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Marijuana seller's story of 'badass' Mexican sisters was a cultural misstep, Latinas say

By Dorany Pineda, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

Plascencia, who said she never took any pay from the company, offered Karchmer help in rebranding La Chingona and rewriting the story.

Meanwhile, social media cannabis influencers were beginning to praise and promote La Chingona. In mid-June, @behighbeyou - which has more than 11,000 followers - posted a photo of a La Chingona product on its Instagram feed.

The initial caption, which has since been edited, read: "We love this brand because not only does it kick, but it was started by some badass Latinx babes! @lachingonacannabis is run by 3 Rosario sisters using techniques passed down for generations."

Plascencia spotted it. "This is 100% what I saw coming and the fuel of my email," she told Karchmer in a text. "I'm here for you, let's get ahead of this."

She penned a suggested response for Karchmer to send to Kaya Miller and Patrick Ryan of @behighbeyou. It included, in part, this confession: "While not Latinx-owned, we are proud allies to all POC and use our platform to pay homage to both Latinx culture and the cannabis community."

As word spread, more accounts outed the brand.

During a meeting with Kaiser and Karchmer on June 22 in downtown L.A., Plascencia restated her concerns and offered to help solve "the problem" with her public relations and social media expertise, according to Kaiser.

But he didn't see any problem. He told her about his Mexican grandmother and feeling connected to his culture. Plascencia told them she couldn't work for the brand unless it was "Latinx owned."

About a week later, Karchmer rang to say that Kaiser was offering her a percentage of the company to help them rebuild the brand "authentically" and have a "Latina" owner, according to Plascencia.

Their offer, she said, was less than 1%.

It was insulting, Plascencia said. At that point, she said, she decided there was no helping the company. She and her friend Savina Monet, a 25-year-old graphic designer, started digging deeper into La Chingona. Part of the effort, Plascencia said, was to counter any idea pushed by Kaiser that she was motivated by financial gain.

"I told her that her behavior could get her sued and I was going to discuss with my lawyer," said Kaiser in a text message to the Los Angeles Times. "I always from day #1 felt this was 100% extortion."

 

Plascencia said that was untrue. She never wanted anything from the company, she said. She just wanted the public to know the truth.

"We really started to double-down on screenshots, email communication, just to show that we were not intending ill harm and we were not trying to get any financial gain," Monet said. "We were just two offended Latinas who did not want to let this ... slip in the cannabis industry."

The two millennial social media experts launched an Instagram boycott accusing the company of cultural appropriation.

Plascencia and Monet encouraged fellow marijuana users to urge dispensaries to take La Chingona products off their shelves. Within days, about a dozen dispensaries canceled their orders.

"It was unbelievable," Kaiser said. "She created a mob, and the mob didn't want to listen to anything ... they pretty much destroyed what was a really cool brand and company for no real reason that I can understand."

For the first time, Kaiser publicly confessed that the Del Rosario sisters were made up: "I apologize to those who felt misled and I wanted to take the time to clear up and explain the origins and ideals behind the brand, the company and myself," he said on La Chingona's Instagram page.

Days later, Kaiser declared that he was shuttering the brand, although he hopes to revive it.

"Did I ever feel that I was culturally appropriating? Never," Kaiser said. And "who is Susie Plascencia to be the arbiter of culture?"

Plascencia has an answer for that: "I am a real Chingona, and this is what we do."

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