Calling itself the only Mexican cannabis brand, Product of Los Angeles is well established in the California cannabis market thanks to its La Familia edibles and Agua de Flor infused beverages. With Blackout, the company is going for a different vibe: a younger, party-friendly crowd that’s looking for an alternative to alcohol. Launching in three lemonade flavors, Blurrberry, Lemondaze, and Guavalicious, the Blackout line will compete with a growing number of drinkables on California dispensary shelves.
Blackout is just one recent step that the company has taken to expand its edibles and drinkables offerings. Last Friday the company’s Agua de Flor brand launched an exclusive collaboration with Cookies, which is the best known brand in California weed. Agua de Flor collaborated with Cookies to develop infused drinkables based on popular Cookies weed strains including Cereal Milk and Berry Pie along with Lemonnade strains Medellin, and Lychee. The collaboration raises POLA’s profile considerably.
The company’s recent launch of the Blackout brand tells the story of how far the founders of the company have come, and what their ambitions are for the future.
Product of Los Angeles (aka POLA, or Producto de Los Angeles) was founded six years ago by Albert Valdovinos and Edgar Vasquez, both now 28. The two best friends met in high school in Paramount, a neighborhood of Los Angeles. They got into the weed industry long before legalization, and they used their early experiences to start their own company at the age of 22.
Edibles with Local Flavor
Product of Los Angeles’s original brand of cannabis infused edibles, La Familia, remains popular at dispensaries throughout the state. Their second brand specializing in cannabis-infused flavored waters is called Agua de Flor. Both brands were based on Valdovinos and Vasquez’s love of the Mexican-American food and family culture they grew up with–both are the children of Mexican immigrants.
The company’s foundation of Mexican culture and identity was the result of Valdovinos and Vasquez noticing a complete lack of weed products in California dispensaries that were targeted to the Mexican community. They wanted products that they connected to their own families and culture, and to offer products that drew from the rich food culture of Mexico.
Vasquez himself is in charge of processing the bud that they source locally into pure distillate oil. The resulting products have no hint of weed in the taste–and that’s on purpose.
“Taste has been a very important thing for us,” says Valdovinos.
He says they took making edibles for their on community very seriously. “We’re representing our culture–Mexican food. If I get this wrong my mom will fuck me up.”
POLA’s products are meant to blend in, to go unnonticed as far as the weed is concerned. Instead, it’s about the food. Chocolate flavors like Mazapan, Fresas con Crema, Hot Chocolate, and Horchata invoke childhood memories of visiting Abuelita. Their Agua de Flor brand centers on traditional aguas frescas with flavors like Pina, Sandia, and Limonada Pepino.
For Valdovinos and Vasquez, growing the company over the past 8 years has been a battle in a notoriously cut-throat industry. They were almost taken down at the start by a rival brand who stole their product line right out from under them.
With the launch of Blackout, they’re venturing past their more familia-friendly product line towards something a little darker and grungy. Even the name Blackout looks more sinister.
Blackout, Valdovinos says, is about revenge. It harkens back to the early days of the company, when a larger edibles brand that the two men were friendly with offered to buy out their company. The brand realized that the two entrepreneurs were on to something with their Mexican-inspired flavors like Churro Krispies, Fresa Krispies, and Abuelita Hot Chocolate cookies, and they wanted in. When the bigger brand lowballed the two men with an outrageous offer, they got up to walk only to be told that if they didn’t sell, they’d simply take the product ideas for themselves.
And within a year their once-mentors launched products like Churros Krispies, which sunk the entire plan that Voldovinos and Vasquez had concocted. “They copied our churro crispies which became a top seller with them,” Valdovinos says.
Another brand met with the two to distribute their unique product line, only, again, to steal the ideas for themselves. Within two weeks of their meeting, the distributor launched a new brand with all the same products as POLA was planning.
“They took all our flavors, horchata, pina drinks, all our chocolate flavors. We were fucked bro, we were fucked! They had the number one lemonade at the time. “
For Valdovinos, Blackout represents POLA’s continued success, even as the company has watched their early competitors drop off. “Blackout is the definition of resiliance, of fucking balls. It’s the definition of never stopping,” Valdovinos says.
The brand will eventually produce flower and vapes, but for now Blackout is a drinkables brand.
The guys started working in weed on the traditional market, well before 2018’s recreational legalization. They grew up feeling the effects of the War on Drugs, where cops would routinely use weed as an excuse to harass young people in the neighborhood.
While working at a trap shop in Compton one of their friends was busted and spent a night in jail. The two say they were lucky to have avoided trouble for the most part.
“Luckily it didn’t happen to us and we’ve been blessed but so many people got the short end of the stick,” Valdovinos says. “People are still in jail for this, which is freaking crazy man.”
They were motivated to represent Mexican culture in the recreational weed industry, which they saw as lacking. “There are people who don’t belong in this industry, who have done nothing for the industry especially people of color. People who deserve to be here are not,” Valdovinos says.
Representing Mexican culture in the cannabis industry motivated them to start POLA, but since it was before recreational legalization, it was a big gamble.
Vasquez’s family begged him to change his mind when he announced his business plan. Valdovinos’s mom stopped speaking to him for months when she found out he was going into the cannabis business.
Fighting the stigma in their own family has motivated some of the decisions they’ve made as a company.
“We all grew up with it being super taboo. You never come in the house or go around an elder smelling like weed,” Vasquez says. He had to shake the stigma he learned growing up in order to explore how cannabis could be beneficial. “I started learning for myself, and when you start seeing the actual medical benefits to it, you realize it’s not a bad thing.” By using Mexican foods as a way to lessen the fear around weed, Vasquez says, “it’s my job to show my community that it can be enjoyable.”
Valdovinos agrees that attitudes among the community are pretty reserved when it comes to weed, especially among the elders. “They don’t want to know. They don’t want to understand. They still want to think that it’s bad,” he says. “You still have those groups that think you’re a crackhead when you smoke weed,” Valdovinos says, but acknowledges that this is changing. And while his mom ended up coming around to supporting his work, she’s yet to try the THC infused products herself.
POLA originally sought to make products that didn’t look related to weed at all, helping to encourage people in the community to explore the benefits of THC who might otherwise be hesitant. POLA’s Blackout brand is, however, unapologetically about weed. At its core, it’s also about success and hard work.
A promotional postcard for the launch of the Blackout brand reads “Look at you, how far you’ve come. Day in, day out, putting in the work. Continuously showing up, even on the days it’s been hard. Keep going, there are people that don’t want to see you succeed. Keep going because people are counting on you. Keep going because you inspire everyone around you. Keep going–prove the naysayers wrong.”
Valdovinos and Vasquez’s company continues to grow and expand, showing the payoff for their hard work. And revenge, it would seem, is sweet as lemonade.