By, Charlotte Wilson Langley
Sara Rivas may seem like the prototypical girl next door. She likes hip-hop, plays soccer, sings in a choir, but there is a delightful twist to this Los Angeles resident: she’s a talented gourmet baker with a not-so-secret-ingredient — weed.
But Rivas doesn’t want to simply please your taste buds, she wants to make you feel better, too. In 2005, while still in high school, Rivas met cannabis chef Mike Delao, a Cannabis Planet TV presenter and host of “Cooking on High.” Delao opened her eyes to the possibility of a career in cannabis.
“I think it was the whole concept of cooking and baking with cannabis that I can thank him for,” Rivas told Marijuana.com. “I had only heard of ‘special brownies’ growing up, but he opened my eyes to the idea of infusing just about anything, but still focusing on great tasting goods and doing it responsibly.”
But it wasn’t until a friend was diagnosed with cancer in 2014 that Rivas got serious about helping people with gourmet cannabis-infused treats.
What sets Rivas’ company, Little Lamb Edibles, apart from the other edible companies is her focus on the gourmet look, taste and feel of a baked good. Rivas is often told that she doesn’t look like an edibles baker, but to her, that’s a good thing. She doesn’t play into the stigma surrounding weed and is happy to help break down those old world attitudes that still exist toward marijuana, one cupcake at a time.
But if you’re looking for where you can find these gourmet edibles, you’ll have to wait. Rivas’ Little Lamb Edibles is undergoing a restructure due to to California’s new regulations that have changed the way cannabis products are packaged, tested and labeled. Since the regulations took effect on July 1, 2018, Rivas has had to rebuild her business from scratch and hopes to have her products available for retail by summer 2019
Rivas spoke with Marijuana.com about how working with weed was the sweetest career move she ever made and how her plans to come back are anything but half-baked.
“Better Than Sex” Cupcakes are made with chocolate cake, caramel, toffee, whipped cream and, yes, marijuana. (Photo by Sara Rivas)
Q: So how did you get into the edible baking business?
A: I started to do it as a side hustle about six years ago. I’ve always been into cooking and baking desserts and pastries, and I started to get family and friends that would want me to do their birthday parties or baby showers. That was all great, but it really wasn’t making the money that I needed. I wanted to dive into edibles and it was a thought I’d always had in the back of my mind.
Then, [in 2014], my best friend’s mom was diagnosed with brain cancer. Her family wanted to go the holistic route, but toward the end of her battle she decided to try chemo, and it was really wrecking her body. She didn’t want to do pain meds and she couldn’t sleep. She was pretty against marijuana when she wasn’t sick. She definitely didn’t understand it, and definitely fed into the stigma around cannabis. Her last resort was saying, “Yeah I’ll try it. … I’ve heard great things about it, I really think it might be able to help me.”
So she had my best friend go out and search for edible products. They were finding it really hard to spend time with her, get things done for their families, and go out and search for edibles. At that time there weren’t any dispensaries without recs and they weren’t on every corner like they are now.
So I started making [edibles]myself. Unfortunately, she did pass away, but by then, the word had gotten out that I’d found some really good gourmet recipes. Word of mouth got around that [the edibles]didn’t taste like they had anything in them, and people were saying, “They’re really helping me sleep, or when I wake up in the morning I’m not having to take pain meds for two, three, four days.” Someone I knew was having seizures, multiple seizures everyday and the edibles helped them.
Q: What makes your edibles different from others?
A: When I started baking for my friend’s mom, who was sick, the one thing that I wanted to do at that time was make sure that I knew what all the ingredients going into it were. I didn’t want to be the one that brought a product that was going to be too strong, make her sick, or make her not feel good.
So I did the extraction, bought the weed, made the butter myself and made all the desserts from scratch. I knew exactly what type of milk was going into it, so if she wasn’t feeling it, I’d use Lactaid or almond milk. That’s what I’ve always stuck to, making everything from scratch, even if it’s a little bit more work.
Q: What did you start off making and how did that evolve?
A: I started off making “Puppy Chow Chex Mix.” That was one of my first five recipes. I did the traditional chocolate chip cookies, Rice Krispies treats and brownies. But not until after I tried caramel apples … And you know those caramel apple lollipops with the green apple middle? I made those, and chocolate covered strawberries.
One of the first edibles Sara Rivas made was “Puppy Chow Chex Mix.” (Photo by Sara Rivas)
Q: Would you say that edibles are helping weed become more mainstream and acceptable?
A: Yeah. I’ve found it easier to educate about weed’s medicinal benefits with eating edibles more than smoking. I think that when you’re working with people and you want them to get over the image that it has, that eating is more acceptable than smoking it.
Q: How does weed help you personally?
A: It really keeps me from having to take anxiety medicine. I’ve had a couple of doctors, starting at the age of 15, that wanted me to get on Xanax and Klonopin. I have tried it but [made me]feel like I got run over by a train the next two days and was tired and kind of zombied out. I’ve noticed that when I pull back on smoking or try not to smoke for a little while that that’s when I get anxiety.
Cake Balls are part of Little Lamb Edibles’ selection. (Photo by Sara Rivas)
Q: When will Little Lamb Edibles, and, perhaps more importantly, the “Better Than Sex” cupcakes, be back up to regulation and ready? (Asking for a friend.)
A: If there aren’t any more major regulation changes I’m hoping to get them back out by the beginning of next summer. I have to have another logo made, there’s more strict lab testing, I have to lower my mg per serving to 10mg per serving (which is one of the biggest changes) and I have to change my packaging to keep it child-proof. It’s not enough to say keep it away from children. The look of the brand and physical packaging has to change.
A: Do you have a new name for your company?
Q: Not yet.
Q: What can people look forward to when you’re back?
A: I want to keep the gourmet candy feel. I want to bring some old-school candies back into the market. I want to stick to creating recipes that take you back to a familiar taste.
Q: For people who are curious about edibles but never tried them, or are scared to try them, do you have any advice for them?
A: Absolutely. Like I always tell my clients, there is a safe way to do it even if you don’t have a strong sense of the dosing or the milligrams of the product. You can always start off slow by having a few bites, wait 30-45 minutes, even an hour. If you feel like you can take a little bit more, take a little bit, but if you’re feeling it, stop because it’s going to hit harder.
Sarah’s favorite weed: A nice OG hybrid.