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Pride Stories: Maria Ortiz

multi colored umbrella under blue sky during daytime

Until 2018, Ethos – Pleasant Hills General Manager Maria Ortiz never even considered trying cannabis, let alone working in the cannabis industry.

Growing up in a strict religious household in Colombia, Ortiz said that she was raised with strong anti-drug messaging influenced by cartel violence her family witnessed there.

“The 80s and 90s were not the safest time in Colombia because of drug trafficking, and as a result, I was raised 100% anti-drugs,” said Ortiz, 29. “My family raised me with no cannabis whatsoever for any reason.”

But for Ortiz, coming around to cannabis was not medical or recreational: It was career oriented.

“The cannabis industry seemed interesting, so I applied to work at a dispensary in Florida, where I was living at the time, but I knew nothing,” Ortiz said, adding that she previously worked as a paralegal. “The same night that I got an interview, I went off the deep end online reading everything I could find and looked at every cannabis documentary on Netflix. Within three days, I was on information overload.”

After that experience, Ortiz said her “worldview completely changed” about cannabis, both professionally and personally. She said one of the most important things she learned was how cannabis can help modulate anxiety responses; as someone diagnosed with anxiety and who had been treating it with conventional medication, Ortiz saw promise in medical cannabis for the first time.

“I did not initially consider cannabis to be a way to help me, but I learned quickly that cannabis is really out here changing lives,” Ortiz said. 

On her first try, Ortiz received her medical cannabis card, purchased RSO, and got 10 hours of sleep that same night. She has not looked back since.

“If I’m not getting any sleep, my anxiety is heightened because I’m exhausted,” Ortiz said. “Little by little, I started incorporating cannabis into my daily routine.”

Once she made her way into the cannabis industry and became a patient, Ortiz started noticing more parallels between the cannabis community and another significant part of her life: the LGBTQ+ community.

“I’ve noticed that a lot of LGBTQ+ folks gravitate toward the cannabis industry, and toward cannabis as a whole,” Ortiz said. “Just like queer people, cannabis consumers have been outcast for so long and have built true community out of those circumstances.”

Ortiz believes this is because of the role cannabis can play in managing stress, anxiety, and depression, all of which are experienced by queer people at higher rates. 

“Coming out in itself is trauma,” Ortiz said. “The cannabis community is in a very similar boat, where they had to hide a part of themselves for so long, which is very stressful and has a negative impact on your well-being.”

Ortiz added that she was closeted for many years, which left a deep impact on her own mental health. 

“In a religious community, I had to hide part of myself, and that was very hard to do – it killed a part of me,” Ortiz said. “I went to therapy and gained the skills necessary to love and accept myself, and those are skills I want to bring to my team and those around me. You are allowed to love yourself, who you are is perfect enough, and we are a community that supports each other.”

This visibility, Ortiz says, is especially important for those most marginalized in the LGBTQ+ community.

“Especially for trans people and for non-binary people, seeing yourself represented wherever you go is one of the most important things you can experience,” said Ortiz. “Trans and non-binary folks are already on high alert because they are expecting someone to have a bad response to their existence. To walk into a place and see people who are in their community, it’s a little signal to that person that says they can be who they are. That’s important for a human who just wants to feel accepted.”

To help create that environment at Ethos – Pleasant Hills, Ortiz said she wears a pronoun pin and shares a bit about her life to signal to others that they can be their true selves at the dispensary.

“I’ll talk to patients about my girlfriend, and they’ll feel more comfortable sharing more about who they are – they wouldn’t open up if I wasn’t honest about who I am,” Ortiz said. “Having that visibility and acceptance in a workplace that employs people like us shows our community and our patients that we are here for all of them.”

Throughout June, Ortiz said Ethos—Pleasant Hills plans to donate a portion of sale proceeds to SisTers PGH, a Black and trans-led organization that serves queer and trans BIPOC (Black, indigenous, and people of color) in southwestern Pennsylvania. This donation is part of the Ethos Cares initiative, in which each Ethos dispensary selects a not for profit organization each month to donate to in the local community.

“I feel like the LGBTQ+ and cannabis communities are so aligned, that both just want to be accepted and put good out into the world,” Ortiz said. “The cannabis community welcomed me with open arms from the moment I stepped into it. I was looking for that sense of community when I changed careers, and that sense of non-judgment was prevalent from the first day. We are all here for the right reasons, and we all have the helper mentality, that we want to do things for the greater good.”

Read more Pride Stories here

 

An Unlikely Journey To Cannabis

Until 2018, Ethos – Pleasant Hills General Manager Maria Ortiz never even considered trying cannabis, let alone working in the cannabis industry.

Growing up in a strict religious household in Colombia, Ortiz said that she was raised with strong anti-drug messaging influenced by cartel violence her family witnessed there.

“The 80s and 90s were not the safest time in Colombia because of drug trafficking, and as a result, I was raised 100% anti-drugs,” said Ortiz, 29. “My family raised me with no cannabis whatsoever for any reason.”

But for Ortiz, coming around to cannabis was not medical or recreational: It was career oriented.

“The cannabis industry seemed interesting, so I applied to work at a dispensary in Florida, where I was living at the time, but I knew nothing,” Ortiz said, adding that she previously worked as a paralegal. “The same night that I got an interview, I went off the deep end online reading everything I could find and looked at every cannabis documentary on Netflix. Within three days, I was on information overload.”

After that experience, Ortiz said her “worldview completely changed” about cannabis, both professionally and personally. She said one of the most important things she learned was how cannabis can help modulate anxiety responses; as someone diagnosed with anxiety and who had been treating it with conventional medication, Ortiz saw promise in medical cannabis for the first time.

“I did not initially consider cannabis to be a way to help me, but I learned quickly that cannabis is really out here changing lives,” Ortiz said. 

On her first try, Ortiz received her medical cannabis card, purchased RSO, and got 10 hours of sleep that same night. She has not looked back since.

“If I’m not getting any sleep, my anxiety is heightened because I’m exhausted,” Ortiz said. “Little by little, I started incorporating cannabis into my daily routine.”

Once she made her way into the cannabis industry and became a patient, Ortiz started noticing more parallels between the cannabis community and another significant part of her life: the LGBTQ+ community.

“I’ve noticed that a lot of LGBTQ+ folks gravitate toward the cannabis industry, and toward cannabis as a whole,” Ortiz said. “Just like queer people, cannabis consumers have been outcast for so long and have built true community out of those circumstances.”

Ortiz believes this is because of the role cannabis can play in managing stress, anxiety, and depression, all of which are experienced by queer people at higher rates. 

“Coming out in itself is trauma,” Ortiz said. “The cannabis community is in a very similar boat, where they had to hide a part of themselves for so long, which is very stressful and has a negative impact on your well-being.”

Ortiz added that she was closeted for many years, which left a deep impact on her own mental health. 

“In a religious community, I had to hide part of myself, and that was very hard to do – it killed a part of me,” Ortiz said. “I went to therapy and gained the skills necessary to love and accept myself, and those are skills I want to bring to my team and those around me. You are allowed to love yourself, who you are is perfect enough, and we are a community that supports each other.”

This visibility, Ortiz says, is especially important for those most marginalized in the LGBTQ+ community.

“Especially for trans people and for non-binary people, seeing yourself represented wherever you go is one of the most important things you can experience,” said Ortiz. “Trans and non-binary folks are already on high alert because they are expecting someone to have a bad response to their existence. To walk into a place and see people who are in their community, it’s a little signal to that person that says they can be who they are. That’s important for a human who just wants to feel accepted.”

To help create that environment at Ethos – Pleasant Hills, Ortiz said she wears a pronoun pin and shares a bit about her life to signal to others that they can be their true selves at the dispensary.

“I’ll talk to patients about my girlfriend, and they’ll feel more comfortable sharing more about who they are – they wouldn’t open up if I wasn’t honest about who I am,” Ortiz said. “Having that visibility and acceptance in a workplace that employs people like us shows our community and our patients that we are here for all of them.”

Throughout June, Ortiz said Ethos—Pleasant Hills plans to donate a portion of sale proceeds to SisTers PGH, a Black and trans-led organization that serves queer and trans BIPOC (Black, indigenous, and people of color) in southwestern Pennsylvania. This donation is part of the Ethos Cares initiative, in which each Ethos dispensary selects a not for profit organization each month to donate to in the local community.

“I feel like the LGBTQ+ and cannabis communities are so aligned, that both just want to be accepted and put good out into the world,” Ortiz said. “The cannabis community welcomed me with open arms from the moment I stepped into it. I was looking for that sense of community when I changed careers, and that sense of non-judgment was prevalent from the first day. We are all here for the right reasons, and we all have the helper mentality, that we want to do things for the greater good.”

Read more Pride Stories here

 

An Unlikely Journey To Cannabis

Until 2018, Ethos – Pleasant Hills General Manager Maria Ortiz never even considered trying cannabis, let alone working in the cannabis industry.

Growing up in a strict religious household in Colombia, Ortiz said that she was raised with strong anti-drug messaging influenced by cartel violence her family witnessed there.

“The 80s and 90s were not the safest time in Colombia because of drug trafficking, and as a result, I was raised 100% anti-drugs,” said Ortiz, 29. “My family raised me with no cannabis whatsoever for any reason.”

But for Ortiz, coming around to cannabis was not medical or recreational: It was career oriented.

“The cannabis industry seemed interesting, so I applied to work at a dispensary in Florida, where I was living at the time, but I knew nothing,” Ortiz said, adding that she previously worked as a paralegal. “The same night that I got an interview, I went off the deep end online reading everything I could find and looked at every cannabis documentary on Netflix. Within three days, I was on information overload.”

After that experience, Ortiz said her “worldview completely changed” about cannabis, both professionally and personally. She said one of the most important things she learned was how cannabis can help modulate anxiety responses; as someone diagnosed with anxiety and who had been treating it with conventional medication, Ortiz saw promise in medical cannabis for the first time.

“I did not initially consider cannabis to be a way to help me, but I learned quickly that cannabis is really out here changing lives,” Ortiz said. 

On her first try, Ortiz received her medical cannabis card, purchased RSO, and got 10 hours of sleep that same night. She has not looked back since.

“If I’m not getting any sleep, my anxiety is heightened because I’m exhausted,” Ortiz said. “Little by little, I started incorporating cannabis into my daily routine.”

Once she made her way into the cannabis industry and became a patient, Ortiz started noticing more parallels between the cannabis community and another significant part of her life: the LGBTQ+ community.

“I’ve noticed that a lot of LGBTQ+ folks gravitate toward the cannabis industry, and toward cannabis as a whole,” Ortiz said. “Just like queer people, cannabis consumers have been outcast for so long and have built true community out of those circumstances.”

Ortiz believes this is because of the role cannabis can play in managing stress, anxiety, and depression, all of which are experienced by queer people at higher rates. 

“Coming out in itself is trauma,” Ortiz said. “The cannabis community is in a very similar boat, where they had to hide a part of themselves for so long, which is very stressful and has a negative impact on your well-being.”

Ortiz added that she was closeted for many years, which left a deep impact on her own mental health. 

“In a religious community, I had to hide part of myself, and that was very hard to do – it killed a part of me,” Ortiz said. “I went to therapy and gained the skills necessary to love and accept myself, and those are skills I want to bring to my team and those around me. You are allowed to love yourself, who you are is perfect enough, and we are a community that supports each other.”

This visibility, Ortiz says, is especially important for those most marginalized in the LGBTQ+ community.

“Especially for trans people and for non-binary people, seeing yourself represented wherever you go is one of the most important things you can experience,” said Ortiz. “Trans and non-binary folks are already on high alert because they are expecting someone to have a bad response to their existence. To walk into a place and see people who are in their community, it’s a little signal to that person that says they can be who they are. That’s important for a human who just wants to feel accepted.”

To help create that environment at Ethos – Pleasant Hills, Ortiz said she wears a pronoun pin and shares a bit about her life to signal to others that they can be their true selves at the dispensary.

“I’ll talk to patients about my girlfriend, and they’ll feel more comfortable sharing more about who they are – they wouldn’t open up if I wasn’t honest about who I am,” Ortiz said. “Having that visibility and acceptance in a workplace that employs people like us shows our community and our patients that we are here for all of them.”

Throughout June, Ortiz said Ethos—Pleasant Hills plans to donate a portion of sale proceeds to SisTers PGH, a Black and trans-led organization that serves queer and trans BIPOC (Black, indigenous, and people of color) in southwestern Pennsylvania. This donation is part of the Ethos Cares initiative, in which each Ethos dispensary selects a not for profit organization each month to donate to in the local community.

“I feel like the LGBTQ+ and cannabis communities are so aligned, that both just want to be accepted and put good out into the world,” Ortiz said. “The cannabis community welcomed me with open arms from the moment I stepped into it. I was looking for that sense of community when I changed careers, and that sense of non-judgment was prevalent from the first day. We are all here for the right reasons, and we all have the helper mentality, that we want to do things for the greater good.”

Read more Pride Stories here

 

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