An Interview with Susie Plascensia, Co-Founder of Humo
By Karlina Guerra
By the time California legalized cannabis for recreational use in 2016, the state arrested half a million people for marijuana related offenses between 2006 and 2015–a disproportionate number of whom belonged to black and Latino communities. That 70% of executives at 14 of the largest cannabis companies in North America are white, only underscores how important race and representation continue to be six years after Prop 64 and nearly a century after 1937’s Marijuana Tax Act. No one is more acutely aware of this than Susie Plascensia, the co-founder of Latinas in Cannabis and Humo—a weed company created “by la raza, pa’ la raza” launched this past February.
In less than a year, Humo has won two awards for its strains, which are now available at Caliva locations. Humo can also be found at The Parent Company’s SEV-supported Josephine and Billie’s, and featured in the Unidad Box in solidarity with Hispanic Heritage Month. TPCO spoke with Susie to learn more about Humo and her role in making it one of the most forward thinking and thoughtful cannabis brands available on the market.
[TPCO]: When was the idea for Humo initially put on the table and how did you go about making it happen?
Humo had been in the works for about a year before launching—although the backstory for it probably begins in 2017, when [Humo co-founder] Jesus Burrola started POSIBL. POSIBL supplied other brands with flower for years before Jesus recognized the need for a cannabis brand that catered specifically to Latinos.
He eventually reached out to me about a project that would later become Humo. I came on board shortly thereafter and we decided to launch Humo sometime in 2021.
[TPCO]: How did you and Jesus link up?
Jesus reached out to me because of my work with MOTA glass, which is a local glass blowing company in Los Angeles. MOTA was important for the kind of mission-focused brand building I ended up bringing to Humo, which actually uses MOTA glass products at various activations.
[TPCO]: Can you describe some of the smart agricultural processes POSIBL uses to cultivate its flower? How does it compare with the usual way in which they’re grown?
Humo uses a mixed light and greenhouse approach that differs from both outdoor and indoor approaches in that we use sunlight knowing it won’t always be as consistent as we need it to be, so we supplement with LED lights as needed. The result is high quality cannabis that uses way less water per pound of flower, and is three times more efficient than indoor grows. Our approach protects the quality and THC content of our flower, and it also allows for a greater terpene expression because we use that sunlight.
We already won 2 Gold Medals for terpene expression for our Limonada and Arroz con Leche strains. Terpene expression is important, and I think people are finally realizing that by detaching from the mentality that THC content is the end all for good weed. I was brainwashed into thinking that the weed with the highest THC was the best weed growing up and now I know better—but I had to learn about terpenes myself.
Another thing we do differently is that we also use CO2 in the grow process, which is usually indoor practice. We do it with ours because we want that kind of quality but we also want to achieve that sustainably. What makes the technology we use smart are the dials at the greenhouse facility that automatically dial conditions to whatever you know the environment that’s needed for the plants to flourish.
[TPCO] Speaking of missions, how would you characterize the one driving Humo?
Humo brings representation to an industry that, in the past, hasn’t held the kind of space we try to hold for Latino communities. HUMO wants to change the perception of cannabis to empower our people, not harm them.
Despite its connection to Aztec and Indigenous culture, weed still carries this stigma in our communities because of the war on drugs. Our view is really conflicted: “Is it medicine? I like it and use it every day, and it's therapeutic but should we stay away from it?” Humo was created to cut through all that by giving the Latino community a brand that affirms their identity and empowers them to use cannabis for good and build generational wealth that wasn’t meant for us. Being in the cannabis space while so many members of our community are incarcerated, it is our responsibility to give the profits we make back to the community in a meaningful way.
[TPCO]: While it's easy to grasp the stigma that’s attached to weed in relation to its history, could you speak more to how it played out for you on a personal level?
I’m a first-generation Mexican American who was born in LA. Like many children of immigrants, I wanted to make my parents proud by going to college and having a “good career” so I got a scholarship to USC, studied my butt off, and got myself a “good job.”
I worked in corporate PR, but I wasn't passionate about the work I was doing. It wasn't until I was truthful with myself about being a stoner that I began to unlock the possibilities of working in an industry I was actually passionate about. I am a daily cannabis user and have been for many years, but I felt like I had to separate my identity as a cannabis user from the person I was in the office. But I’m not two different people. I am a person who graduated from USC with top honors on scholarship and I smoke blunts.
With legalization, the industry has been able to re-write the conventional narrative about drugs not being able to coexist with work in a professional space.
Being truthful with myself led me to an opportunity to fulfill my dream career. Now that I work on a Mexican American owned brand, I am more myself than I have ever been—which is something I want to encourage women of color to pursue. People think all this fell on my lap, like I got a cannabis company just for being pretty when, in reality, I spent 10 years building brands and honing in on my skills. I am also just extremely passionate about cannabis.
[TPCO]: Can you tell us about how your experience working in the industry shaped your approach at Humo? Has Humo changed your perception of the industry since it launched?
When I was 18, I worked as a budtender at a straight up trap shop with no plan of owning a cannabis company. When I train budtenders, I tell them they are the most important person in this industry, period. A big reason why Humo has grown in the way that it has is because of my relationship to budtenders and HUMO’s empowerment of them.
So many budtenders and dispensaries in California are Latino and they are used to selling brands they have no personal connection with. A lot of folks are excited when HUMO comes through dispensaries with strains named after desserts they ate growing up, or a 2000 year old Aztec drink they read about in a textbook about Meso-American culture, because it gets them to think about weed’s connection to their culture, but also its indigenous roots. By representing these aspects of Latino culture, HUMO brings recognition and ultimately respect for the communities who have worked so hard for the cannabis industry.
[TPCO]: Before we end this, want to say more about HUMO’s collaboration with Josephine and Billie’s?
I knew Whitney and Ebony at Josephine and Billie’s way before HUMO was even around. As a dispensary owned and operated by Black women, they knew what HUMO was about and carried us almost from the get-go. They’ve been supportive of me and HUMO ever since. Josephine and Billie’s’ creating this space for HUMO is an example of Black and Brown unity that shows one way women of color can support one another in this industry. [I founded an organization called Latinas in Cannabis to advocate for women of color in the industry.] Our partnership with Josephine and Billie’s is tight and they deserve the support they can get.
Karlina Guerra is a writer who lives in Los Angeles with her temperamental chihuahua. You can reach her by e-mail at guerra [email protected].