These Pinoy-flavored cannabis gummies aim to break stereotypes and preserve heritage

These Pinoy-flavored cannabis gummies aim to break stereotypes and preserve heritageThese Pinoy-flavored cannabis gummies aim to break stereotypes and preserve heritage
via Lisa Reid, Christine Cueto
Michelle De Pacina
8 days ago
The Asian American community may not be known for the most progressive views on recreational marijuana, but that didn’t stop Lisa Angulo Reid from launching her cannabis gummy business in 2023.
Dear Flor gummies, which are 100% vegan and infused with authentic Filipino flavors — such as ube (purple yam), calamansi (lime) and buko (coconut) pandan — have proven to be wildly popular. Around 85% of their products sold out in less than three weeks after their launch in three MedMen stores in California last October.
Reid felt a sense of urgency to preserve Filipino cultural ownership amid the commercialization of ingredients like ube in the US. Having worked in the advertising industry for over 20 years, she noticed that Google searches for Filipino food surged by 525%, while searches for the specific ingredient ube surged by 300% in the U.S. from 2016 to 2021. 
The staple Filipino ingredient
Ube is native to the Philippines. With a mildly sweet flavor and a starchy texture, it is a popular ingredient in Filipino desserts and snacks. The staple ingredient has been cultivated in the Philippines for centuries, serving as a symbol of Filipino culinary heritage. It is most commonly boiled and mashed into a dessert called ube halaya. Fresh carabao (water buffalo) milk was originally used in the dessert, but the arrival of Americans in 1898 made evaporated and condensed milk more common, making its preparation more accessible. 
The evolution of ube reflects the historical influences of Spanish and American occupations in the Philippines. The use of ube halaya in ensaymada, a sweet pastry, originated during the Spanish colonization. However, like other Filipino dishes such as adobo, ube has evolved over time, incorporating various influences from different regions to create distinct Filipino flavors.  
via Pexels/McHail Hernandez
In recent years, ube has gained popularity beyond Southeast Asia and can now be found in various parts of the world, particularly in areas with a significant Filipino population or those with a growing interest in international cuisine. Its popularity has surged in the U.S. thanks to its striking purple hue. It has swiftly entered the mainstream, featuring prominently in bubble tea shops, pastries and restaurant menus. It has become so common that its origins have been lost to the frenzy of social media.  
“I do believe that as Filipinos we feel some ownership over these ingredients because they’re such a part of our cuisine,” Reid tells NextShark. “When I saw that stat, I was saddened by it. Nowadays, people selectively swap out real ube for taro, purple sweet potato or artificial flavoring. Consumers just assume it’s ube and they don’t realize that ube is Filipino. If we Asians don’t understand that these are our ingredients, then how are we going to make non-Asians understand that distinction?”
Reclaiming cultural identity 
Reid became impassioned about reclaiming the narrative. Witnessing the potential loss of cultural identity to mainstream markets, her frustration ignited a spark of innovation. Determined to create a product that not only celebrated her Filipino heritage but also challenged societal norms within the AAPI community, she and her husband, Brian Reid, developed their very first startup in 2022. With a vision to introduce Filipino flavors into the cannabis market, the Reids sought to disrupt stereotypes and carve out a unique niche. 
“Cannabis is social and Filipinos are inherently social,” she says. “When you take the Venn diagram of people that are interested in Filipino food or culture, or people that are interested in cannabis, there’s a very interesting overlay, especially when you look at markets like California. It felt like an interesting, untapped territory for us to explore. We thought that cannabis gummies would be a great way to capture the attention of people in a way that was novel.” 
Drawing from her background in advertising and her own personal experiences, she infused the essence of Filipino culture into every aspect of Dear Flor’s brand identity, from its name to its product offerings.  
“Flor,” a relatively common name for women in the Philippines, pays homage to her family’s roots and the cherished memories of her mother’s older sister, Ate Floring. With each letter penned to her beloved aunt, Reid’s mother shared intimate details of their lives, weaving together familial connection and nostalgia. The choice of “Dear Flor” for the company’s name reflects a heartfelt greeting and an invitation to share in the warmth and familiarity of the culture.
via Lisa Reid
According to Reid, California, with its largest Filipino population in the U.S., became a natural choice for launching their brand. The state’s mature and highly competitive cannabis market provides an opportunity to establish and thrive, with success in the state serving as a strong foundation for expansion into other markets.
But before the Reids launched their product, they went through a series of sampling events last year. One took place at Kapwa Gardens in San Francisco during their April 20 event, a date that has become known as the official stoner holiday, when marijuana smokers celebrate their love of bud.
“The reception from Filipinos and non-Filipinos was honestly a resounding success. They loved the ube. They loved the calamansi. They’re like, “When are you selling this?” and I’m like, ‘We’re trying to get it to market like be patient,’” Reid recalls. 
This year, Dear Flor was invited back to officially sell their products at the 4/20 Baked! event. 
“I had never seen Filipino-flavored cannabis gummies until learning about Dear Flor,” Marissa Macayan, the general manager of Kapwa Gardens, tells NextShark. “Dear Flor is promoting Filipino flavors in a space that has become overrun by white cis-males. To encounter a Filipino brand who’s emerging in this scene is refreshing and inspiring… Something I feel like I could enjoy with friends for a little trip with flavors from the Motherland.” 
via Lisa Reid
Macayan, who partners with BIPOC creatives to uplift marginalized communities, believes women like Reid are leading discussions on re-indigenizing plant medicine and promoting self-care. While the thought of consuming cannabis is often associated with its psychoactive effects, cannabis contains various chemical compounds known as cannabinoids, each with unique effects on the body and mind. Two of the most well-known cannabinoids are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). As opposed to THC, CBD is non-psychoactive and is known for its potential therapeutic effects, including anxiety reduction, pain management and anti-inflammatory properties. 
Navigating stigma and changing perceptions in the Filipino community
Reid’s 76-year-old mother, Editha Malabanan Angulo, who initially had reservations about the idea of her daughter selling weed, eventually became supportive of the business venture. 
“I was a nurse, and I’m married to a physician, so of course when they were growing up, marijuana was a no no,” Angulo shares, “but the times are different now. It’s legal in different states. It’s the trend. I’m a devoted Catholic. I’m a very conservative mother. My husband and I were really against marijuana, but with this modern time, oh my gosh, cannabis is everywhere.”
When Reid told her mother about the cannabis business and its connection to Filipino culture, Angulo was happy to see her daughter’s passion in spreading Filipino flavors to the world.
“We had this Filipino American gathering here in West Virginia, and she wanted to go and talk with my friends,” Angulo says. “But you know how the Filipinos are. When they hear marijuana… Oh my gosh. But my friends, they really love it. With our age — senior citizens — our problem is getting good sleep or we have back problems.” 
Despite her initial reluctance, Angulo tried the ube-flavored gummy and found that it helped improve her sleep without causing a “high.” She now uses it occasionally to address sleep issues, experiencing positive results without feeling groggy the next day.
“Sleep is an interesting gateway into cannabis,” Reid says. “Especially now that people are understanding that these products are safe and they’ve been tested, it takes down the barrier for them.”
via Lisa Reid
Despite the occasional stigma, particularly among Filipinos, the Reids found that people are generally curious and receptive to understanding their business. At events, they have observed a growing normalization of cannabis, especially in legal markets. 
The modern cannabis consumer differs significantly from those of the past, with many seeking specific outcomes such as sleep aid, pain relief or general well-being, rather than simply getting high. This shift in consumer preferences has made dosed edibles more appealing to a broader demographic. While some products are still designed for recreational use, such as Dear Flor’s mango-flavored gummies, there is a growing demand for cannabis products tailored to different needs and preferences.
The changing profile of cannabis buyers is contributing to increased curiosity and acceptance within communities, with older generations becoming more open to trying weed products and discussing their experiences with others. The cultural shift reflects a broader trend toward destigmatizing cannabis. While some old taboos persist, Reid says they encounter fewer negative reactions. And when they do, they aim to educate skeptics about the safety and benefits of cannabis products.  
Hitting financial turmoil with MedMen 
Reid’s goal to destigmatize cannabis and spread Filipino flavors, however, is facing an unexpected business turn. MedMen, a well-known cannabis company, has reportedly made almost $50,000 in retail revenue off largely unpaid inventory. Despite initial success and expansion into more MedMen stores, Reid says she has yet to see her side of the profit. She claims that she has only received one payment from the dispensary, with outstanding payments of more than $18,000 via distributors. 
Reid’s battle to recoup her investment from the retailer is, unfortunately, a common issue in the cannabis industry. Many dispensaries, large and small, delay payments, extending terms from net 30 to net 60 or even net 90, or worse, default altogether. The challenging cycle of non-payment within the cannabis industry, particularly for independent brands owned by minorities, makes it difficult for entrepreneurs to succeed and be profitable. According to Reid, independent brands do not have the scale to weather a company like MedMen.
In recent months, MedMen found itself in hot water amid a wave of lawsuits and financial challenges. The multistate company, known for its upscale dispensaries, has faced scrutiny for its management practices, legal disputes and corporate governance concerns. On April 26, it filed for bankruptcy in Canada with liabilities totaling around $411 million. Its American subsidiary also entered receivership for the dissolution and liquidation of assets. The decision came following an assessment of the company’s financial status, its inability to fulfill obligations, and anticipated actions from secured creditors. Although there were attempts to cut costs and attract investors, MedMen experienced declining revenue and a dwindling stock price.
via Christine Cueto
Despite facing business obstacles, Reid remains optimistic about expanding into new markets, exploring partnerships with new dispensaries and remaining engaged in the industry’s potential for growth and innovation. Dear Flor is currently only available in California stores, such as Project Cannabis SoMa, Project Cannabis North Hollywood and Barbary Coast. But as her desire to preserve Filipino cultural ownership extends globally, Reid is strategizing to broaden the brand’s reach for expansion into other legal states.
“Our mission is to bring Filipino culture to the world, one flavor at a time,” Reid says. “We want people to see our flavors and know they are Filipino. So it’s not surprising our dream is to get Dear Flor to as many people as we can. We want to reach people who love Filipino culture. We want to reach all people out there that have a Filipino friend — and everyone out there has a Filipino friend. If you don’t, you should get one!”
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