finding the ones that did. Changing her voice was never in the question.
It’s the unwavering dedication to her voice and her mission that set Castillo apart. She’s never afraid to speak up for businesses, and people she thinks aren’t getting their fair share, and she’s masterful at navigating the tricky landscape of race representation in cannabis. She’s tireless in both her advocacy and her gratitude for the businesses that sponsor her trips and allow her to do what she does. Her sponsors “get it,” understanding their role as an ally means providing the platform to elevate others’ voices without taking over the mic.
So what’s next for this busy writer? 2021 was a year of traveling the states and hitting every major legal market. In 2022, Castillo is looking at the Caribbean and focusing on the immerging and established markets throughout the island nations. She has several pieces pending in Ganjaprenuer, and you can always find her latest work on her blog.
What are you excited for?
People may be mad at me for this but okay. If there’s one thing I want out of federal legalization – which I have mixed feelings about- if we’re going to go there and do this, we should be growing where it makes sense. what gets me excited is the idea that California can still be like our Mecca. That California can still grow for all of us.
Because there’s states like Florida- and I know Florida gets so mad at me- but Florida shouldn’t be growing cannabis because Florida can only grow indoor. And we just should not have indoor cultivation in Florida. Earth is really upset and we just shouldn’t be growing in places where it doesn’t make sense to grow. So with federal legalization, depending on how that’s going to work, I’m excited to hopefully see that California can be a supplier of cannabis for places like Florida and New York.
New York is definitely gonna be the freaking consumer Mecca. I’m so excited about that. It’ll be legal to smoke cannabis where you can smoke tobacco and it should be like that. But it makes me happy because I also don’t think in places like New York City, that there should be indoor cultivation. So if they’re not getting their cannabis from Upstate, which I hear has like their own little Emerald triangle region, then it should be coming from California.
And what I’m excited to see is that I think people are realizing this more and more. And with federal legalization, we can really open up these borders to see where cannabis can save the earth, but right now the laws are making cannabis hurt the earth.
What do you think needs to change in the industry?
I don’t like the waste. We waste so much in packaging because of laws. I get that we have to have regulations because everyone or everything or every process can’t be trusted. But something like having to use plastic for prerolls, I don’t like it. Our legacy farmers, the old school, they cared about the earth, but all these laws are making it to where we’re battling; cannabis can save, but cannabis is hurting. And another place that is hurting is all this plastic that we’re having to use. I would love to see- I don’t know, glass?
I feel like I could go into the dispensary and, and get the pre-roll of the day and you can just hand me the pre-roll and I can walk out. Why do I have to have it in any kind of specific packaging because the government says, hey, it should be packaged in plastic. It doesn’t make sense. That bothers me.
Talk to me about diversity and inclusion as a writer
I can’t recall the day that I just knew that this would be such an emphasis on my mission. I’m obviously like a black woman, but I don’t come from a family that has had any run-ins with the law when it comes to cannabis or anything like that. I started traveling and I went out West and got lost in the industry up there. And the headlines started to get on my nerves.
There was one that was how CBD makes you a better mom. And the thought that I had was, well, I wonder how many black fathers cannabis helped make great fathers, but instead of being able to tell this part of their story, they’re having to tell the part where they were locked up because they were consuming cannabis or had anywhere in their pocket or just anywhere on their person. And so I think it was born from that, where I’m like, someone needs to get out here and cover Black, brown and women-owned. Because it’s like the mirror, right? Black, brown, I’m a woman in cannabis, and one of just a handful. I really felt like what was missing was someone dedicated to Black, brown and, and women-owned in the industry.
I decided that my platform would be better served if I become a part of the community that wants to elevate my people. And I say that, and I have white sponsors. I write about white companies. I have absolutely no problem with that. My blog is very supported by white-owned brands, but they’re allies. They fully understand my mission and they’re want to help me get out here and tell these stories.
People were concerned a little bit, right? Like, oh well, you might stop getting published. Some of these like bigger publications may not wanna publish your work. And you just have to believe what’s for you is for you. And I started being like, well, if you want my name in your publication, and you’re also gonna wanna publish some of these stories, I need to tell. And it’s just how I operate.
I wasn’t paired up with the right publications because when I started approaching it like that, cause my voice just isn’t for them. And I have no interest in changing it. I needed it to weed out those ones who didn’t want my voice and really get paired up with the ones that see my vision and wanna be an ally and help me tell these stories.
What are you really proud of?
I haven’t talked aloud about this because I move around so much, but I’m partnering with Ganjapreneur. We partnered on a cannabis and music series. So I just did GKUA, Lil Wayne’s cannabis company and brand where I go on-site and do the production and cultivation tour and I interview their leadership. They were the first ones.
My goal is to get Monogram in the mix next, which is Jay-Z’s cannabis brand and company. And the reason I’m going for Lil Wayne and Jay-Z are, these are my two absolute favorites on the planet for as long as I can remember listening to the radio. And so naturally like when they launched cannabis brands and companies and they’re talking about it all life in their music, I’m like, I need to go see what’s going on. So me and Ganjapreneur decided that we’re gonna publish a series where I go around and do that.
What’s next for the industry?
Oh my goodness. I think really what we’re looking at is federal legalization- well, we hear it every year, right? This will be the year, earlier this year we heard that we will have it federally by the end of 2021, obviously, I don’t think that’s gonna happen. At least I’m so ready for us to decriminalize. These states that are like trying to ban smokeable, hemp, what are you doing? Like those types of things. I’m so ready to be like a thing of like two years ago.
That’s what I have my eyes on and my biggest hope for this industry is that we can decriminalize at a bare minimum. Let’s start there and like open up the gates, let my people go. We’re out here making money and million, not me, you know, but people are making millions in this industry and why are people still sitting in jail?
What’s next for you?
Ending the year at home! I’m going to Miami to celebrate the new year. I’m excited for that.
I wanna close the year really having seen all major markets. Then starting next year, the goal and the hope is that I’ll be able to get out into the Caribbean. So I’m hoping to start with St. Thomas, then head over to Puerto Rico and then check out cannabis industries, be it medicinal or whatever in the Caribbean.
What’s your favorite fun fact about cannabis?
Oh my gosh. What it takes to create a cannabis strain is almost like exactly what it takes to create a human. Further showing us that we are our plant, we share the same connections, all of that. Fun fact that it literally takes just about what it takes to make a human, to create the strain we consume.