Author Portrait Photo Credit: Heather Tafolla
With the moving target of marijuana regulation and everyday cannabis misconceptions, the hemp industry can be a lot to handle. But Monica Lo, creator of Sous Weed, author of The Weed Gummies Cookbook, and proud mother of one, presses through as she dominates the cannabis sphere.
In this interview, we dive into her journey as a mother and small business owner.
What has been different about being a mother, BIPOC, and a cannabis consumer? What are some of the stigmas surrounding your stance on cannabis?
As an Asian American woman, I didn’t feel like I was accurately represented in the mainstream media. Asian Americans face unique issues when it comes to cannabis use and acceptance due to differences in culture and social stigmas. I most definitely did not fit into the ‘lazy stoner’ stereotype and I wasn’t posting photos of boobs, butts, and bongs. On the contrary, the goal with my food and lifestyle photography was geared towards changing the general public perception on cannabis. I wanted to be a responsible face for cannabis users, to educate, and to help dispel myths and stigmas around this beneficial plant.
With normalization of cannabis use comes legalization. With legalization comes more medical research on how cannabis can be used as a therapeutic agent. I am happy to be part of that movement in destigmatizing cannabis use especially within the AAPI community.
It’s so important for us to understand the history of cannabis, not just the origins, but also how communities of color in the U.S. have been disproportionately harmed by the failed War on Drugs. The groundwork of the cannabis industry here in America has been laid out by the Black and Brown communities. And to this day there are still too many people incarcerated for nonviolent cannabis offenses. I hope to help right these wrongs by donating a portion of the profits of The Weed Gummies Cookbook semiannually to The Last Prisoner Project.
Do you think there is power in creating one's own edibles? Why do you choose to give your community the recipes rather than the actual product itself?
Oh yes, there are so many reasons why DIY is the way to go. In 2021, cannabis edibles sales in medical and recreational states began to skyrocket as an impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. We started to see consumers choosing edibles, specifically gummies and candies, over inhalable forms of consumption. On the flip side, as states began to legalize medically and recreationally, dispensary prices also began to rise due to taxes and operating costs. There are also state mandated regulations on dosages and serving sizes which can be challenging for patients who need more than what is on the shelves. Dispensary edibles also have to be shelf stable for a few months to a year.
It’s more cost-effective to DIY and you can make your treats without the commercial preservatives and also customize the dosage to your body’s needs. You can get strain-specific or cannabinoid-specific and cook with your favorite flower. Plus, they make for great gifts during the holiday season!
To backtrack a bit, DIY is how Sous Weed® was born! My cannabis cooking adventure began in 2015 when I herniated a spinal disk during an early morning bootcamp workout. My doctor had prescribed a mixture of opioids and acetaminophen, but they wrecked my stomach, making the whole situation worse. I eventually tried a cannabis edible my roommate brought home from the dispensary and that night I slept so well.
The next morning, I knew I needed to figure out how to safely make my own edibles. Since we lived in a strict no-smoking building, I had to be discreet about the wafting scent of cannabis; this meant I had to rule out cooking on the stovetop or in a Crock-Pot. At the time I was a creative director of a sous vide start-up and thought I’d put our machines to the test–and it worked!
Since the cannabis flower and cooking oil are sealed in an airtight bag and placed underwater to infuse–there’s no smell! Plus, I can make multiple cannabis infusions at once, using all my favorite cannabis strains. I would use these infusions in a variety of sweet and savory dishes.
These sous vide cannabis experiments ended up helping me manage my back pain, and by documenting it on my blog, I hoped to inspire others to make their own edibles as well.
Why is it important to include Taiwanese confections in your cookbook?
I felt it was important to stay true to my Asian American flavors which is what I have been sharing all these years. While there are classic candies and treats in the book, I also have flavors inspired by my upbringing as a Taiwanese American Texan. The Snowflake Crisp Nougat has been the ultimate crowd pleaser–I highly recommend you try it!
What has been the most rewarding part of balancing being a mother and your career?
I currently have the immense privilege of taking an extended maternity leave. The first year is precious time I can never get back so I plan to enjoy all of it. I love seeing my baby work through his many milestones and our bond is so much stronger because I’m present.
As a creative, what part of your personal journey so far inspires you to keep going?
Through blogging about my healing journey, doors opened for me to collaborate with really amazing people in the cannabis industry. With this passion project, I’ve had opportunities to help launch new brands, shoot beautiful campaigns, cook with incredible chefs, write a cookbook, and to travel. Turn lemons into lemonade, right?
What misconceptions about cannabis cooking is your cookbook looking to change?
Please don’t feel intimidated if you're looking to learn how to make cannabis edibles! It doesn’t have to be complicated. The easiest way to infuse cannabis is to make a simple alcohol-based tincture which doesn't require any special tools. You can then use that tincture to make infused sugar for your gummies and candies.
If you’re worried about cannabis dosages, I have designed the treats in the book to be low dose for snackability. There’s nothing more obnoxious to me than having to cut up an already tiny gummy because it is too potent. That said, if you’d like a stronger sweet treat you can use more cannabis flower in the infusion or a more potent strain. A tCheck is also a helpful device to use when trying to figure out how to dose your edibles!
How does your blog work to educate on both Asian cultures and mindful cannabis consumption?
I had the honor of presenting some research on Cannabis in Ancient Asia (with a focus on East Asia) at the Asian Art Museum back in 2019. Believe it or not–cannabis is our ancestral medicine! This incredibly versatile plant evolved about 28 million years ago on the eastern Tibetan Plateau. More than 4,000 years ago, Chinese farmers used it for oil and fibers. Over 2,500 years ago, the Chinese used it for medicinal, spiritual, and recreational purposes. Although cannabis is still heavily shrouded in misconceptions in China–to this day–China is the world-leading producer of hemp and holds over half the world’s cannabis and hemp patents.
What has been a pivotal point in your journey to starting Sous Weed?A solo cookbook has been my goal since I started Sous Weed in 2015. I’m proud I had the opportunity to write and design the book and shoot all the photos as well. I’m even more proud that I did it all while pregnant. I delivered my manuscript and my son a week apart!