Inspiring Inclusion: Asians in Cannabis

Read the lived experiences of 10 cannabis industry professionals and how their cannabis careers have influenced their relationships with those closest to them.


Lunar New Year is known to bring Asian families together and more often than not, get-togethers resemble interviews with your aunties and uncles more than a celebratory dinner. With cannabis still being such a controversial topic amongst the general population (despite its legal status), it's safe to say that the conversation is even more tense when it comes to Asian minorities and their old guard immigrant parents.


With diversity and inclusion at the heart of AHLOT's company culture, we felt it was important to contribute to this ongoing discussion by shedding light on the experiences of different minority groups shaping the cannabis industry.

 

Norton Singhavon

Founder, Chairman & CEO of GTEC Holdings Ltd. 🇭🇰🇨🇳🇨🇦


I grew up in a typical Chinese household where we were lectured about drug use at a very early age, with the belief that anyone who sold or used drugs was either a criminal or homeless. So, when I told my parents I was entering into the cannabis industry, it was a bit of a shock to them. However, I had full support, with the exception of some warnings and lectures about “don’t get high off your own supply." Once talks about legalization began, they warmed up to the industry, and at times, were proud of what I was doing.


I think what really sold them was when I sent them a text, which was a photo of myself with Justin Trudeau.


Outside of my immediate family, I don’t think the rest of my family knows much about what I do for work. They likely assume that I am flipping real-estate with my father. My grandfather is a well-known Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner in Vancouver and although I think he would understand the medical benefits of cannabis, he would likely envision opium dens and a shady underground lifestyle, as this is how drug use has been portrayed in HK and China (which is where our family is from).


I’ve never been one who enjoys talking about my work or business in general, let alone with extended family. I find in Chinese culture, most relatives are quite nosey and seem to always compare whose kids turned out to be more successful. So I do enjoy the fact that my business life is kept private and mysterious, and I just fly under the radar with them.


Twitter: @nort604

LinkedIn: Norton S

 

Jessica Fung

Founder of Bluntbae 🇭🇰🇨🇦


I was born in Hong Kong and immigrated to Canada when I was four years old. I came to Canada not speaking a word of English and was raised with my family's traditional values. Values that included education as the most important priority, to maintain my ability to speak Chinese, and to follow in my mother's footsteps to aspire to work in the medical field.


I think I came close.


When I was growing up, cannabis was never a topic of conversation in my family, nor was there any interest on my part to try it until my final year in university. However, it was not until 2018 that my interest in the cannabis industry began. It started with a school assignment, and just like that, Blunt B.A.E. was born, with a mission to de-stigmatize cannabis and to share my cannabis journey.


"Coming out" of the cannabis closet to my family has been greeted with double standards beyond my understanding. My father has been supportive while my mother doesn't understand my work nor the industry. And none of my extended family knows about my transition to the cannabis industry. It's a personal goal of mine to get my mother to come around, then the rest of my family will follow.


Instagram: @wearebluntbae


 

Jessica Kim

Controller of mihi inc. 🇰🇷🇨🇦


My parents were the only ones in my family to immigrate to Canada from South Korea. But they’ve always had, and continue to have, very strong ties to the Korean community since we grew up in North York and went to a Korean Catholic church. To their credit, they are much more open-minded to ‘Westernized’ ideas than many of their friends. For example, they became fluent in English (surprisingly not as common as you’d think) and enrolled my brother and I in a plethora of extra-curricular activities including competitive sports outside of the typical Asian extra-curriculars like piano lessons and Kumon. That being said, they were strict Korean parents who held strong traditional values.


While I was always quite open with my consumption of alcohol as it’s a very integrated part of Korean culture, I hid any and all consumption of cannabis from my parents growing up. Cannabis, like all drugs are extremely frowned upon by Koreans which, in my opinion has something to do with an overly cautious fear of becoming addicted. (My parents often prematurely discontinue taking and always caution me in taking any prescribed pain medication lest it result in addiction.)


South Korea is one of a few countries that maintain that the Korean law making cannabis consumption illegal, remains in effect for Korean citizens regardless of what country they may be in. While both my parents are now Canadian citizens, they remain very uncomfortable with any drug consumption. Even after my father underwent serious back surgery and my brother and I bought him some cannabis to help with the pain, he said he didn’t like it, that it wasn’t for him. So naturally when I made the decision to leave the corporate world behind (and with it, a career that my parents have thus far been extremely proud of) and join mīhī - a cannabis retailer - I remained very cryptic and vague when they asked about the company I would be working for. Only after slowly and occasionally dropping subtle hints over a 7 month timeframe was I finally able to confirm, when a