2 Minutes With ... Karen Torres, Chief Product Officer at MedMen

Fighting to destigmatize cannabis use for American women

In her role as chief product officer at MedMen, Karen Torres oversees supply chain, operations, buying, merchandising and marketing for one of America’s most recognized dispensary brands. She has more than 15 years of experience in supply management for multibillion-dollar firms, including C.H. Robinson, NFI Industries and Motive, and has served as strategic advisor to cannabis companies looking to scale their operations. Karen sits on the board of directors for the Cannabis Distribution Association and previously served as chair of the Coalition for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at MedMen. She’s a volunteer at The Salvation Army and Let it Be Foundation.

As a certified life and career coach, Karen has mentored hundreds of young professionals, helping them advance their careers and accomplish their professional goals. 

Her passions and hobbies include music, dancing, wellness and self-development. She also boasts an impressive sneaker collection.

We spent two minutes with Karen to learn more about her background, creative inspirations and some recent work she's admired.

Karen, tell us...

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

I was born in Los Angeles and moved to Pomona, a suburb about 35 miles east of L.A., as a kid. I still live in Pomona today. 

How you first got interested in cannabis.

Cannabis was a part of my social life when I was younger. As I've gotten older, I use cannabis for wellness; it's part of my self-care toolkit and it has had such a positive impact on my life.

One of your favorite projects you've ever worked on, and why. 

One of my favorite projects at MedMen is dreaming up how we're going to continue to grow Ember, our editorial platform. It's a hub where we pose tough questions about the cannabis industry, like why decarceration shouldn't be left out of the decriminalization convo. My favorite reads have been our features with Malcolm Joshua Weitz (our equity partner who co-owns MedMen's Union store), queer cannabis leader Amber Senter and creatives outside cannabis like rapper and painter AKTHESAVIOR.

A recent project you're proud of, and why.

MedMen recently conducted a national survey on women and cannabis in honor of Women’s History Month. The survey revealed that 37 percent of American women consume cannabis, but most keep it a secret from their closest friends and family members. I’m proud to be part of a larger effort to shed light on the stigmas women still experience when it comes to their personal use and views on cannabis.  

The biggest challenge cannabis marketers face today, and how to approach it.

Cannabis marketers deal with a tremendous amount of red tape. Every day we're faced with new restrictions or requirements that make it difficult to engage with consumers. Honestly, it’s a daily battle not to be unfairly censored in social media!

One thing about how the cannabis industry is evolving that you’re excited about.

I'm super excited about product innovation and new technologies coming into this space that will enable us to develop products in new and different formats. This includes cleaner, more organic methods of creating cannabis products.

Someone else's work, in cannabis or beyond, that you admired lately.

I have so many amazing partners in the cannabis world and I admire all of their creative work. Outside of that, I'm a big fan of American actress, producer and screenwriter Lena Waithe and all the dope work she puts out. As a queer woman of color, the work she is doing and the path she is paving for so many is admirable.

A book, movie, TV show or podcast you recently found inspiring.

I really enjoyed Think Like A Monk by Jay Shetty for its unique perspectives on compassion, self-awareness and mindfulness. Incorporating these healthy practices into our everyday lives can be game-changing for those of us who sometimes struggle with balance. I highly recommend it!

A visual artist or band/musician you admire.

Rufus Du Sol—their music is transcending and takes me to another place. I love them!

Your favorite fictional character.

 Santiago, from The Alchemist. I admire his courage.

Someone worth following in social media.

@yung_pueblo – I'm a fan of his writing, and his views on self-love, self-development and growth.               

Your main strength as a marketer/creative.

Having a clear vision and being able to bring unique perspectives to things, and creating strategies to bring those ideas to life.

Your biggest weakness.

Overthinking. It can be crippling at times and stifle the creative process.

Something people would find surprising about you.

How much I love to dance, and how big a part of my life dancing is.           

One thing that always makes you happy.

Being with my family.

One thing that always makes you sad.

The suffering of others.

What you'd be doing if you weren’t in the cannabis industry.

I'd be a life coach, counselor or mentor of some kind. I'm passionate about helping others find their way.

2 Minutes With is our regular interview series where we chat with creatives about their backgrounds, creative inspirations, work they admire and more. For more about 2 Minutes With, or to be considered for the series, please get in touch.

Jessica MacAulay
Jessica MacAulay is a contributor for Muse by Clio. She's also a recent graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder's College of Media, Communication, and Information.

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