Between the Yellow Lines

i will always be a translation.
— - Nayyirah Waheed

This week I gave a short Ted "style" talk at Toke Talks in Portland, OR, I didn't practice, all I had were 5 slides and a short cheat sheet of markers. The reason I didn't need to write it down was because I live it, it is easy to talk about personal experiences over numbers and stats, the reason being it is my story. We judge the moment we lay eyes on a person, we give them a story before they open their mouths, we are forever being translated by personal experiences.


Since entering the cannabis industry I've looked for familiar faces, faces like mine. This is how the experience is for me at any cannabis event; I walk into a room of marshmallows and I am looking for a fellow raisin. When I do spy a fellow Asian, I will give her/him the once over, the raised eyebrow and do the meerkat pose. Once I've introduced myself it will be "OH WOW! Another one! What do you do? Where did you come from?" and it becomes a shorthand version where we finish each other's sentences.


According to Marijuana Business Daily 81% of the cannabis industry is owned/founded by White, followed by Hispanic/Latino at 4.3%, African Americans at 4.3% and 2.4% Asian. Asians make up 13% of the population of in the US and of that 30% of the total Asian population live in California (Race and Ethnicity in CA).

Why so few of us in the cannabis industry? Culture, peer groups and more likely the fact that it is illegal and many risk  becoming a pariah in their families and communities. The reason more Caucasians enter is that they haven't been targeted for arrest as much as people of color, so the barrier for people of color does not come from lack of funding but of history of subjugation. Asians have not been targeted as much as the African American and Latino communities but it is the front facing story that Asian parents will indoctrinate their children with. "Look at what happens if you use drugs." - Any Tiger Mom

My parents and family encouraged me when I entered the industry, granted it was ancillary with a stock photo industry, but they knew I would be involved in the industry hands on and partaking of the plant for my own personal use. Adding this personal experience and the wonderful people I've met in this industry has shown me a foundation of love, love from the community for the plant–when I listen to a cultivator about his/her love of the plant, the science, the history, their personal stories, I feel like a child sitting at the feet of giants.

The common thread that binds us together is this simple plant. We came into this industry because we or a loved one discovered the benefits of the plant, keep that mantra close to your heart and your success will not be judged by your wallet but your heart. 

It's time for us to cross the lines and to venture as far as our minds and hearts will take us.

- Ophelia Chong

Ophelia ChongComment