Green Qween's Andrés Rigal on the New Era of Queer Cannabis

Plus, the power of partnerships and the big future for cannabis-infused drinks

Andrés Rigal started his career as a Hollywood talent agent and transitioned to a queer nightlife producer, creating large-scale branded events that serve as welcoming spaces for inclusion and freedom of expression. He is also co-founder and co-owner of Green Qween, a cannabis dispensary in L.A.

We spoke with Andrés for our Higher Calling series, where we chat with leaders in the cannabis space.

Andrés, tell us...

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

I spent my formative years in a small town called Williamsport in the middle of Pennsylvania. At the time I couldn't wait to get out of there and move on to a larger, more cosmopolitan city, but now I appreciate visiting since my parents still live there. It's so nice to unplug and relax in what feels like a storybook American moment.

My home for the past 17 years has been downtown Los Angeles, and I've lived on the same block in the Historic Core—4th & Main—the entire time. I love DTLA and feel so connected to my local community, especially now with my dispensary Green Qween, which I'm able to walk to every day—it's a dream and I'm so thankful. 

Your current role in the cannabis industry.

I'm the co-founder and co-owner of Green Qween, a queer-all-year, social equity licensed dispensary in DTLA. My primary role is to lead brand development, marketing and experiential events. A particular focus of mine is to identify and build relationships with established and emerging queer, trans and BIPOC-led cannabis brands so they have prominent shelf space in our store for customer discovery and support.

Your earliest cannabis memory.

Since my first cannabis memory was smoking terrible shake weed in a parking lot out of a soda can in small-town Pennsylvania, let's instead focus on my first cannabis memory in California. My friend rolled a joint for us to share at Ginger Rogers Beach in Santa Monica. I remember the ethereal aroma of the flower and the big green buds; both were something I'd never experienced before. We smoked, we laughed, and the vibe was so chill that we stayed until the sun set. It was a quintessential SoCal moment.

A story about the positive impact cannabis has had on your life.

In addition to my work with Green Qween, I produce queer nightlife events across Los Angeles, a passion and career of mine for the past 14 years. Sometimes it feels like I'm conducting an orchestra since there are so many moving parts. Doing it all requires a high level of attention to detail, which means my overactive mind keeps me up at night. Cannabis helps me to unwind after a long day and to bring my awareness to a place of presence. The stillness that I feel helps me to sleep and wake up the next day ready to go.

A favorite flower, edible, product or brand.

I'm a big believer in the cannabis-infused drinks category because they don't carry the stigma of smoking and they have a more predictable experience than edibles due to the fast on-set and rapid off-set. We're not there yet, but I think there will come a time when cannabis-infused beverages will compete with alcohol, especially in social settings. My go-to beverages are CANN and Calexo since they're delicious and queer-led, and I love WUNDER's Grapefruit Hibiscus since it tastes like a delicious cocktail.

The biggest challenge cannabis marketers face today.

You name it, we probably face it. Everyone in this industry knows how challenging it is to reach our customers. We face mountains of regulations, stigma and censorship at almost every turn. This being said, Green Qween has a highly engaged Instagram community and it's so much fun listening to and playing with them. They often tell us how important it is to see representation in cannabis, so we use this feedback and inspiration and to put a distinctly queer spin on the culture.

One thing you're excited about right now in cannabis branding, partnerships or marketing.

Partnerships in cannabis is one area where I see so much potential. It takes balance to honor cannabis culture while also pushing plant medicine into the mainstream. One way to do both is to create authentic partnerships with notable figures who straddle both lanes. By using the brand equity and momentum of these talented individuals, we can further normalize cannabis and move the mainstream toward federal legalization and consumer adoption. One brand in particular that is doing this well is Green Monké and its recent partnerships with drag superstar Shea Couleé and skateboarder and model Briana King.

A cannabis trade/social justice organization that you support.

I really love the work of Our Academy, a volunteer-run nonprofit that supports cannabis equity applicants and others impacted by the war on drugs. As a social equity license holder, I understand the many challenges entrepreneurs face to get their concepts off the ground. At Green Qween we directly support DTLA Proud and its forthcoming Community Center by providing an annual percentage of proceeds to the nonprofit and its services that will have a positive impact on the QTBIPOC community.

A recent project you're proud of.

After having a breakout summer lending their voice to Beyoncé's hit single "Break My Soul," rapper Big Freedia chose Green Qween as the dispensary to launch Royal Bud, their new line of cannabis. It was an honor to work with them on the launch and to host a meet and greet with fans at the store. It showed us there's a huge appetite for queer representation in cannabis and it further motivated us to expand how Green Qween will be the launchpad for this new era of queer cannabis.

Someone else's project you admired recently.

My career and aesthetic has always been informed by queer history, fashion and pop culture. When entering cannabis, one of the brands that immediately stood out for me was Stone Road. Their flower and pre-rolls are exquisite and their content is everything I think a brand should be: sexy, fashionable and artistic. The brand is also queer-led and deeply invested in representation, so they really check all the boxes for things to admire.

Someone you admire in cannabis who's doing great things.

Is it too obvious to say my business partner and co-founder Taylor Bazley? Because I really admire his fortitude. Together we've endured so many ups and downs: We nearly lost our social equity application due to city council inaction, we paid rent on an empty storefront that we couldn't build out the entire year of quarantine, and we overcame two separate robberies within five months after opening our doors. This has been the most challenging and rewarding thing we've done in our careers, and I couldn't imagine doing it with anyone else.

A movie, TV show, music or food you most enjoy pairing with cannabis.

Yes. All of them!

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

If it were not for cannabis, I would continue working in nightlife to produce events where people feel accepted and free to be themselves—a place where they can look around and know they are welcome and safe.

Higher Calling is a weekly series, publishing on Thursdays, where we chat with folks in the cannabis industry about their personal history and taste in cannabis and the future of cannabis marketing. For more about Higher Calling, and our Clio Cannabis program, 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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