With May being Asian and Pacific Islander American Heritage Month, there is no better time to honor the intersection of Asian American culture and cannabis consumption. I interviewed a small handful of Asian business leaders in the cannabis industry to learn about their own experiences with cannabis and gain insight about their thoughts on the cultural changes occurring within the space today.
Ophelia Chong, Founder, Asian Cannabis Alliance
Ophelia Chong has specialized in marketing and design for photographers, photography monographs, and photography agencies since 2005. She founded StockPot Images in 2015, the first and only stock photo agency to specialize in cannabis, hemp and psilocybin.
WB: Why did you make the switch to the cannabis industry?
OC: I made the switch to the cannabis industry the moment I called a family member a “stoner” because she was taking cannabis to help with her auto-immune disease. I stopped in my tracks and replayed what I had just said, “stoner.” I have been in the image making industry for over two decades and I knew the power of an image. That day after looking at stock photo sites as to how they viewed patients using cannabis, I was appalled that they shared my view. I created Stock Pot Images two weeks after my revelation. From then, it was my mission to change how people viewed cannabis and its users.
Jenn Wong, VP of Marketing at Curaleaf
Jenn Wong oversees the Select brand globally. Prior to Curaleaf, she led the advertising business for Airbnb and was Director of Social Media and Content for Beats By Dre. Jenn began her career at Wieden+Kennedy, working across the Nike and Converse accounts for the 2009 Olympics and 2010 World Cup.
WB: Do you face any cultural stigmas as a result of your work in cannabis? If so, how do you overcome them?
JW: Most communities of color still have serious stigma around cannabis consumption. I’m Korean, and can only speak to my own experience, but for us, I think we still have a long road ahead of us to truly change perceptions. South Korea legalized medical cannabis last year and there has been a fair amount of media coverage, which helps all of us who have grandparents who obsessively watch the Korean Broadcasting System, aka KBS.
Beyond some of the reparatory justice work that needs to happen, one way to help remove the stigma and normalize cannabis consumption across the board is to be responsible, thoughtful marketers. Select is a lifestyle brand, so while our advertising is playful and fun, we consciously made a decision to steer away from traditional stoner culture that plays into the misconception that people who consume cannabis are not successful. Positive reinforcement around the benefits of the plant is so crucial! My dream is that we eventually understand as a society that it is perfectly normal and acceptable for a responsible, high-functioning adult to consume cannabis regularly.
Collin Lam, General Manager, California of Curaleaf,…… Read on at