“I almost died.”
That’s the reason Christine De La Rosa gave for wanting to launch her cannabis company, the People’s Ecosystem.
Before going out on her own, she worked as a data architect with Verizon. Nearly every day as she worked to build databases for the company, she was in chronic pain.
“I’d go to the doctor and they never knew what was wrong with me,” she shared with Essence.
After visiting 22 doctors over three years to no avail, her body finally reached a breaking point when she had a pulmonary embolism that nearly claimed her life. It was only after then, was she given a proper diagnosis. She was told she had Lupus, a painful autoimmune disease that affects the joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart, and lungs. “I was in constant pain that my doctors couldn’t seem to treat, and could only manage with opioids, injections and meds,” De La Rosa said. 11 medications to be exact, including Fentanyl.
After 5 years of this, she said she took a look at her life one day and asked herself, if she was 45 and taking 11 prescriptions daily, what would happen as she grew older?
It was then she decided to look into homeopathic or “ancestral medicine,” as she referred to it. “My ancestors used peyote and other forms of natural treatments for generations,” she shared. “I began to look into cannabis for pain management and a solution for inflammation, and it instantly worked for me,” she said.
This didn’t make her happy, however. Instead, she became angry. “I was mad I’d wasted so much time–my highest earning years were wasted after not utilizing something that’s natural and highly effective, all because I’m a Mexican living in America,” she said, referring to the assimilated thinking her community impressed on her around not being perceived as a lazy immigrant that abuses drugs.
After her health quickly improved, that’s when she decided to explore cannabis-based entrepreneurship, eventually leaving her job and launching The People’s Ecosystem in 2016. Their mission is to provide a brighter future for communities through cannabis, challenge past stereotypes about cannabis use and empower communities adversely impacted by the criminalization of the product.
Now, five years later she’s aiming to create more minority leaders in the space through her $50 million dollar VC fund she is raising along with other industry veterans to take advantage of immediate market opportunities in cannabis. The People’s Group Fund focuses on investments in BIPOC and women-owned-controlled businesses, which have been left behind in the industry’s rapid growth, despite governmental and civic efforts to address the disparities. It aims to deploy all capital by 2024.
“I started this fund to help people avoid the mistakes I made in the beginning simply because I wasn’t a part of the “good old boys club,” De La Rosa shared about the lack of diversity in the cannabis industry. “I want to give others the opportunity to impact their communities in major ways from the inside out.”