Tuesday August 30, 2022
By Shirley Ju
The cannabis industry is forever evolving, which means the edibles game is evolving with it. And while it seems there can never be enough variety when it comes to consumption it’s important to recognize the brands that are actually moving the needle when it comes to the cross-section of cannabis and culture.
Let me introduce you to DULZE edibles, the first Mexican-owned “infused’ gummy brand. The flavors speak for themselves: Chili Watermelon, Margarita, Horchata, and Piña Colada, with the packaging, immediately catching your attention. The vibrant colors encapsulate the overall ethos of the brand while reminding you that the 50 gummies are packing 100mg THC total.
Created by 2018 High Times Top Cannabis Chef winner Mike Moya, DULZE prides themselves in using full-spectrum cannabis oil, while utilizing a unique proprietary infusion process. The beauty lies in the fact that the product is deeply rooted in Mexican culture, even helping his own mother and grandmother medicinally before hitting the market recreationally.
Their slogan? LAB-TESTED, ABUELITA APPROVED.
PotGuide Interviews Mike Moya from DULZE Edibles
PotGuide caught up with Mike Moya to discuss how DULZE Edibles started, moving from Texas to California, how his product helped his family, how they got their product into stores, and more!
[Shirley Ju]: Tell me a little bit about yourself and what cannabis does for you.
[Mike Moya]: I got introduced to cannabis when I went to college. I was a student-athlete, so I was never using cannabis until I got to college. It really helped me out of depression, and helped me regulate my alcoholism. Because, as a Latino, I was a big drinker. In college, I was a big partier. Once cannabis got introduced, it really helped me keep everything in moderation, just better self-esteem and everything that comes with that. Obviously, I'm a football player in the past, so pain is always in my daily schedule. I smoke as much as I can and it also helps me with stress.
[SJ]: You're originally from El Paso, Texas?
[MM]: Yes. I was born in Florida, but Florida never really hit the spot. Most of my family is in El Paso, Texas. Juarez, Mexico. The border kid.
[SJ]: How did you come up with the idea for DULZE edibles?
[MM]: It originated back home in El Paso, Texas. I was an executive chef at a restaurant. One of my good friends used to get me illicit weed, since Texas isn't legal, he gave me a chance to play around with some of his trim. I made some butter, and it was beautiful. The effect it gave people was great.
I decided to show my family what I was going to go do. I made some cookies, I went over across the border. I introduced it to my grandma who has polio, my aunt who’s a nun, and my mom the cookies I had made with the cannabutter. They wanted to try it, and they tried it. Seeing the effects that cannabis had on them really was life-changing. My grandma couldn't stop thanking me for how good she feels, and that she hadn't felt that good for a long time. They were just positive and talkative. My mom just hadn't seen that side of them in a very long time. It was eye-opening to know that something I made from scratch gave someone those effects.
That's why we call it abuelita-approved, grandma-approved. Because they're the ones that really make me quit my job, quit my career, quit everything I had in Texas to move to California for an opportunity. A chance to work in the cannabis space.
[SJ]: That's crazy!
[MM]: Yeah, that happened six years ago.
[SJ]: Why did you feel you had to move to California? Obviously, Texas isn't the most cannabis friendly.
[MM]: Yeah, that and I always knew that California was ahead of the game when it came to cannabis, the strains, knowledge and technology. Also, I was suckered into it. One of my close friends heard that I knew how to cook with cannabis, they roped me in with this whole story about being a cannabis chef here for a grow operation before it went rec. It just didn't happen, but I already knew I was already on a mission so I had to figure it out.
I got a regular job in San Diego in La Jolla at Catania, this super upscale Italian cuisine restaurant. I worked my way up in that business for 2.5 years. That whole time I was working on it, getting connections, trying to figure it out. Spending a lot of money that I shouldn't on testing and lawyers, just to get informed. I wanted to make a business out of it, that's the ultimate goal. Little by little, I got more opportunities and got to work with bigger clients, bigger players in the cannabis space.
I found my way to be able to use someone's license to make my candy, but also make it for them. You help me, I help you situation, but that's not really seen. That's why I'm in this position where they have to let me work in their kitchen because I make a lot of their products. I bring them a lot of money. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a person like myself that comes from El Paso, Juarez, with no financial backing. Just a lot of hard work and dedication, with a solid product that's well thought-out.
It has the microdose. We're still leading the market with the microdose and the extraction that not a lot of people know about. The extraction we make is very natural. It's just coconut oil. There's nothing else processed. It's high potency cannabis and coconut oil. I cook it in a specific way to bring all the cannabinoids into the coconut oil. When it comes down to reality: when people eat edibles, you really think about the extraction that people are claiming or marketing, like live resin, rosin, and all these things — compared to coconut oil, where your body’s going to absorb it naturally.
It's a different kind of product. We know we're in our lane. I know we're probably not going to get a lot of people to jump in it because it's a lot of hard work, but we're going to push that as long as we can. I see you rubbing yourself with some cream. Is that CBD or THC?
[SJ]: It is THC! THC Design gave it to me.
[MM]: They're great. They do really good stuff. Again, my coconut oil can be done like that. We could sell it just like that. We can put it in tablets, in little capsules.
[SJ]: It's THC coconut oil?
[MM]: Yeah. I'm about to jump on another venture for myself, now that I've met all these people, all these connections, all these farmers, all these manufacturers, grow ops, everything. I'm set up. With DULZE, I had to learn a lot. Nobody really tells you anything, you’re shooting money at things to hope they work. Now that I've learned a lot more, I’m preparing myself as a brand for Chef Mike Moya to come out with the coconut oil that I'm already extracting as a product. Because we need to emphasize how important this extraction is and how different it is, how much more cannabinoids you're getting overall.
With us, you're getting 3 to 5 different strains collectively in that one oil. There's so many more opportunities that are going to keep happening and keep coming along. That's how I've been able to move. Even though I don't have the financial backup, what I bring to the table, my team, the experiences we put on the table for dinners or catering, that's how people hire me. As we grow, the more stores we get into, I'm at 23 now. As soon as that chain really starts to take over, then my budget really expands and I'm able to allocate the appropriate funds for the people that I really want to invest in. That's where I'm at.
[SJ]: How important is it to have a product that's founded in Mexican culture?
[MM]: Tell you the truth, that's what really stands out between us and the five other Latino brands in this industry. We bring so much authenticity to not just the flavor profile, but the whole culture behind us and how we approach the hospitality service part of the food industry. That's why I'm trying to tie it all in as a chef, as a Mexican, as a Latino. The Piña Colada, the Horchata, those are called other things in other Latino countries. That's why our product isn’t just Mexican, but it's really Hispanic because a lot of different Hispanic/Latino cultures really identify with the flavors. I know that if we can get it into people's hands, everyone will have a flavor they resonate to. That's the cool part.
[SJ]: Do you plan on expanding to other flavors?
[MM]: Definitely. These four flavors are my staple. My Coke, my Sprite, my Fanta, my Dr. Pepper I call it. That's how I see these four SKUs, so that's the flag that always has to be flying. I'll be adding other colors here and there.
[SJ]: How do you see the prospects of cannabis in Texas?
[MM]: Texas is all about money and control. Until they find a way to use all those jails, those private jails, that they have in Texas and turn them into grow operations — and see the difference of money that it can generate, that's the only way someone can make it very simple for them. Okay guys, you guys have the biggest state in the US. You guys have the most private jails in America, right? How about we turn half of those into grow operations? We give people, convicts, and people in cannabis an opportunity to run those operations and learn the real thing: how to operate and not have to be black market.
Because at the end of the day, it's going to be the same thing. Most of these states are going that way. Why? So they can start a black market trade. Once the black market’s big enough, okay let's go rec. Half of them stay in, half of them stay out. That's not the way to operate, there's gotta be a different change. In Texas, if someone doesn't do something drastic like that, show them analytics and numbers: “this could happen if half of this…” The whole plan, they're not going to do it. They're not. Even though Austin or my hometown of El Paso, they're still importing from Mexico. Like what? You really think about that? No way, that shit’s still happening.
[SJ]: Would you ever consider establishing something back there, if a market were to emerge? I know some cities are working on decriminalizing Texas.
[MM]: Of course, definitely. If anything, I’d love to be the first brand in Texas that is Latino-owned and has ties to California. So they can show that we have strength in not just what we believe in, but it's working. Let us educate you on why cannabis is good. Not just smoking, but eating it, ointments, all these different technologies that's coming up. So yes, I’d love to be in Texas. I have people there already waiting and wanting to invest in Mexico. Texas, Mexico, the whole border.
[SJ]: What are you most excited for next?
[MM]: I don't really like to talk too much about what’s next because I've already been in this industry for five years and it can turn at any time. I'm definitely interested and excited in my growth overall. Seeing the twenty-plus stores we have right now, just getting to 100. 100 stores out of the 1800 stores that are in California. That's still a very low percentage. For me, as a small equity, Latino-owned brand, growth, steadiness and longevity is the most important part in this race.
Being able to establish a brand and myself as a brand, as a chef, as an entrepreneur, that white labels for other people and creates new products, trying to do everything. I have some crazy plans that people think are wild. “There's no way you'll ever do that.” But I've already gone through all the steps and metrics. No, there is a fucking way. I just have to build the relationship with these other entities and come up with a plan. Because it's not that you can't do it, no one has a creative mind to do new shit in cannabis. Everyone's copying everybody else.
To me, that's the fucking biggest battle that I have with this industry is. Even in the black market, when I was trying to do everything legit, people would laugh. “Fuck your 100mg, they’re trash. I buy 500mg.” Bro, let's go test those 500mg. I guarantee it's only 25 to 30mg. It's always been a deception. Maybe that's why we've had the slowest growth, because we don't deceive people. But the growth that we've had, people continue to come back because they love the product. They like what we're doing, the transparency on what they're consuming.
That's what I'm more excited about, is that fight to get rid of the bullshit edibles that are out there and that are saturating our industry. Let people that have been working on the craft of making edibles from scratch, give them the opportunities. Show us how to build businesses, show us what we need as background to help us get empowered. I'm a chef, I've never had a business before. I've always been used as the main guy to run everything. But “don't worry, we're taking care of the numbers.” Awesome guys, keep killing it. Keep crushing it. You're fucking killing it bro.
And then what? They don't need you and you have to move forward? Now that I'm a businessman, it's the craziest transition. I have to put on every hat: a salesman, a training guy, a PhD guy. We need more support for Latinos and black people, all minorities that want the real opportunity, because they're not there. I'm telling you, one in a million opportunities of me being where I am right now. But I'm fucking trying my best.
Thanks for speaking with PotGuide, Mike!
Photo Credit: Dulze Edibles