Make It

Why I left a job with the police department to launch a marijuana edibles business

Cindy Pinzon and Leone Posod, co-founders of the marijuana-edibles business Treat Yourself.
Source: Teri Bocko
Cindy Pinzon and Leone Posod, co-founders of the marijuana-edibles business Treat Yourself.

Three years ago I made the most difficult decision of my life. I decided to start a cannabis business with my best friend, Cindy. It was terrifying for so many reasons: neither of us had any business experience, cannabis is federally illegal, and I had never even tried cannabis.

Cindy and I became inseparable our freshman year of high school. We played the same sports, took the same classes, volunteered at the same places. We had complementary skill sets; Cindy was outgoing and adventurous, I was shy and driven. It felt like we could accomplish anything together.

Cindy and I were the well-behaved teenagers parents dream of having. We both bought into the "Just Say No" campaign. We were convinced that marijuana was harmful, due to the violence and lifestyle associated with it.

The first time I went to visit Cindy at UCLA, her roommate informed me that Cindy had a secret to confess: Cindy tried marijuana, and she enjoyed it. I was shocked — I could not believe that she would do that! I was also puzzled that she looked healthy and was maintaining good grades. I didn't understand it, but I trusted that she knew how to take care of herself.

"I started to plan my escape after hearing one of my co-workers say, 'we only have 20 years left until retirement.' I knew I wouldn't survive another year."

A year later I applied to work as a police dispatcher, answering 911 calls and operating a police radio. Because I started the job at such a young age, I wanted to learn and gain experience as quickly as possible. I read every book in the building. I attended every training class that I could. I eventually took on more than my dispatch duties and started training for crime and intelligence analysis.

During this time, Cindy continued to consume cannabis on a regular basis. I didn't notice any signs of addiction or cause for concern. She seemed to be thriving, despite consuming something that I considered to be harmful. Occasionally Cindy would send me articles about the benefits of cannabis, but I would find ways to dismiss or discredit them.

My original intention was to work as a dispatcher through my college years. Somehow, almost 10 years went by and I still worked there. I had developed a love for my co-workers, and work had become my home.

I was, however, deeply dissatisfied with my job.

I felt undervalued and underpaid, there were ongoing disputes about workplace issues, and I was completely frustrated with my supervisor. I started to plan my escape after hearing one of my co-workers say, "we only have 20 years left until retirement." I knew I wouldn't survive another year.

Cindy and Leone packaging their marijuana-infused mini toaster pastries.
Source: CNBC
Cindy and Leone packaging their marijuana-infused mini toaster pastries.

I enrolled in a yoga teacher-training program, to start over as a yoga instructor. I knew I would need to distance myself from my co-workers to avoid the temptation to stay, so I planned a move across the state to San Francisco.

When I called Cindy to share my plans, she exclaimed that she, too, had decided to move to San Francisco from Southern California. She received her health coach certification, and it felt meant-to-be that we were both moving to the same city to start new careers. She realized that I could now try cannabis, and made a business proposal: to start a line of healthy cannabis edibles.

I agreed to Cindy's proposal, but with reservations. If I tried cannabis, I would be abandoning any chance to return to my old job. And what would I say to my former co-workers, whom I told I was leaving to teach yoga? Many of them were vocal about their views against marijuana. I spent three more months researching and deliberating before trying any cannabis. I enjoyed it, and grew even more excited about starting our business. But now I had a secret that I needed to share with the rest of my friends, family, and former co-workers.

A year later, once the business was stable and growing, I finally decided to announce what I had been up to. My news was met with some shock and disappointment. Some friends completely disapproved, while others kept quiet about their opinions. I became concerned that I had damaged some of my relationships beyond repair.

It has now been three years since I quit dispatching, and California is four months away from legal sales of recreational cannabis. I still have great relationships with many of my old co-workers, and even those who once distanced themselves have started warming back up to me. Surprisingly enough, some have asked to learn more about cannabis, out of curiosity to assist with their loved ones' health.

I took a flying leap of faith going into this business. Currently Cindy and I are struggling to meet our order demand. Every day of 2017 has been spent trying to figure out how to best grow our business, and as we look forward to 2018, our biggest concern is the financial burden of acquiring a business license. Despite the uncertainty, we are confident in what we've created. And I won't be looking back.

Commentary by Leone Posod, the co-founder of Treat Yourself, a female-inclusive cannabis health & wellness brand. Leone left her decade-long career as a police dispatcher to found Treat Yourself with her childhood best friend, Cindy. Together they are on a mission to use Treat Yourself as a way to educate others about how to incorporate cannabis into a healthy lifestyle.

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Tune in to CNBC on Tuesday, August 8 at 10pm ET/PT for "The Profit: Marijuana Millions," as "The Profit" host Marcus Lemonis explores California's marijuana industry boom.