From pageant queen to cannabis consumer, from walking the evening gown competition to walking customers through cannabis purchases, Syanne Centeno stands tall as a symbol for the broad scope of medical cannabis consumers today.
As a passionate advocate, the former beauty pageant winner is using her experiences to create a platform of cannabis reform. Centeno competed in pageants starting in her early 20s. She won the Miss Maryland World competition in 2015 and was in the Top 12 of the Miss World America competition that same year. Centeno started taking medical cannabis several months ago after being diagnosed with a seizure disorder, tumors and endometriosis.
“It’s crazy how quickly I was able to get off of some of my medications, and how there’s been this change in me physically and mentally,” said Centeno, who has also battled mental health issues and found that cannabis alleviated those as well. “Everyone has been saying I smile a lot more; I’m getting a lot more done.”
Centeno’s life quickly changed as she was presented with opportunities in the medical cannabis space. While visiting a clinic as a patient, she was asked to come to work for a medical cannabis certification clinic. Then, while working there, she was offered a job at Finding Haven in Brandywine, Maryland after being impressed by her work skills.
“I started as a patient, and it’s really cool to have gotten into this industry coming from a patient’s perspective. I never thought that I would transition to anything cannabis-related from being Miss Maryland World,” she said.
Centeno doesn’t wear her pageant crown to work, but even a change in hairstyle and a pair of glasses doesn’t stop her from being recognized a couple of times behind at the cool blue-lit counter of the dispensary.
“I started as a patient, and it’s really cool to have gotten into this industry coming from a patient’s perspective. I never thought that I would transition to anything cannabis-related from being Miss Maryland World.”
“It’s a little awkward,” she said. “You just don’t expect people to recognize you.” Centeno’s passion for helping others shines not only through her work and her studies in drug and alcohol counseling at the University of Southern Maryland, but it also shows in her nonprofit devoted to honoring children battling serious illnesses.
During her reign as Miss Maryland World 2015, Centeno began the Warrior Princess Initiative, an organization that recognizes children with life-threatening diseases.
“I would remember about how I would feel when I was crowned,” said Centeno, “and I wanted to make children feel the same feeling of excitement and feel good about themselves.”
The nonprofit has been on hiatus while she was in and out of the hospital for the last couple of years, but she is rebuilding the organization while attending school, working and planning a summer wedding.
Centeno said that it was crazy that people had such a negative perception of cannabis, but felt that education was key to future acceptance and understanding. Her own early conversations about her medical cannabis use brought concern the medication would tarnish her reputation.
“Well, isn’t that the reason we need to talk about it? Because, you know, I’m not what people think . . . ” she said. She mentioned her gratefulness that cannabis was legalized for medical use and she was able to use it to change her life, in terms of both her health and her career path. Centeno uses her public image and speaking engagements to advocate for medical cannabis and to help erase the stigma of cannabis consumption.
“I use cannabis and, yeah, I was a pageant queen . . . but that doesn’t mean that I can’t use cannabis. Doctors use it, lawyers use it, all kinds of people use it, and the fact of cannabis is changing, I think we need to showcase that.”
“It’s a part of my story now, and I can’t leave it out. It’s become part of me.”