Sisamon Phafon and Younes Kim grew up with very different approaches to cannabis.
Fafon, 37, is the founder of Bay Area and chief executive of Khuenfu, a CBD wellness brand based on Asian healing traditions, this has been a part of her life for as long as she can remember. Her father grew it in the family garden along with lemongrass and chili peppers, and her mother used it as a cooking herb (“especially in her pho broth,” Phafon says).
Kim, 35, LA-based founder and CEO of online cannabis education platform HiVi, became familiar with the plant’s properties much later in life, only five years ago looking for it as a way to self-medicate for anxiety. . And insomnia due to the “hamster wheel” of professional life.
But, as Asian Americans (Phafon is of Lao, Thai and Cambodian heritage, Kim is of Korean descent) working in the cannabis field, they have experienced similar stigma and judgment in both their own families as well as the wider Asian community. have encountered. Using that shared experience as a catalyst, he embarked on an ambitious project to create a pot primer called “Modern Cannabis: A Beginner’s Guide to Conscious Consumption” that seeks to enhance education and reduce the stigma surrounding the plant. is trying to do.
Rhubarb 101, it touches on the history of the plant (including the war on drugs), explains terms like cannabinoids and terpenes, delves into consumption practices and offers advice on how to read product labels. What makes the project ambitious isn’t its scope—it’s mostly basic, entry-level intel—but that medical-consultant-checked information first appears in 14 pages of English and then 11 Asian languages. Translated into: Bahasa, Cambodian, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Lao, Malay, Mandarin, Tagalog, Thai and Urdu.
Timed to launch during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, a version of the book was posted online at aapicc.com in early May, with two thousand hard copies being distributed by fellow members of the AAPI Cannabis Collective. Direct-to-consumer channel and dispensary partner.
Ahead of the launch, I caught up with both women via Zoom to talk about their experiences coming out of the cannabis closet, how they hope their project will help others do the same, and some of the challenges. He has faced Way. Below are highlights from that conversation.
Can you share your experiences of ‘coming out of your cannabis closet’?
Younes Kim: Your family should be the first to know, right? … I kept it silent until HiVi got its first Forbes feature. I started consuming cannabis in 2018, and entered the industry in 2020 as a community platform with HiVi. And for those two years, he didn’t know about it. I think the way Asian parents work is that they love a little outside validation, and Forbes was great validation, so I decided to come out of that closet with this article.
Sisamon Phafon: My immediate family is cannabis-friendly, but my cousins, my aunts and uncles, were all afraid of it. A cousin of mine even texted me directly and asked me directly: “Are your products like other products on the market that are full of perishable stuff and not safe for you?” … I still definitely had to deal with family members who were afraid to touch and support what I was going through.
How has your family outlook changed since you ‘come out’?
Kim: I am proud. During the holidays, I was at home, and we had low-dose foods together… so we’re on the THC train – slowly. Would I rather smoke a joint with my mom than enjoy a glass of wine with her? Maybe not. But low-dose food is a win-win.
Phafon: It is a challenge even today. My parents are definitely fine. my mom uses [KhenPhu] elephant balm [topical] all the time, and my siblings enjoy [CBD] Gummies for their regular ailments. But I still have the challenge of the rest of the family knowing what I’m going through.
Kim: Its illegality is very scary, especially for the immigrant community. If something is illegal and you go to jail for it – or it’s on your record – your future is set, right? So anything illegal was automatically considered bad, no questions asked. And then, through the hype, we see the depiction of cannabis right up there… along with heroin and all these really harmful narcotics. The immigrant mindset is that if it’s something that can mess with your brain and turn you into someone you’re not, it’s definitely a negative.
Phafon: The fact that you could be arrested for this was a big scare for the community, as it shames your family as well. And not being embarrassed is a real big deal in the Asian community. It’s a shame to the family if you have a son or daughter who abuses marijuana, and then you can’t show your face in the community. And that’s really where a lot of the fear and stigma lies. We also have this big stereotype of being a model minority. We have to be doctors, we have to be engineers, but seeing a successful stone pelter is not in that picture. If you smoke, you will never be as successful as your cousin who is a doctor. You’re just going to be couch-locked on your parents’ couch.
Who is the target audience you are trying to reach?
Kim: It’s really to the immigrant community in America that there are probably second generation kids who understand or consume but – and that’s exactly my position – haven’t been able to have an intelligent conversation with them about the science behind it. .
What is the relationship between education and destruction?
Kim: It is access to education that has never been readily available in our native languages. too many translators [we worked with] Looking at this material for the first time, and some vernaculars didn’t even exist – words like “cannabinoid” and “terpenes” – words that don’t exist in our Asian languages. Even something that seems as small as translating it into different languages is a big step in destroying it, because it makes it more accessible.
I think it is also in bringing together more than 40 different AAPI founders and leaders – as sponsors, supporters, creators and affiliates – to grow it. I think it makes a big statement to the Asian community that it is not just Sissamon and I who are the Asian founders in the space.
Phafon: The entire book was a challenge for our translators, but certainly the longer form of cannabinoids like THC – tetrahydrocannabinol. For our Cambodian translator, I literally had to record my voice while reading each cannabinoid so that they could understand how they were pronounced in the English language so that they could properly translate them in the Khmer language, as they had words. were not.
It looks like you were sailing in some seriously uncharted waters with this project.
Phafon: If you think about it, this country is full of a lot of refugee immigrants, and how did they learn about the different systems we have in this country? We had to translate for them. There are tons of translations into Spanish and Mandarin to help educate those who don’t speak or read English, so why not this one too? How can we help them understand the plant if they can’t even read about it?
Kim: It is also about misinformation and misinformation in general. With so much material at our fingertips, it is all too easy to be misled and misled, which perpetuates stigma and stereotypes. That’s why we’re using educational material that has been vetted and verified by our medical advisor, an integrative medicine doctor for over 28 years, who understands the science, understands the latest research. Making sure the right education is now translated and accessible to our communities is really important.
How do you know if your efforts are successful?
Kim: community welcome. We know it won’t be received with open arms the way we – in a perfect world – would love to see it. But we want to see that change and we want the stories of the younger generation in our community to come back and say, “Hey, look. We shared the book and [its] Satisfied with our parents, our grandparents. And we’re starting to have more of that frank conversation” or “they’re trying products instead of balking at their prescriptions.” We’re excited to see that change—even if it’s slow.
I want to remind the community that Asians have been consuming cannabis for thousands of years
– Younes Kim, HiVi . Founder and CEO of
Phafon: Keep an open mind in what we are sharing.
Kim: I want to remind the community that Asians have been consuming cannabis for thousands of years. It has been a healing plant for generations – since ancient history. The Chinese have the first recorded use of this plant. So whatever the complicated journey it has been, let’s remember it and go back to our roots.