The Cultural Divide: Ophelia Chong

I grew up in a fairly liberal household, my parents were entrepreneurs and traveled extensively. In my hometown of Toronto, we celebrated cultural diversity by having not only the street name in English but also in the language of the predominant residents in the area. I could walk from Chinatown to Greektown to Little Italy and learn the street names in each language, we were a salad; we were tossed together yet able to retain our own identities.

In Toronto, way back then we celebrated the seasons with the fruits and vegetables harvested locally, in the winter we had only apples that were kept in cold storage, the Fall we romped in bushels of corn, grapes, peaches, apples, every form of produce shipped in less than a hundred miles. I never had an avocado or artichoke till I came to California to attend college, those were too expensive and a luxury up in Toronto. What was even more rare was cannabis. I smoked my first joint in grade 12, it was a “is that all there is” moment for me. After that wasn’t too interested. Now that I look back, it was most likely what we call trim, leaves and stalks. 

After graduating High School, I was at a concert, and please don’t laugh, it was at a Duran Duran concert attended by 15 people. it was in a small club in Toronto, they hadn’t blown up yet and played a week after the Police who had even fewer people at the club. Someone passed me a joint and said “sinsemilla”. I took a puff and again it was Peggy Lee singing “is that all there is?”. 

Flash forward a few decades. 

What happened? Great growers happened. Now I can’t even keep up with the strains, hybrids, edibles, oils, tinctures coming to market. I went from a General store selling pickles in a barrel to a mega mall. Today’s consumer has more choices but no road map. The internet provides a lot of information, spread out on thousands of websites, apps on your phone as well, but what is right for you? Education and information is what is needed now, no one wants to be up all night when they ate a Sativa cookie and should’ve had an Indica tincture. So where does this information come from? Trusted sources. Education can also help bridge the gap between generations and cultures, it pushes aside the fear of the unknown or tightly held beliefs that were passed onto the next generation. As a teen walking through Toronto with the bilingual streets signs, we can also take that respect of heritage and translate that the Cannabis community is not about  assimilation of culture but is about bringing the cultures and generations together.

By Ophelia Chong
Photo by: Natalie Embrey