American Puffalo 

click to enlarge Bee Duangtavilay, co-owner of Puffalo Dreams dispensary in Buffalo, is a Rochester resident and Laotian refugee.

MAX SCHULTE.

Bee Duangtavilay, co-owner of Puffalo Dreams dispensary in Buffalo, is a Rochester resident and Laotian refugee.

For Bee Duangtavilay, opening cannabis dispensary Puffalo Dreams in Tonawanda, a suburb of Buffalo, was an opportunity to legitimize a business she was already familiar with.

Duangtavilay is a recreational user and spent time within the underground scene selling and distributing cannabis to maintain her livelihood.

“I knew cannabis was a way out of poverty for my family,” she said.

Duangtavilay was born in a Laotian refugee camp after her mom left Thailand, and she and her siblings have been manifesting a better life ever since. With various businesses under her belt — including a clothing boutique and some real estate property — a dispensary was another way to sustain her family’s legacy.

“Being able to come to America and live this dream,” she said, “it’s like you were meant to be here.”

click to enlarge Puffalo Dreams is the first adult-use cannabis dispensary in Western New York owned by minority women. - MAX SCHULTE.
  • MAX SCHULTE.
  • Puffalo Dreams is the first adult-use cannabis dispensary in Western New York owned by minority women.
Opening Puffalo Dreams with co-owner Jamie Donato Rivera, who is from Puerto Rico, was worth all the paperwork and anxiety that came with the process, including a fortuitous mistake along the way. While rushing to complete the dispensary application, Duangtavilay, a Rochester resident, mistakenly chose Western New York as her desired location, instead of the Finger Lakes.

It’s a misstep that ultimately worked in her favor, as Puffalo Dreams was selected as one of four businesses approved to operate in the Western New York region — and Duangtavilay and Rivera became the first minority women to open an adult-use cannabis dispensary.

“I did my research on Buffalo and it’s an amazing place,” she said. “The people are welcoming. I’m glad we’re here.”

The first Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) Licenses were passed out by the state in November 2022. However, due to a series of lawsuits over certain aspects of the license's eligibility, applicants were stalled repeatedly, and those granted licenses had their ability to open a shop hampered.

Buffalo's first legal dispensary, DANK 716, opened in July 2023, more than two years after legalization. The city currently has five adult-use cannabis dispensaries in operation according to the state’s office of cannabis management.

click to enlarge Puffalo Dreams was selected as one of four dispensary businesses approved to operate in the Western New York region. - MAX SCHULTE.
  • MAX SCHULTE.
  • Puffalo Dreams was selected as one of four dispensary businesses approved to operate in the Western New York region.

Puffalo Dreams officially opened March 1 to a long line of supporters. Inside the 5,000-square-foot space on Niagara Falls Boulevard is a welcoming, comfortable layout. After a thorough security check, customers are greeted by a staffer taking orders through a handheld device.

Each corner of the dispensary has its own “oohs and ahhs,” as Duangtavilay likes to refer to her showroom trinkets. The plants are acquired from various growers within the region, which Duangtavilay and her team test themselves.

The buds on the floor can be viewed through a sensory-pod cannabis container, which allows customers to smell a strain or examine it through the pod’s magnifying glass. The walls are adorned with cannabis-nodding posters and artwork, and the shelves are stacked with CBD and THC products.

click to enlarge A closeup of bud for sale at Puffalo Dreams. - MAX SCHULTE.
  • MAX SCHULTE.
  • A closeup of bud for sale at Puffalo Dreams.

“You can always tell when there's a woman touch on a space,” said customer Gabby Mendez. “They always make their businesses or houses into homes.”

Mendez is an avid cannabis consumer who uses the plant for pain management and anxiety. For her, dispensaries are allowing consumers to be more open about consumption.

“The conversations of cannabis have usually been happening in small intimate spaces,” Mendez said. “But now that we have product that is lab tested with high state regulations, it's going to be really amazing for the movement forward for adult-use cannabis.”

click to enlarge Duangtavilay with Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, who drafted the Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act that was passed in March 2021. - MAX SCHULTE.
  • MAX SCHULTE.
  • Duangtavilay with Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, who drafted the Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act that was passed in March 2021.

The Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act was passed in March 2021. Drafted by  Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, the act legalized adult-use of cannabis, under the stipulations that half the individuals granted licensure be “equity applicants,” and 40% of the profits be reinvested into “disenfranchised communities of color.”

Peoples-Stokes, a Buffalo native, has been dubbed by some as the ‘godmother of cannabis.’

“This is an opportunity to use a natural plant, not only to the benefit of people's health and their wellness, but to be able to create wealth,” said Peoples-Stokes, citing additional concern over individuals possibly consuming irresponsibly.

Duangtavilay is looking forward to giving back to the Buffalo community with her business.

“We have to embrace the power of the plant and allow people to come in and explore,” she said. puffalodreams.com

Racquel Stephen is a reporter for WXXI. She can be reached at [email protected].
click image champion-story-banner.gif

Tags:

Latest in Culture

More by Racquel Stephen

Website powered by Foundation     |     © 2024 CITY Magazine