Taylor Bazley and Andrés Rigal are the owners and founders of Green Qween, a dispensary slated to open in Downtown Los Angeles on April 20, 2022, which is on a mission to use cannabis as a vehicle to support the queer community. The innovative retail space will also focus on LGBTQIA+ employment and brand involvement.
Bazley came from the public sector having worked for the LA City Council where he fittingly led the campaign to create the first rainbow crosswalk in the City of LA and later got his MBA from UCLA. Born in Puerto Rico, Rigal’s experience runs the creative gamut, from talent agent wunderkind to LA’s premier producer of LGBTQIA+ special events and nightlife. Their mutual expertise has culminated in Green Qween.
The future Green Qween dispensary is located in a 1930s-era standalone building with a sleek, art deco exterior. The interior echoes a mixture of 30s Deco and the chic Memphis Design Movement born in the 1980s and was reimagined by the cannabis architectural firm Seven Point Interiors. ‘It was a rejection of the status quo and typical shapes, and was centered around queer and outrageous ideas,’ says Rigal. The company also recently teamed up with Red Workshop to perfect running its day-to-day operations. Co-founded by Adam Bierman and Andrew Modlin, formerly the co-founders of MedMen, the operational partnership holds Green Qween’s ethos at the center.
We spoke with Bazley and Rigal about what it means to represent the LGBTQIA+ community more robustly in the cannabis culture, how they plan to hire unhoused individuals, and what it takes to help support their community to build the new DTLA Proud Community Center.
When did you start working in the cannabis space?
Taylor Bazley: After a few years of working at the LA City Council I was put on cannabis regulation policy. My main area of focus was Venice and let’s be honest, cannabis is very Venice. As my familiarity with the local cannabis industry grew I better understood where the challenges and opportunities were. That was my genesis story and then I connected with Andrés Rigal.We wanted to find a way to connect supporting the LGBTQIA+ community with this new industry. Together we came up with the idea for a way to try and create a new style of cannabis retail that leveraged a socially conscious mission at its core. We wanted to find a way to connect supporting the LGBTQIA+ community with this new industry.
Andrés Rigal: At the time I was a creative director at a LGBTQIA+ venue in Santa Monica, where I met Taylor. He reached out to me with this exciting opportunity. With anything I do, I want to make sure that it’s elevating our community and that there are creative foundational ways to give back. It was important for me that if I was going to be attached to this and involved with it, it was going to be LGBTQIA+-forward. Especially since the movement to legalize cannabis and the fight for LGBTQIA+ rights are intrinsically intertwined. A lot of people don’t realize this, but the first medical cannabis dispensary in California was founded by the LGBTQIA+ community by medical marijuana advocates Dennis Peron and Mary Jane Rathbun who championed its use as a way to alleviate suffering incurred both by the disease and the harmful side effects of the drugs prescribed to fight the disease.
Naturally, Taylor was on the same page, so that was very synergistic for us. That’s where we thought of the name Green Qween. The name is a wink and a nod to the queer community with the ‘w’ in the Qween, it’s like, ‘Hey, qween! lol’
What is Green Qween? And what are your roles within the brand?
Taylor Bazley: It’s part community organization, part social enterprise but we’re truly a cannabis retail dispensary at our core. We seek to be a chain of dispensaries in the future, but doing it in a way that’s more connected to the community than a lot of other dispensaries have been. We’re really proud that instead of just saying we want to be that, we’ve put in tangible operating procedures that ensure it happens.
We partnered with Chrysalis to create a workforce development program to get low-income and homeless individuals into cannabis retail employment. Cannabis equity in LA has been so focused on who the one owner is of the store, and less on the employees or other careers within the industry. That’s what we did with Chrysalis, to leverage their proven program.
We’re seeking to give space to LGBTQIA+, women and BIPOC-owned brands to help diversify the industry. While we’re just one store, if we can use our power to support all these consumer brands that can be sold in our store where we might be the first contract for a few of them, that’s a big win because those brands can use those sales as demonstration to get more contracts – it all starts somewhere and for queer entrepreneurs we want it to start at Green Qween.
We’ve connected ourselves directly to Downtown LA Proud, donating a portion of profits to build a local community center. It’s a very tangible, direct, and consistent way to offer support which is huge for nonprofits. Depending on how well the store does, it’s likely to be enough to support the rent on their initial community center and also partial, or maybe complete, salary for the initial executive director. Once you have that together, you can imagine the grant funding potential.
Andrés Rigal: We’re using cannabis as a vehicle for change. We want Green Qween to be the bearers of that message to the consumers, but also to the industry. Being an advocate for social equity is really important to our team. It’s an industry that we didn’t see a lot of ourselves in so we created Green Qween in a really authentic way.
There is not a lot of LGBTQIA+ representation within the cannabis industry. It’s important that we are paving the way for other people to follow and using our space for marginalized brands to enter an industry that’s almost impossible to break into. We had to fight tooth-and-nail to get where we are today. We hope that we are paving what was a rocky, hard path with a smoother road for others to follow and also laying the bricks of the first gayborhood in cannabis.
How can the cannabis community better support the LGBTQIA+ movement?
Andrés Rigal: In the queer community, you have a lot of businesses that come out to support our community only during pride month in June. Their marketing team will slap some rainbows on something, check a box, make a donation and then disappear for 11 months. Sure that’s okay, and I’m happy that they’re showing up and supporting our community, but it’s inconsistent and perhaps a little inauthentic.
In cannabis (and beyond), brands should think about how can they support the queer community all year long, not just during June. It was important for us to have actionable things that help: funding a community center, brand representation and helping brands get a foothold into a space in cannabis that barely exists. Since day 1 we have been creating that space ourselves – by running through walls where there are no doors.
Taylor Bazley: What we’re doing with our tangible, SOP-focused mission is something that a lot of businesses can do. Other businesses saw what we’re doing and said, ‘that’s something we want to support.’ Lobbyists helped us during part of the process, and we had Weedmaps step up and give us a large grant for their platform.
Join our community, be part of the community. What it means to be part of our community is not just to give some money occasionally, but it is to really invest back in the community to believe that it will come back to you. As much as you give, you’ll get back. We think of it as less of a charity model and more as a partnership.
Andrés Rigal: The cornerstone of our community is that we help each other. The generations of people before us—people who marched against AIDS, for medical access during that movement, or in support of marriage. It’s so important to continue carrying that torch and pushing forward because it’s not going to be given to us. We have to create it, together.
We designed 10 shop-in-shops in high profile areas in the store that we’re seeking to give to nascent LGBTQIA+, women, BIPOC-owned consumer brands. It will give them an opportunity to tell their story. Investing in those consumer brands through having a heightened profile in our store is going to come back and to support us as well. Our allies and LGBTQIA+ consumers will want to know that those brands are similarly mission-focused. You’ll be able to build a different type of relationship with a brand that’s collaborative. We’re just one store, but if these brands can show high sales through this outlet, it will help them grow into other stores.
What are some consumption trends you’re seeing?
Andrés Rigal: Beverages excite me – I’m really excited about drinkables. I love being able to come home, and have a CANN or a Wunder with 2 milligrams of THC and put it in a wine glass and vibe. That’s a really exciting thing in cannabis for me. I could see a future with consumption lounges where, instead of smoking, maybe, you’re drinking in a cannabis bar.
What excites you the most about the future of the cannabis space?
Andrés Rigal: What really excites me is actually being able to hold the canvas and the paintbrush. When can you say in history you’ve ever had the opportunity to help lay the foundation for something that really doesn’t exist? At least not at the level it should. It’s a huge responsibility but also incredibly exciting! And it’s purpose-driven. I looked at at the cannabis industry and I didn’t see myself in it, I didn’t see much of anything authentically queer.
Taylor Bazley: I’m excited about the promises of social equity taking hold. As an optimist, I believe that as the industry matures, and as more jurisdictions tune in, cannabis could become one of the most equitably-focused industries in the country. We have a chance to stake this claim. We have the opportunity to do things right.
How can our readers support your efforts?
Taylor Bazley: We’re still looking for more investors; while the project is mostly funded, we need more growth capital to realize the entire vision. New investors would be join an exciting cap table of visionaries already in the business including Brooke Lynn Hytes, host of Drag Race Canada, and would be a part of something truly exciting.If folks are interested in being part of what we’re doing, reach out to us to set up a time to talk.
Andrés Rigal: Our goal is to engage the community. We like the idea of having a lot’s of investors involved at whatever level they are able. It’s right in line with our idea, Cannabis for the community, by the community.