Nina Parks is the founder and CEO of Mirage Medicinal, a top shelf delivery service based in San Francisco. She was inspired to launch the business after a trip to Amsterdam with her brother. Walking into a coffee shop sipping tea and rolling a joint made her fall in love with cannabis culture in a whole new way. In fact, up until this point, Nina had not consumed cannabis since she was 16. Nina's experience with her brother in Amsterdam changed her perspective. She wanted to bring this experience back to the Bay. Nina joined forces with her brother and began planning Mirage Medicinal. However, her world changed overnight when her brother was arrested for marijuana possession in New York. Nina was now left to take over their dream of Mirage Medicinal. In 2015, Nina launched Mirage Medicinal. A California state certified medicinal cannabis cooperative, Mirage Medicinal has been featured on Viceland's Weediquette, NPR, Dope Magazine, and High Times. Today Nina is dedicated to building relationships around restorative marijuana drug policy on state and nationwide levels. When she isn't running Mirage Medicinal, Nina is working with Supernova Women a nonprofit organization she co-founded to create a space for women of color in the cannabis industry.
Can you tell us more about launching Mirage Medicinal?
Mirage Medicinal has been a journey of ultimate struggle and triumph. This brand is a legacy of my family.
In 2014 my brother was arrested out of state for a cannabis offense that got him sentenced to a year at Riker’s Island in NY. One of the most notorious jails in the country, in fact, Jay-Z has a documentary out about how broken Riker’s Island is.
As a sister who understands the potential mental health risks of a family member going into lock-up and as a complete lover of cannabis since I fell in love with Amsterdam’s café, culture I knew I had to continue my brother’s dream of having a legal cannabis business in California. He observed the benefits cannabis had on our friend’s parents that were self-medicating to mitigate their PTSD, on our uncle’s friends that were seeking to alleviate the pain from AIDS/HIV, on our uncle’s appetite and rest while going through chemo, and on our uncle weening himself away from amphetamines.
Cannabis was always the healthier option and therapeutic aid vs relying on opiates and pharmaceuticals pushed by the medical establishment. So, took over the paperwork in 2015, began building Mirage Medicinal’s brand and providing compassionate service to our communities.
How has cannabis influenced your life?
I look at the life cycle of cannabis as a metaphor for life, the plant grown from seed, has to break through a shell, plant its roots and have the resilience to break through the dirt and into the light; as it grows it needs lots of light to help stretch but when it’s time it is thrown into darkness allowing it to develop its flowers and potency before it’s harvested, given time to cure and manicured to present to people.
My experience with cannabis is spiritual. As a youth, at times I used it unmindfully; my unmindful use led to poor habits and a lack of understanding of cannabis’s abilities to help us heal different facets of our being.
Now as an adult, I use cannabis in several forms:
Topically – I use topicals to help alleviate body pain in my back and hips. I’ve developed a ritual around my cannabis bath’s that I hold sacred to my self- care regimen. There is nothing more relaxing to me than a good soak and a restorative nap or deep stretch on my yoga mat.
Edibles – I appreciate edibles on two levels, low micro-dosing throughout the day when I’m PMSing. Or, in higher doses, I like to take the time to meditate or participate in arts and crafts.
Smoking – It’s a nice little break at the end of the day as needed. Recently, I've liked taking a few hits before I work out. In moderation cannabis allows me to achieve a higher consciousness of my breath as it travels through my body.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
My favorite part about what I do is getting people together to learn and enjoy safe spaces to consume and socialize. Although we are still just a delivery service, Mirage Medicinal makes the effort to organize events like Mirage Moon Yoga, that takes place on the New Moon and Full Moon, Fit & Lit work-outs and dinners and brunches to give our community an opportunity to learn about our products and access our service on a deeper level.
We’re definitely still your weed delivery people but we really do care about your relationship with cannabis.
Any tips for maintaining a work/life balance?
Remember that balance takes constant effort until you build up the muscle or systems in order to get into balance more quickly. So, develop habits that work for who you are. Meditate on it, stay hydrated and put in the work create the work/life balance that works for your flow.
Why is education so important to the cannabis movement?
Education is water for the mind. It is essential in our industry which is still in development. After decades of prohibition, there are finally so many new things we’re learning about this wonderful plant every day. We need to constantly stay on top of new strains and their effects, their growing environments and the effects on our health, the different products that can be derived from the plant and the entourage effects they have when coupled with other chemical compounds, both organic or man-made.
The fact is that the anti-cannabis propaganda that started in the 1930’s has really done a number on the human psyche. We have to educate ourselves first, then others, on the mindful use of all substances. That alone makes education a top priority.
What has been your biggest challenge working in the cannabis industry?
The biggest challenge has been competing with all these newbies with tech money, and real estate money. I’m not worried about it though, Mirage Medicinal is in it for the marathon, I trust in my brand and in our core values, we’re not “green rushers.”
What is the biggest barrier to entry for people who are interested in launching a cannabis business?
Money. The biggest barrier to entry in the cannabis industry for communities devastated by the “war on drugs” is access to capital, real estate and affordable education on the licensing process or even meaningful input into the licensing and regulatory process.
If you could offer an aspiring cannabis entrepreneur one piece of advice, what would it be?
This is not a sprint it’s a marathon, be prepared for the long run. We are at risk of loosing the compassion and soul of our cannabis culture as it gets pimped out for rich people to get richer. In my opinion, this is an opportunity to, build new sustainable farming models, and to provide access to holistic wellness services and products.
So if you’re going to be in this revolutionary industry come into it in order to build something new and glorious. Not to preserve heartless cooperate structures.
What habits or mindsets have helped you be successful?
I feel like the working out and developing a network of likeminded individuals have been the keys to my success. A healthy outlet for your energy and good people are priceless no matter the industry you are in.
Oh! And of course, a constant hunger for learning.
Name the top 3 skills every cannabis entrepreneur needs.
Any set of skills that are associated with the mastery of your chosen medium. (retail, cultivation, manufacturing, distribution, delivery, events)
A trained nose (It’s all about the terps.)
What do you see in the future of the cannabis industry?
I see the evolution of American Industry across boards.
1. The cannabis industry has the highest amount of women CEO’s of any industry. Just imagine the social entrepreneurship that will emerge over the next decade.
2. We haven’t even touched on the emerging American Hemp Industry, hemp products and energy could help to create jobs and products that would reduce our carbon imprint, depending on how we structure production.
3. The criminal justice and social justice reform is tangible in emerging legal marijuana states. We have to do our best to encourage policy that helps to heal the effects of targeting poor ethnic communities had on our culture. While ensuring that there is a diverse and equitable industry and regulatory structure that really cares about public health and safety vs feeding a prison industrial complex.