Sunday February 27, 2022
By Shirley Ju
Nowadays, it seems like there’s a new cannabis brand popping up left and right. And while it may seem like a saturated industry, companies with purpose and drive are appreciated more than ever. Insert the HUMO brand, the California-bred, Mexican-American owned cannabis company focused on the culture and representation for the Latino community.
Their whole mission is to get rid of the stigma surrounding cannabis by bringing to light the rich history that is deeply rooted in Latino culture, all while normalizing the plant and its medical benefits.
Grown in Smart Greenhouses in Salinas, California, HUMO falls under the POSIBL umbrella, a parent company that prides themselves in providing the highest quality cannabis possible (no pun intended). HUMO is the Spanish word for “smoke,” serving as a reminder that Latinos have fallen victim to decades of mistreatment and harm — also to the vast number of Latinos affected by the war on drugs. From business executives to growers to budtenders, Latinos are present in every step of the process when it comes to the cannabis industry as a whole… and they deserve all their credit!
PotGuide had the pleasure of sitting down with Susie Plascencia, Brand Partner for HUMO, at the GreenStreet offices in downtown Los Angeles, who held back tears speaking about the impact of HUMO and why it’s so important to her. Read below as we discuss Susie’s background, the mission of HUMO, partnering with POSIBL, her own glass company Mota Glass, celebrating the launch of HUMO, the meaning behind the strains, contributing to the Social Impact Center, the future of cannabis, and more!
Interview with Susie Plascencia
[Shirley Ju]: Talk about who you are and how you got your start in all this.
[Susie Plascencia]: I have two Instagram accounts. One of them is @SusieGreens. In the cannabis community, your Instagram handle ends up becoming a part of you. @SusieGreens is very much my cannabis self, then I have @SusiePlascencia, which is more Susie the entrepreneur. That’s who I am, a girl from Whittier. But because of this heavy stigma that exists within the Latino community, I’ve had to have this dual personality.
Truth is, a lot of Latinos deal with that as well. Because of the stigma, they have to hide their cannabis use because they’re trying to be professionals. They don't see that as two things that can coincide.
That's something that I battled with: I was a professional in the field, 10 years in marketing, but I'm also someone who enjoys cannabis. Can those exist? Can I be the professional person I wanted to be?
I have the weight of my family to see me as a professional, and here I am smoking weed. It was a growth period, but I'm glad I can live in my truth. I am 100% professional. I can still live and breathe my degrees and my experience with still being truthful in the fact that I smoke every day. [laughs]
[SJ]: When did you come up with the idea for HUMO? I know it's the Spanish word for smoke. Am I saying it correctly?
[SP]: “Oomo,” silent ‘h’. I speak Spanish as well. What's great about working with my partners is they're all Spanish speakers, they’re Mexicans from Mexico. My family’s from Mexico, I was born here but I'm second generation. It's great to be able to break out in Spanish with them because that's a work environment that I'm not used to, being fully like “you guys are me.” [laughs] It’s great to have that.
One of our taglines is “where there's fuego, there's HUMO.” This is a tagline that I came up with after saying yes to the opportunity, the ideas just started flowing over me. It came to me because HUMO, or smoke, is a product of something. It's an after effect. It’s proof that something was being smoked. Where there's fire, there's smoke. Fuego’s a Spanish word, fire is also a word you use to describe really good weed. I loved the dual meaning, sold! The team loved it.
When I started building the brand, I knew it had to be mission focused. I thought back to my experiences, especially working in cannabis and seeing that a lot of Latinos were present in budtending and in so many aspects of growing cannabis. But we haven’t really been represented in the branding and marketing side of things. I felt that, like “well, it'll come soon. I'm sure it'd be great to work with a brand like that.” That feeling was a similar feeling that my partners were feeling.
[SJ]: Talk about your business partners, POSIBL.
[SP]: They’ve been in the business for a handful of years now, growing amazing, sustainable weed. They've been providing for several brands, tons of big name brands. They're flower’s been killing it. They're like, “Why is our flower killing it in the cannabis market, and we don't have a brand yet?” They're an all-Latino operation up in Salinas. They’re having the same feelings I was feeling: lack of representation and feeling an opportunity. Where there's a lack of representation, there's always an opportunity.
They said “let's do it!” They started building the brand before they even knew about me, but they knew they needed to find the missing piece. That piece was me! I have a background in marketing, and got my brand Mota Glass featured in Merry Jane, Forbes, LA Taco.
People really love Mota glass. In a year and a half, we've built this community. One of my girlfriends, Mary, has seen my hustle and sees what we’ve done with Mota Glass. At last year’s 710 event, Mary said “I need to introduce you to Zoe Wilder.” I know Zoe. I’ve been a fan of hers because in the PR world, you see who the people are making magic happen. She started following me and Mota Glass, started seeing what we've been doing for a year and a half.
Zoe represents POSIBL, and she thought it would be smart for us to connect. That first call with the POSIBL team was so right — the things we believe in, the feeling of being professionals in the field and seeing this lack of representation. We feel the same things. My family’s from Mexico, they're from Mexico….from Sonora.
It was so right that we wanted to explore the possibility of working together. I'm so brand and story focused because of my background. I'm story, POSIBL is all flower and cultivation. We're this mega team that’s come together to bring Latino community something that we've all been waiting for and wanting. It’s time.
[SJ]: What did you do with Mota Glass?
[SP] We did it with zero budget. We did it with story, with community. Having passion and seeing a problem that needed the community to fix it. That passion and story is what people love.
[SJ]: What is the premise of your glass company, Mota Glass?
[SP]: Mota Glass was started after my partner and I were working in the glass industry, and learned about the shadiness that goes on. For example, there’s a lot of importing and not being truthful to the consumer about where the bongs are coming from. They know that American made is a flashy term, so they'll just say American-made when it's not. What's happened with years of that is it’s muddied up. You don't know what is and what isn't, but there are glass blowers here that can no longer charge the prices that they know they’re worth.
They’re competing with imports and they cannot compete with imports because it costs like a dollar. [laughs]. They're over here like “this is my art.” These people have been blowing glass for decades, and all of a sudden because of the industry changes have been forced to take less than what they're worth.
We thought, “What if we can create a brand that actually empowers glass blowers? Pays them what they're worth and doesn't undercut them and understands. That's what Mota Glass was born out of: this need to support local glass blowers.
Being part of a mission is huge, and this mission-based approach is what I bring to the brands that I build. Whether other brands that I help or my brands, mission is so important in cannabis because there are people that are still in jail and suffering because of criminalization efforts. When that is still going on and you're a business that's profiting, you have a responsibility. That's why mission focus is such an important thing.
[SJ]: What did it mean to celebrate the launch of HUMO in LA?
[SP]: We had a Mariachi, you should have seen people's faces. Some were on the verge of tears, it was special. It’s something you don't see in cannabis: a colliding of culture. There's a video from the evening that shows people blazing so hard there’s smoke clouds.
Then out of the smoke clouds comes an LGBTQ Mariachi band in full gorgeous makeup, singing. Because we hired Mariachi Arcoiris de Los Angeles, the first LGBTQ+ mariachi band in LA, the event was special; we infused so many cultural elements in the celebration like infused chamoy, chingona cakes.
To see so many things all in one: LGBTQ community represented, Mexican culture represented, cannabis, all coming together…. wow! We made history that night. It was really special to a lot of people. That's what this brand represents: a collision of culture and cannabis that the industry hasn’t seen yet.
[SJ]: How did you come up with the strain names?
[SP]: We have a strain called Cajeta. Cajeta is a Mexican caramel sauce that's made out of goat's milk. As a kid, I had a tub of it in my fridge, [laughs] taking spoonfuls because it's so delicious. You can put it on pancakes, anything. It's like dulce de leche but with goat's milk, so it's a little softer. It's different, but it's similar.
POSIBL gave me the crosses, terpene profiles and descriptions. I looked for little details about the strains that inspired me and could relate to Latino culture and traditions. That's where I started matching, because you can't name a strain whatever you want. It's gotta make sense.
It's gotta explain the feelings and effects, the taste of terpene profiles.
These names also inspire people to learn more about Latino culture; and for Latinos, it’s important to feel represented. To have people coming up to me and say “this means a lot to me,” that hasn't happened in cannabis and is opening the eyes of what cannabis can do.
[SJ]: Talk about having the flower at affordable prices, and the social impact work you’re doing with the brand.
[SP]: It’s important for us to make flower accessible. POSIBL’s state of the art system brings the best greenhouse technology and expertise from traditional agriculture into cannabis, and pairs it with the best possible genetics to produce the perfect flower — grown in an ethical, sustainable, free of pesticide and cost efficient way, year round. POSIBL’s Smart Greenhouses use best in class climate control, requiring less water per pound of flower, and are three times more energy efficient than indoor growers.
It's great to see POSIBL take this innovative approach, and for them to be Latinos doing it is really such a prideful moment. Because they come from the agriculture world growing food. When you come from cultivating food, your approach to growing is different from cannabis. They know how to grow; you can tell by the way that they do it. You can tell by the way they treat their employees. They support local farm workers.
Up in Salinas, there are a lot of farm food workers there. What I didn't know that I've learned through this relationship is that food workers that are growing lettuce and strawberries require a two to three month commitment, then they have to look for other work. But with a greenhouse operation, we can give them year-round career opportunities, which for families up in that area can mean a lot.
We're aligning with the right organizations to be able to give back. Remember what I said? There’s no not giving back when you profit off this industry. It's non-negotiable for me at least. We aligned with the Social Impact Center, a nonprofit here in Los Angeles that really supports and helps educate communities. They put together these really important and impactful expungement clinics.
Because they get it, they know that it starts with a job. For those who have been affected by criminalization and with past convictions, getting them in a position to be able to get a job is extremely meaningful. When we talk about repairing the harm done to our communities, in a lot of ways it starts with meaningful action, but it starts with jobs. In a lot of ways, it does. We're contributing to the Social Impact Center in a transformative way.
I'm so incredibly proud that my partners Jesus, Matias, and the POSIBL team are able to do this with me because they’re amazing people. As a woman in this industry, I've dealt with a lot. [tears up]. You know what it's like to be in this industry, it's tough. To be respected by other men in this way… They saw my degrees, they saw my experience. They saw me in a way that I hadn't been seen before.
[SJ]: Where do you see the future of cannabis?
[SP]: The future of cannabis is inclusivity. It’s also about building teams of people who actually care about the history of prohibition and righting the wrongs of the war on drugs. The HUMO team has big hearts. Jesus comes from Mexico, he's an immigrant. His road to getting here is inspiring. I take a lot from him as a CEO, he's inspirational. Working with Zoe, she's part of our team. I'm in awe every day that I get to work with her, working with people I've been fans of….I'm in a blessed position. But as soon as I'm in that blessed position, my mind goes “I need to help others and open the door. I need to bring up other people.”
Now, I have a greater purpose to represent and to pave the way for others. That's why I get emotional, because it's this mission. Through Mota Glass and HUMO, it's about creating these opportunities for our community, for women. Showing people that this plant, although it has put us behind bars and destroyed lives, can still create a meaningful future. It created mine.
Have you tried HUMO? What did you think?
Photo Credit: Enkrypt Los Angeles