Meet Joia: The Jewel of Cannabis. The Latino-owned brand (with its sister company, Priya Naturals) has been innovating in the cannabis space for much longer than most people would realize. But only recently is the true story of Joia being told, as the minds behind it prepare to take the New Jersey and New York legal markets by storm. It’s a tale, quite literally, of life and death.

On Friday, February 23rd, a select group of New Yorkers will "Discover the World of Joia" at the brand's exclusive private event for an indulgence of culinary creations and award-winning organics at Work N Roll. Invited to "Discover the World of Joia," attendees will enjoy a sensory whirlwind, networking with connoisseurs, and live music from international reggae artist Natty Frenchy and DJ Abda George. Click here for tickets while they last.

Joia founder Frank building extraction setups at home back in the day (C) Joia

What Are The Origins Of Joia Cannabis?

Though Joia’s founder Frank has been in cannabis for decades, his brand became more publicly known in fall 2022, when his strains Super Boof and Peachy Maraschino won First and Third Place respectively in the Citadel NYC Organic Cup. The entrepreneur prides himself and his team on pioneering cultivars with living soil; he says it took six months of pheno hunting with a group of soil scientists and a trusted grower known only as “Farmer John” to develop the four strains that Joia entered into the competition. This has set the stage for what will soon be available to consumers on the East Coast – limited-edition collections and high-end drops from the flower and extracts. The company is working toward a cultivation license in New Jersey and a microbusiness license in New York.

“We want people to have access to incredible cannabis and Cannabis Cup-winning quality, every day,” Frank says. 

In fact, that’s how the Staten Island native felt when he was first introduced to gourmet cannabis. Though he believes he always had a green thumb, Frank admits he was “a late bloomer” with cannabis; he’d never really smoked until his twenties, when a connoisseur friend turned him onto game-changing strains. New York Hydro and Chronic were making inroads up and down the East Coast during the 1990s, and Frank instantly recognized the difference between those flavorful cultivars and the “brick weed” that most people got on their corners.

“[My friend] showed me what that standard of quality was,” Frank recalls. “It was like maybe you were eating at McDonald’s your whole lifet, and then all of a sudden someone takes you to Peter Luger’s or an amazing gourmet restaurant. That’s where I knew I wanted to use that as the bar for growing.” 

Joia's award-winning Super Boof(C) Carlos Rosario / Fotos Locos @whothehelliscarl0s
Joia's award-winning Peach Maraschino (C) Carlos Rosario / Fotos Locos @whothehelliscarl0s

With advice from his colleague, who turned out to have deep connections to High Times, Frank started a lifetime grow operation in his basement. He focused on global strains with ancient ties yet a potent new vibe: Afghani Landraces, White Widow from Amsterdam, Northern Lights, and other cultivars that made an impression. The genetics journey was such a transformative experience that Frank, a builder and owner of a construction business, decided to gamble with his heart on the cannabis scene. He developed a network of international contacts, invested in a cannabis venture in California, and traveled for several years learning all he could about different cultivation methods. Much earlier than most of his contemporaries, the plant advocate learned organic and regenerative agricultural practices, focusing his own grow on living soil.

The Joia team in 2023 with legendary cannabis writer Danny Danko (C) Santos Flores / Joia @papisanto.s

The Path To Joia: Treating Epilepsy With Cannabis

But in 2007, everything changed. Frank would discover that cannabis was not just the wave of the future – it was the key to saving lives. Out of the blue, his wife had a violent seizure and was diagnosed with a severe form of epilepsy, and Frank was determined to help her.

“At that time, I was on top of the world,” he says. “I was growing cannabis, I was living in a beautiful home, I was super successful by all means. But here, my best friend was going through an unreasonable amount of suffering, and I had to sit on the sidelines while doctors gave her pills that did nothing… I came across an article that said cannabinoids with low THC-high CBD could work [to treat epilepsy].”

Though he wanted to get seeds to grow such cannabis plants himself, Frank was met with resistance. Even traveling to Seattle to participate in the new medical program there, the intrepid explorer found that doctor tors were extremely cautious about marijuana. “The feds would monitor the doctors’ prescriptions for medical cards,” he states. “It was almost like they knew there was something in the plant that they did not want us to grow.”

Finally, Frank had an aha moment when he bought some Afghan Black hash from Seattle on a whim. Noticing it had different properties than usual, he gave it to his wife, who responded more positively than she ever had on her prescribed medication. This sparked a chain of events over several years: By 2011, Frank connected with Shona Banda, author of the book Live Free or Die; she explained how cannabis had helped treat her Crohn’s Disease and pointed the concerned husband to the Harlequin strain and contacts at the first Denver Cannabis Cup. Information from those cultivators led to research and relationships developed through other forums. One couple Frank met in Colorado showed him their vaporizer which they had rigged up with a capsule to collect cannabis oil. Upon sampling the oil, he remembers, “This Pandora’s box opened up… I never experienced this kind of high in my life.”

Wanting to replicate the sensation for his wife, Frank purchased oil in California and tried to engineer “oil pills” using the same setup. However, the cannabis was fractionalized, and the terpenes and distillate were not the quality of what he’d experienced in Colorado. His wife’s body reacted so badly that her seizures started up again worse than before.

“I got so enraged that I decided to build my own machine,” Frank explains. “I never wanted to give my wife anything questionable again. I wanted to know the source [of all my cannabis].”

The Joia team at the 2023 NYC Cannabis Parade & Rally (C) Santos Flores / Joia @papisanto.s

Priya Naturals And Joia's Solventless Extraction Innovations

Cut to 2017, and Frank built the first solventless extraction technology – “before there was rosin!” he exclaims – which became the prototype for Joia. This would form the basis for Priya Naturals, which the inventor positioned as a medical cannabis company.

“We went through about 10 years of iterations, about 15 prototypes [costing over] six figures to create this machine,” the homegrown scientist notes. “I had engineers from all over the world come to develop this in my garage, and we made this machine that would be able to pull a vacuum and vaporize, or heat and flash cannabinoids into a cold surface glass. My life really changed.”

One engineer’s suggestion to use a vape pen with the oil from the machine, instead of consuming from the machine itself, opened up a new pathway to Frank’s business model. “When I vaped it,” the Joia founder says, “I felt the full-spectrum cannabinoid going through my body, completely solventless. That was all the botanical oils, all the flavonoids, all the things that you never get when you smoke. It combusted when you smoked the flower. And it hit me, and I was like, ‘Wow, we need to make a vaporizer.’”

Joia was invented at a time when the G Pen was the only notable adult-use vape pen on the market. Frank drew the name from words in Portuguese that meant “joy,” “uniqueness,” and “beauty.” Throughout the entire quest of creating his machinery and formulas, he had continued honing in on supreme combinations of organic soil.

“The boutique aspect of it cannot be duplicated by anyone,” the visionary attests. “We took my 20 years in developing organic soil and made these agricultural practices adaptable to cannabis… In organic soil, it’s very hard to pull out the full expression of the flower. But Joia has it. Joia looks like jewelry, because you open the black box and the flower is frosted; it looks like diamonds. People were telling us that it looked quantitatively different from anything coming from other growers.”

(C) Santos Flores / Joia @papisanto.s

How Does Joia Cannabis Save Lives?

But it was more than the aesthetics, he adds. “The origin of Joia was a life history of being in a situation where there was no [other] way of medically surviving.”

Because, dear reader, it was not only Frank’s wife suffering from health conditions at the time. The man himself, who has chronic asthma, was also struggling with respiratory issues due to black mold exposure and Lyme disease. During these years, he had been in and out of hospitals, frequently experiencing periods of being housebound on his couch or in his bed, and finding no real cure. His memories of those years are “scary.” He couldn’t walk up staircases or use his asthma inhaler for any relief. One night, after several experiments with his machine, Frank hit on another personal aha moment. He used his solventless cannabis oil along with a small household apparatus to improve his breathing ability.

“Within about three minutes [of inhaling], I felt a warmth going in my lungs and [it] opened up… I could breathe again… An hour passed and all of the inflammation in my lung [dissipated]. It was like a miracle happened. I ran upstairs and said to my wife, ‘I just healed myself.’ I just saved myself from going to a hospital and giving my life up to doctors who weren’t going to do anything for me… I think that’s when it sealed the deal for me, where whatever I had in my lungs was completely gone. At that point I was like, ‘How can I turn my back on this plant and this machine? It saved my life.’”

Joia wins First and Third Place at the NYC Organics Cup(C) Santos Flores / Joia @papisanto.s

Where Are The Joia / Priya Naturals Teams Today? Elevating Quality Of Life

Today, Frank and the Joia / Priya Naturals teams are looking toward the future of cannabis with pride. They continue dedicating themselves to the mission of healing the sick on the Priya side, and elevating healthy people’s quality of life and enjoyment on the Joia side. As the connoisseur aspect of the cannabis industry has leaned further into the solventless category, Frank is excited to be seen as a pioneer once again.

“I want people who are looking to invest in cannabis to invest in my company, because we want to share this gift,” he asserts. “It’s the gift of life. The biggest payoff I ever had was seeing my wife come off her epilepsy medication completely in 2016 and live like a normal person. She’s been off it ever since.”

When asked about the couple’s state of health now, Frank beams. “My wife is amazing. She wasn’t able to conceive a baby [on her epilepsy medication], but we have two beautiful daughters now. Her dream was to become a mother and we are so grateful that she was able to heal herself with cannabis, to have children, and to be part of their lives. Me, I was on the couch for [nearly] ten years with a respiratory illness and Lyme disease, undiagnosed, untreated. And today, I’m able to run a whole company because cannabis saved my life.”

He adds, “I feel there’s so much more to the plant than people are aware of and what people are investing in or consuming. We still have a mission in front of us. I hope we can make people aware of the things that I’ve essentially spent a lifetime on, and have Joia and Priya Naturals in every state so that people can get the same relief when they need a better quality of life… Whether they’re sick or not, they’re using cannabis to medicate.”

The Joia team celebrates 420 2023 at Kakes in Queens, NYC(C) Santos Flores / Joia @papisanto.s

What Can New Yorkers Expect From Joia?

The same principles that kept Frank on track with his missions from years ago are still in play, only now they’re bigger and better. Each component of the Joia process is honed to incredible specificity, with professionals dedicated to individual aspects from sourcing fruit for different strain formulas, to composting, to other areas of organic cultivation.

“Our strains are definitely unique because we have the living soil scientists who came in to help perform the pheno hunting,” Frank insists. “Josh, on our team, and I have done the research. I know what I wanted the flower to smell like… For us [to grow cup-winning cannabis], it’s growing not just one plant, but a high quality and consistency of small-batch craft cannabis for commercial purposes, which the world has not really seen yet.”

Throughout the next months, New York consumers will get to experience the Joia distinction. Frank debuted some of his latest and greatest products this month at The Chillum Through Our Eyes event, which brought legacy cultivators together with cultural innovators for demonstrations. March and April will keep the Joia team busy with various events, panels, and taste-testings at venues such as Work N Roll and Sony Hall. 

(C) Carlos Rosario / Fotos Locos @whothehelliscarl0s

What Makes Joia Stand Out? Medical Effects Of Flower

Additionally,  Frank’s teams are delving into the R&D for a highly absorbent live oil, though there isn’t much he can release about that yet. More immediately for consumers, he emphasizes that what Joia currently offers is one-of-a-kind in the marketplace because you can feel its effects within 60 seconds of use. (Their vaping devices use a color-coded system so that each consumer can create an experience customized to specific needs and potency threshold.) Most exciting, they are working with a scientific partner firm skilled in analytics that will revolutionize how flower is distinguished based on the medical effects of what people will feel, by using terpene and cannabinoid studies from patient surveys.

“It’s the purity of it, the cleanliness of it,” Frank observes. “It’s the way it feels in your body as the pure plant with no nutrients left over in the flower when it burns. Those are the things I want people to know about Joia: Our technology, our passion, our love for the plant, our story – and the fact that we have our consumers’ best interests at heart.”

To that end, Frank can’t wait for people all across the country to feel the same magic that he did so many years ago when that first jolt of plant-based panacea supercharged his body. Joia deserves its Jewel of Cannabis moniker, because it mines the most precious resource of all – your health – and allows you to shine your brightest.

Joia's "Discover the World of Joia" event takes place on Friday, February 23, 2024, 6-10PM, at Work N Roll, 164 West 25th Street in New York City. Click here for tickets while they last. For more about Joia, visit or follow @the_joia on Instagram.

Joia founder Frank is interviewed by Honeysuckle Creative Director Sam C. Long(C) Santos Flores / Joia @papisanto.s


Written By:

@jaimelubin (IG)

@jaimelubin (Twitter)


Find Out More On Social















Priya Naturals

Work N Roll


Featured image: The Joia team (C) Nicole Parkcliffe / Joia