I met Steven up at the Emerald Cup in Santa Rosa last December 2017. As we walked the exhibit halls, I asked him about his history in the cannabis industry, as we wandered through aisle upon aisles of top of the line products and flower, I was hanging on every word, each step felt like we were traveling Steven's life time line. This quote from Steven incapsulates the change we have seen in the cannabis industry, from pariah to acceptance, "I was born in Altoona, PA in 1979. The same town as Harry Anslinger, our 1st Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. I wonder how he would feel today knowing a person of color from his hometown is cruising around America educating the truth about cannabis? " - Ophelia Chong
Steven, what spurred you to enter the cannabis industry?
What spurred me was the opportunity to help people and prove that this could become a real industry. I had a pretty good work resume before coming to Colorado. Being able to implement that along with my personal history with Cannabis and Culture was perfect for everything that I’ve been working so hard for. Mentally and physically. I can finally try to be that person I thought I could be at fifteen years old. Everyone that I ever looked up to, all my inspirations. I finally have the chance to make them proud and in turn bring people together.
How did you open up to your family about your cannabis use?
Well, that didn’t really go down the way I wanted it to. Lol. What kid has a great experience letting their parents know they use cannabis? Especially, Asian Parents. Luckily, my parents or at least my father didn’t know what it was for a long time. My older brother and I shared a room and we used to puff hard in there. We would just open the windows, light Nag Champa and my dad would think we were just burning incense. He hated the smell of Nag Champa. Or was it the weed? This went on from 1992-1996. It was sometime in 1997, when my brother decided to throw a party in my dads restaurant after hours. He was out of town on business. Anyways, my brother and his friends didn’t do the best job cleaning up or replacing what they drank that night. The restaurant manager came in the next day to open and the jig was up. My dad finally knew what marijuana was. They found some shake or bud (I wasn’t there) and showed it to my dad. He still had no idea what it was. Then they made him smell it. It must’ve set off all those times he smelled us smoking in the house. It was never the same again. Hahaha! From then on, he would always look at our eyes and smell our clothes. We never got away with it again. And that’s when I started buying Visine.
Now the bigger moment was when I opened up to my entire family about working in the Cannabis Industry. Before it was just my immediate family, one aunt and an uncle that knew I used cannabis. This took almost two years to confess. I will admit that my brother and I have gotten in trouble with cannabis at different times in our lives, that made me fearful of telling my parents exactly what I was doing out here in Colorado. Going back to the first question. I had to prove that this could become a real industry and what I was doing was not greedy or selfish in order to make them believe and support my future endeavors. I started in the Industry in the beginning. It was 2010 when I began my journey with the crew that started The Dandelion/marQaha in Boulder, CO. There have been two times in my life so far where I really went above & beyond anything I could of even imagined, when it came to my work ethic. It was with marQaha and this past year with incredibles. I can’t even explain it really. The energy and the results were just insane. Really incredible stuff. Anyways, my mom was getting frustrated with my incomplete story as to what I was up to out here in the Rocky Mountains. I called up my older sister, brother and uncle telling them I was coming clean, after a long series of calls from my mom one day trying to get to the bottom of it. She’s a very successful business owner that’s been crushing life since the 80’s. I knew she didn’t really believe me, but she let her youngest slide there for a couple of years. But enough was enough. She wanted the full truth. This is one strong Taiwanese woman. I’m super blessed that she’s my mom. I finally decide to call her after a long day of making deliveries to CO Springs. I just had enough between all of her calls and that day of work. It was 11PM (East Coast Time). She answered her phone from Brooklyn, NY and says: You don’t have to tell me anything. Your brother called me, told me everything and said not to yell at you for it. That you’ve been working really hard and that you’re really helping people. That was such a relief. I love my older siblings. They’re always looking out for me. From there it went onto a million other questions, but most importantly, I was able to thank my mom for taking me to work with her all time and showing me how the world works. It started with my parents. My two biggest inspirations. Now, they’re so proud of me and tell my family far and wide what I do for a living. A kid who never went to college who became the National Sales Director for Colorado’s #1 Cannabis Infused-Products Company.
What was the most inspiring moment in your interaction with a medical patient?
Let’s say moments...
1) There was a mom in Boulder that went threw multiple neck surgeries. I met her after her third. marQaha was the only edible that helped relieve her pain and also kept her off the pain pills. We became really close friends in those early years. I would even go as far as to buy the cases for her, bring them home, so her family didn’t have to rush to the dispensary to get them. That’s when I really started seeing people use medical cannabis as an alternative to pain pills. This was in 2010.
2) I had a company phone with a toll free number. I used to answer calls from everywhere at all times of the day. I would talk to everyone that called. Sometimes for hours. This was one of those calls. It was back in 2011. I was sitting at my home office and I get a call around 7:30PM. It was a lady that moved from Hawaii. She used to weigh 130lbs and then got diagnosed with a brain tumor. She went through every surgery known to man. She now weighs 80lbs with lots of pain and sleeping issues. A friend got her our tincture. She used it for 2 months before she decided to call us. She told me that after everything she’s been through, that this was the only thing that actually worked for her. That it helped relieve her pain, sleep better and also helped her eat. It was a life-changing conversation. It went on for 3 hours. In the end, she asked me this question: What are you doing that Big Pharma and all these doctors aren’t doing? I told her that we just simply care for everyone and that we’re willing to take this risk as far as possible, so we can all benefit from this power of this plant.
3) All these families I’ve met that moved here from other States to save their children’s lives. From SuperNova to B-Rad to the Sanchez Family to Coltyn Turner and so much more. Talk about brave. Superheroes!!
How has cannabis benefited you?
Cannabis has helped me with a multitude of symptoms from: pain relief, stress relief, sleeping to muscle spasms. It’s even gotten rid of sciatica pain that took me to the edge. I can’t express how nice is to have cannabis as an option in my professional career. I travel a lot and nothing makes me happier knowing I can go to these States in the future and use products I know and trust. Forget all those over the counter designer drugs. No more! Cleanse your body of those products and replace them with cannabinoids that are way better for you. Mentally and physically. Mind, Body and Soul. Take your life back.
What is the most exciting part of launching a new product?
Education!! As fun as these products look and feel, it’s very important that you always educate the best ways to use them. Everyone is different and will react differently from them.
What product do you want to see in the future that you have not seen as yet?
That’s a great question. I feel like I’ve seen it all at this point. A Cannabis Terpene Plug-In Air Freshener. I just want to smell cannabis terps all day long. Lol.
Do you see a generalizing of strains?
I believe so. It looks like a lot of States are choosing METRC as their seed to sale system. That’s a much harder system to get new genetics in, but there will be a window where most of the popular genetics will live on in Recreational World. Plus, a lot of these deals nationwide are being made by the same groups, so you will see the same genetics.
Have you found that cannabis and the community has brought you closer to your true self?
Definitely. I mean, I wasn’t going to be an actual RockStar, which was my first choice as kid. That dream ended fairly quick, but the rules I learned at very young age didn’t. I’m living that dream right now from when I was fifteen.
When did you first use cannabis?
I remember buying schwag weed off one of my older brothers friends. This was back in 1992. I think I was twelve or thirteen at the time. There was a big Pine Tree in his parents yard that you could hide in. We took a Coke Can, poked holes in it, sparked it up and coughed our lungs out. My lesson from that...don’t use soda cans as a pipe. Terrible idea.
If you had to advise someone just entering the industry, what 3 things would you tell them?
1) Be patient
2) Work Harder than you ever have
3) Never stop believing in yourself