AACE INTERVIEW: David Tran of DOPE
When I am asked to describe you to friends, I say “David is the Barnum and Bailey of cannabis, he is the Thomas Moller of Nell’s of NYC, he is the MC you want at your funeral because he would make it the best send off of any memorial”. From your days as a restauranteur to club maven, and since 2011 as the co-founder of Conscious Care Cooperative, do you see all of the careers you’ve had laid the foundation for where you are now?
I have had the entrepreneurial spirit since I was young, from trading small toy erasers for Transformers to selling Christmas trees on my yard to selling Cannabis in College. I was always a C student, and found out in college that I didn’t want to work for anyone, so I quit. My theory was that if I was going to do anything that I was going to be the best/fastest at it. Given I was not very book smart, that was the only way I could move ahead, and thankfully that allowed me to move from a bar back to bartender to nightclub promoter to eventually starting 4 restaurant/bars. I also believed that my ability to build relationships based on integrity and love, allowed me to build trust and put myself in situations where there was opportunity. That was how I got into the Cannabis world with my store, as my reputation, led me to meeting my future partners and eventually the conception of Dope Magazine. At the end business is the art of people not numbers, you can pay someone to be good at numbers, but you can’t teach someone to cultivate relationships and build networks.
You have a beautiful family and your daughters are “happa”, how do you keep your cultural heritage present in their lives?
My family immigrated to America in 1975 from Vietnam, and while I was a 1st generation Vietnamese/American born in Florida, I grew up in a home where we only spoke Vietnamese and ate traditional Vietnamese food. While my children do not have the same benefit of being around the Vietnamese culture daily, my wife and I have taught them basic words and share the wonderful cuisine that I grew up with. My wife, who is caucasian makes awesome Pho. My mom makes them traditional Vietnamese dresses (Ao Dai) and we celebrate every Lunar New Year in the same traditional way that I grew up with. I believe the most important thing is to make sure they see how much pride I have in my ethnicity and that the color of my skin should not be a disadvantage, but an advantage.
My dream is to take them back to Vietnam when they grow up so we can learn more about the motherland.
With your varied career, your family might not have seen the move to cannabis as an outlier move, but how do they view cannabis?
My mother was a single parent with 5 children. I have 4 sisters and I would be lying if I told you that my mother didn’t baby me growing up. As I grew up, she knew I was beating from a different drum and has always allowed me to have express myself. So in college, I had lunch with my mom, and with my dreadlocks and hemp necklaces, I told her that I smoked cannabis. To my surprise, she told me that my grandfather grew and smoked Opium, and seeing that she trusted me, allowed me to stop seeing it as the forbidden fruit, and the plant has been an integral part of my life since then. Today, she has supported everything I have done from starting my own nightclubs bars to a Medical MMJ store to Dope Magazine.
With our world changing faster with each day, I still remember land lines and faxes, what future do you see for your daughters? Have you talked to them about cannabis?
Knowing that there is not a set pathway for anyone, especially given my unorthodox way of getting to where i am, I want to allow my children to make their own decisions on life. The only way to learn is to make mistakes and make them often. My only rule is that they treat others with respect and love. I love the idea that they live in a world where they can make their own decisions on cannabis, without being impeded by propaganda, unjust laws and fear of prosecution. My daughter is 20 years old and she actually helped me paint my Cannabis Store 7 years ago, so I have felt very comfortable discussing Cannabis and my relationship with the plant. Since then we have shared a joint and even taken a Dab together. Same for my two infant daughters, who understand that I happily leave every day to build Dope Magazine and hopefully one day they can be a part of the legacy. Of course, if they choose.
As we move towards legalization, do you see yourself moving into another field where you can blaze new paths?
As the walls of legalization come down around us, my hopes are to expand the conversation through Dope and build a bigger platform to push the message out on a larger stage. I have extreme pride in creating the proper tools to support other dreamers that can blaze more paths for the industry and look forward to exploring all the possibilities. The fact is we are in the first few chapters of a very long novel, so sky is the limit!
If you had a chance to go back in time, what piece of clothing do you wish you still had?
At one time in my life, I was a bartender for a 70/80’s nightclub, where I had some of the Dopest 3 piece bellbottom suits. One emerald green polyester suit in particular fit me perfectly and I let a friend borrow it, not to be seen again. I find myself looking for the same suit at consignment stores, thinking about all the numerous times that I could of wore it over the years.
How do you medicate?
It all depends on what my mood is, the time of the day, and what I am trying to do. I like to use my Dopen Vaporizer for my daily medication. I find myself smoking joints/blunts when I am in a social situation. And I have finally been able to build a tolerance for the dabs, which is now becoming one of my favorite ways to consume. If you see me around, you will find that my rule is, “Never refuse anything put in front of me”.
How did you come up with the name “Dope” for your magazine?
I have been very lucky to surround myself with very creative people, and when we decided we were going to start a Cannabis magazine in 2011, one of the first things we needed to decide was the name. I clearly remember leaving that meeting very excited and an hour later, one of my partners called back and asked me what we thought about the name Dope, and as we talked through the controversial name, we included Defending our Patients Everywhere as the acronym which really brought everything together. Now we Defend our Plant Everywhere, as it encompasses the Patients, as well as the People and Planet. The same way the meaning of Dope has changed over the years from a derogatory word to the highest compliment you can give someone, the Cannabis plant itself evolves and the conversation becomes different.
What name do you wish you had come up first for a strain? I’ve come across names such as “God’s Vagina” to “Russian Assassin”
Tranimal Cookies. Lol.
Respect, Love and Dope, David Tran