Florida, the United Caribbean; a Tribute to Mi Tierra, and the BIPOC Plant Community that Adds to Her Glory

“Por siempre la llamaré, ‘Preciosa’.”

Genealogy Trails

Florida, not really the mainland, not quite an island; mi tierra (my land) is a peninsula, and the only state in this country that sits on 2 coasts; the Atlantic and the Gulf. Traveling the peninsula takes 13 hours from top to bottom (the bottom is the last key- not Miami- Florida literally goes into Caribbean waters.). 

Traveling the state on the Waterway, which takes you across the middle of the state, from coast to coast (Stuart, FL on the Atlantic, Fort Myers, FL on the Gulf), means traveling 154 miles. Visiting Florida means visiting a place that 22 million people call home. Florida is the 3rd largest state in the country and the 3rd largest cannabis market in the country.

As I sit in south Miami, less than 35 miles from the Everglades, less than 250 miles from the country of Cuba, and less than 200 miles from the Bahamas; I am overwhelmed by feelings of gratitude. 

I left 20 years ago because all I ever wanted was to be a traveling writer that lived out of a suitcase, and not be the girl that was born here, raised here, and living her whole adult life here. 

Funny how life works though. As soon as I left, the mission became: “return home”.

I never thought that cannabis would be the miracle, purpose, and the reason for my return. After traveling the United States cross country by car 2 times, and by flights during the pandemic, I realized that for me, there is absolutely no place like home. 

And so, to the place where I was created, born, and raised; and to the plant that saved me, this tribute is for you and because of you; My Tribute to Mi Tierra, Florida, Feast of Flowers, honoring her glory and the plant community that adds to it.

Picture it, 8 Year Old Vee- North Miami

I used to think that I didn’t come from a lot because the world of capitalism tells us that we don’t have anything if we don’t have material things. It took me 3 decades to see that I came from so much.

 

I was born to 3 parents in the 80’s. I was raised by my two Puerto Rican parents- both born on the island of Puerto Rico, then like a lot of families during their time, moved over to the “mainland” for better opportunities. 

By the age of 8, I knew I was different; I was sort of the only kid I knew reading the Encyclopedia. At that time, I felt like no one understood me except my dad, he purchased the entire collection, from A-Z, piece by piece. 

I was the kid outside barefooted, in the sun for hours, reading the encyclopedia, and eating sugarcane while talking about life with my dad. Fast forward 30 years later, I am an adult, walking around barefooted, outside for hours, eating fruit and smoking cannabis while talking about life; I was always who I am. 

By 8, I knew what I wanted, I saw it. While standing barefooted in the yard, I saw it so vividly and felt it so strongly; I would be a traveling writer that lives out of a suitcase. 

Picture it, Vee’s Decade of 20- Leaving the Nest

I left Miami at age 20 and moved to Orlando. I was there a year and a half trying to find my way before making the decision to leave Florida for Virgina. I made it there a year and a half before making the decision to come back to Florida. I made it in the Tampa Bay area less than a year before making the decision to move to Milwaukee. I made it there less than a year before making the decision to accept a job offer in Indianapolis. 

I wasn’t ready when I came back after Virgina. The life I wanted was here but I didn’t have the skills necessary to land a job in the pay bracket that I felt I needed to be in, for the life I wanted here. Everything above was essential to my journey, but it was in Indiana that I developed the on paper skills needed to make it in life; I didn’t know that then, it’s so clear now. 

I made it in Indiana for 7 years; Indiana showed me that I can adapt to being anywhere. Why? Well, I am a woman born and raised in the sunshine state, surrounded by water, and surrounded by caribbean culture. Indiana was so far away from any of that. 

When I thought that I was ready to go back home to Florida, Ohio made me an offer I didn’t refuse and so, I moved there and lasted 7 years. In 2015 while sitting in the house that was barely 3 years old, I decided I would sell it, downsize, and develop a 3 year plan to finally do it.

In 2018 I started selling and gifting material things. In July 2018 I packed up a small storage unit, paid 12 months up front, packed up my car, turned in the apartment keys to management, and got on the road from Ohio to head to the west coast to begin my journey as a traveling writer living out of a suitcase. 

Picture it, Cross Country Travel Highlighting BIPOC in Cannabis 

From OH to KS, then CO and down to TX, then over to CA and up to WA state; journey 1 consisted of connection, learning, strengthening my craft, and learning about cannabis from people that have been nurturing the plant and providing medicine, creating legacies. 

I took a break in Washington. I didn’t see it then but I see it now; I picked a small apartment on Washington state’s peninsula, Long Beach. It was there, on the pacific ocean while writing a women in cannabis article, that I realized what my writing would be centered around in cannabis: black, brown, and/or woman owned. 

When I got back in my car in 2019, the pandemic had other plans but it didn’t stop me. I am fortunate to have a network of support and belief in my mission. I was offered a base in NV and I accepted, transitioning from car to flight all over the country featuring black owned, brown owned, and woman owned in cannabis. 

Picture it, Mission Accomplished! Vee Returns Home

I closed 2021 with a bang because I truly came to “F it up” (Drake’s way, not a bad way), being the first black/afro-latina writer to have visited and covered all coasts, corners, even down the middle, and all major markets of the United States cannabis industry; with over half of my work focused on black, brown, and/or woman owned in cannabis. 

I celebrated the mission accomplished and welcome of 2022 here in Miami (huge thanks to 420Media LLC for sponsoring this), and continued to travel the east and midwest by car. In May 2022 I felt a strong pull, very much like the one 8 year old Vee felt, to return home and stomp the pavement in search of the BIPOC cannabis community, cultivators growing in Florida’s soil, and to slow down and get ready for the next chapter; the Caribbean.

I came home and I traveled for the first time, the entire state of Florida; from the panhandle to the very last key, both coasts, and all up and through the middle. I found exactly what and who I was looking for.

Florida Based Businesses in the Plant Industry: Cannabis and Veganism

June 2022: pride month, caribbean heritage month, and Juneteenth; from the top, to the bottom, down the middle, and both coasts; it’s my pleasure to introduce you all to my type of Florida cannabis and plant based community:

North Florida- Tallahassee: Hemplade Vegan Cafe, Juice Bar, and Dispensary

This is a black family owned restaurant and dispensary offering a beautiful and delicious menu of vegan food; from homemade juices and lemonades (infused and not), to burgers (we don’t do those Impossible’s around here) and steak subs, to pizzas and vegan desserts. The Hemplade Vegan Cafe has everything a vegan heart desires and everything that will make a non vegan say: “this can’t be vegan”.

I had a beautiful time visiting this cafe, which I didn’t realize until I got there, is a dispensary as well! My world lit up when I was handed a fat King Palm loaded with cannabis, and told that I can consume inside, as I waited for my food. 

Everything is made when ordered and the bit of extra wait is so worth it! I feasted on infused, vegan, deliciousness: the Florida Cheesesteak and Seasoned Fries, Hempy Fried Chicken & Green Kush Waffles, Hempy Green Salad, Red Velvet Kush Cake, Hemp Brownie, Ying Yang Tonic, and a Hemplade Applelicious beverage. Everything I ate was like nothing I ever had before, perfectly cooked, seasoned, and served.

Central Florida Gulf Coast: Green Point Research/ The Gram Co.

This was my first time seeing cannabis plants growing in my home state, and under the Florida sun! So, you could probably picture my face when I was standing in a hemp nursery, in the sunshine state, and actually saw the Florida sun kissing the plants! I’ve seen it in California plenty, but it was a very different experience seeing this at home. Especially when there are rumors out there about Florida not being a good state to grow cannabis outdoors.

Cultivating a better future; Green Point Research is located in Jasper, FL and they focus on researching plant  science and innovative crop solutions to transform how crops are grown in a nascent hemp industry. Through their research, Green Point is ensuring that new and experienced farmers make the best use of available resources. They are also extractors offering distillates, isolates, and terpenes.

I learned so much during my visit and was given some amazing GramcCo products. GramCo offers a line of hemp CBD and Delta 8 products with something for everyone: edibles, flower, vape carts, wake and bake coffee, and more. My mornings have a different level of elevation with that coffee added to it. 

Though not black owned, these companies are owned and led by people that are in support of my mission and have sponsored previous journeys to cover black stories.

Central Florida Gulf Coast: The Real Twisted Vegan

This is Black Caribbean woman owned vegan ghost kitchen whipping up some affordable and delicious vegan dishes. Located in Tampa, FL, this menu offers vegan wings, burgers, pizza bites, caribbean punch, empanadas, and desserts. The woman whipping up magic, grew up vegan on the island of St. Croix and she credits both of her parents as inspiration. 

I feasted on all flavors of wings offered, fries, 3 flavors of caribbean punch, empanadas, the Dirty South Chicken sandwich, carrot cake, and chocolate cake. Everything I ate was more delicious than the last’ perfectly flavored, cooked, and served!

Central Florida Gulf Coast: The Hemp Mansion/ Flower Pot Pharms

Florida’s Hemp Mansion is an event space and home to Flower Pot Pharms; both owned by a BIPOC family: indigenous Mexican. Located just south of Tampa in Brandon, on 5 acres, the Hemp Mansion prides itself on being “The Villa De Hemp”; created to bring the love of hemp flowers to Tampa Bay, with a luxurious winery styled farm-stay experience.  

The family is warm, passionate, and really soul driven on growing plants that can help people heal. That love and passion is felt in the products. Flower Pot Pharms tinctures are impactful as heck and there is never a moment where education isn’t offered. Visiting here means enjoying luxury, plants, but also means getting informed on the magic that surrounds the mansion. 

Their guesthouse is a bud and breakfast! Travelers can book a stay to enjoy a Tampa Bay area vacation, have access to mansion amenities like the farm and the pool, and have the pleasurable of consuming cannabis in and around. 

Central Florida East Coast: The Releaf Clinic

Black man owned and woman owned, this husband and wife duo have clinics located all over Florida! There aren’t many black owned businesses in cannabis in Florida, especially not by someone that was once convicted and sent away over cannabis. I visited the location in St. Augustine, a few blocks away from the location of the arrest that led to that conviction. 

It was amazing walking into a place that is helping Floridian’s gain access to medical cannabis. I met team members that work in the St. Augustine location but also met a few team members that came over from other locations. I learned about how they made it through Covid, all hands on deck, and even met some patients that spoke about the team with such high regard. 

I’m focused on the clinic because that’s where I visited but I need to also note that Renard, one of the owners, is also a cultivator who learned how to grow in the early 2000’s, and started his cultivation journey in Rhode Island where he cultivated for the state’s medical cannabis program.

Florida’s Treasure Coast: La Chia Vegana 

Located south of Central Florida, just north of south Florida in Palm Beach/West Palm Beach, La Chia Vegana is a Puerto Rican woman owned vegan restaurant serving up latin flavors! You may even find some hemp seeds in some of these magical dishes as the owner and head chef is a proud supporter of cannabis.

From Jersey, now in Florida, La Chia Vegana offering up wraps, ceviche, bowls, sandwiches, desserts, beverages, smoothies, and burgers. If you have the opportunity to chat with the owner, her passion will infuse you from across the table. 

I feasted on: the vegan egg breakfast sandwich, the buffalo mac and cheese, cubanito rico, cheesecake, coconut guava cake, chia pudding, and some new items not yet on the menu; a chilled soup and a passionfruit smoothie. Everything was so delicious! For me, being born to and raised by Puerto Rican parents, this was ultimate comfort food. And I left there on a high infused by La Chia’s passion. 

BIPOC and Woman Owned in Cannabis- Additional Support for this Tribute to Florida 

Bud and Breakfast: a comprehensive platform that links cannabis consuming travelers together with cannabis friendly hotels, inns, residences, and resorts; and my travel partners! List your cannabis friendly property, invite me out to check in and experience it, and get featured on the Bud and Breakfast blog/website. 

The Healing Care Vortex Center: a black family owned and operated West Philadelphia gem. A bud and breakfast, event space, and vegan kitchen, offering cooking, yoga, massage, and meditation classes/services. This center is owned by artists, healers, and cannabis business owners; it’s a vibe. 

Rio CBD: BIPOC in cannabis in the state of Texas, Rio CBD is an agriculture cooperative growing a variety of hemp CBD flower and other products. This co-op is working on massive, not yet seen plans that will truly be centered around healing, community, and kissed by the sun plants- picture hemp plants surrounding you while watching a movie under the Texas sunset. 

CannaCoverage: a BIPOC owned and woman owned insurance brokerage firm headquartered in New Jersey- with a presence in Florida. CannaCoverage works with cannabis/hemp businesses to protect their assets, employees, and customers; also offering consulting services. 

The Number Grinder: BIPOC woman owned and based in New York, the Number Grinder is a cannabis accountant dedicated to helping cannabis businesses succeed in the cannabis space. This accountant is all about managing the money so cannabis business owners can focus on providing their clients/customers with excellent services/experiences.

In Closing

I had a moment while writing this tribute; I almost regretted leaving because in that moment, it felt like I could’ve done more with a tribute having watched the state grow up around me. But seconds later I realized that my journey was set at birth. I had to leave, to come back, and appreciate it. 

My journey was always meant to be; the girl that was born here, raised here, left because she didn’t want to live her whole life here, and traveled all over the U.S, only to find that…

There ‘s no place like home, Florida, mi tierra: “corre en la sangre y sigue llegando con más fuerza al corazón