It is an honor to have Andrew's QA here on AACE, at the forefront and leading the way for cannabis testing and a notable outlier in the Asian American community for cannabis.
ANDREW PHAM: Andrew is on his way to being recognized as one of the country's foremost cannabis scientists. A UC Berkeleyy graduate, with a Master's from Boston University, he is passionate about battling the social stigma of cannabis through outreach, education and science. He is the Vice Chair of the Cannabis Chemistry Subdivision of the American Chemical Society and has testified as an expert witness in over a dozen court cases involving manufacturing and marijuana DUI charges. Andrew has solidified his reputation in the industry after serving as Lead Scientist at two of the largest cannabis companies in the US, including SC Laboratories and CV Sciences. Andrew currently works as an independent consultant under his company ILP Scientific LLC, where he offers expertise in cannabis extractions, testing, regulatory compliance and state license applications.
How do you use cannabis?
I use cannabis to manage my own stress and anxiety, which I think is a very underrated benefit in terms of improving my quality of life. Cannabis isn't for everyone, but for those that it helps, it helps tremendously. I also use it whenever my old sports injuries start flaring up, like my hamstring and shoulder muscles from years of practicing tennis and martial arts. So I guess in a way it helps me deal with the consequences of fulfilling two asian stereotypes at once.
How does your community see users of cannabis? And how do you try to dispel negative stereotypes?
I've worked in the cannabis industry my entire career so I really feel like I am part of the cannabis community, in which case my community thinks it's awesome. If I were talking about my family's Vietnamese community in Westminster though, I would definitely say they take a conservative approach to cannabis, preferring to ignore the issue rather than engage it. This something I would love to actively pursue, to change negative perceptions about this plant and explain how similar it is to the sort of natural medicine that our culture has traditionally valued. Why does my mom throw green eucalyptus oil and tiger balm on me every chance she gets, but hesitates when I offer her a CBD balm? I think if I could help them understand cannabis better, they would be much less afraid of it. I've started small by introducing my own family to infused products, but I haven't worked up the courage to offer them anything to inhale.
Have you told your family about what you do? And if so, are they supportive? What questions do they ask?
Like billions of other children in my demographic, the original plan was for me to become a doctor. During the year I was applying to medical school, I was looking for a job on craigslist to keep my bills paid while I heard back from schools. The job I landed was something I couldn't have ever expected, as it was at a new cannabis testing laboratory in Orange County. The entire concept was foreign to me, but through my work I fell head-over-heels in love with the cannabis industry, and decided I was going to pivot from my previous plans.
When I told my dad, he did not take it well to say the least. "My son is a drug addict, and there's nothing I can do about it," he lamented. As far as he was concerned, my only possible future was to end up in the streets, homeless, begging for drug money. It was a difficult night. I did my best to talk him from the ledge, explaining that cannabis wasn't nearly as damaging as he had pictured, and that it wasn't illegal because it was dangerous, and that he was almost purely describing the stereotypical heroin addict, and not a cannabis user. I told him I really believed cannabis could help people, and that I had read peer-reviewed studies about the anti-tumorigenic actions of certain cannabinoids in school. I think this was the first thing that rang a cord with him, knowing we had just lost my uncle, his youngest brother, to liver cancer. What he asked in response still strikes me to this day:
"If this could have helped my brother, why is it illegal?"
Fast forward to today, when my dad now uses THC-infused chocolates to help him manage his sleep apnea, and my mom uses CBD capsules to manage her back pain.. After educating my parents about the research regarding the medical benefits of cannabinoids, they have both become extremely supportive of my career. Sometimes, I like to think they're even proud.
The kinds of questions they ask aren't usually all that cannabis relevant. My dad mostly asks me when I'm going to be a doctor, and my mom mostly asks me when I'm going to have kids.