The stereotypes around “stoner culture” – Bob Marley posters, ridiculous looking photos of bongs, and the associations with criminals, addicts, and drug dealers – have been around for decades. As the perception of cannabis, both in medicine and adult use, changes, people are finally pushing back against this imagery.
Serial entrepreneur Ophelia Chong is a tireless advocate for Asian American women in the cannabis industry. She’s the founder of Stockpot Images, Asian Americans for Cannabis Education, and Mogu Garden, to name just a few of her many endeavors.
Today, Ophelia joins the podcast to talk about how she built a massive collection of positive stock imagery around cannabis, the unique challenges businesses face in making a Schedule 1 controlled substance approachable to a mass audience, and how women and minorities can get a bigger stake and find their voices in an industry dominated by white men.
- How her sister’s battle with an autoimmune disease led Ophelia to launch her first cannabis-related company.
- Why almost everyone has an “edibles story,” why it’s so hard to accurately dose cannabis for new consumers, and how the industry can work to stop this from happening (and scaring off customers) in the future.
- How cannabis product sales have changed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- How high-end cannabis, much like high-end wine, can become a category of its own.
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Rick Kiley: Hello, everyone, and welcome back to The Green Repeal. I am your co-host, Rick Kiley. I’m of course joined by Jeffrey Boedges who is in New Jersey. Hello, Jeffrey.
Jeff Boedges: Good morning. Good morning. Hello, everyone.
Rick Kiley: All right. And we have a very exciting episode today. We are going to be speaking with Ophelia Chong. She is a serial entrepreneur and you’ll learn more about all that stuff in a second, a tireless advocate for Asian American women in the cannabis industry. She’s the founder of Stockpot Images, Asian Americans for Cannabis Education, and Mogu Garden Supply. She has a long history of creative endeavors and has championed the role of minorities in cannabis for over five years. And this is merely a smattering of all she has done and continues to do. Ophelia, introducing you reminds me of when they introduced Tiger Woods like on the first tee and they list all the tournaments that he’s won. It takes about 30 minutes long.
Jeff Boedges: Phil Mickelson usually gets all pissy about it.
Rick Kiley: Well, Phil, they’ve had a rivalry. Just like you and I, Jeff. You are truly a Renaissance woman and I guess the question that when we talk to somebody with all your accreditations, I would ask is when someone asks you what you do, what do you say?
Jeff Boedges: Yeah. How do you answer that?
Ophelia Chong: Actually, it’s pretty easy now. Now, that I’m old as heck as dirt.
Jeff Boedges: I think we’re the same age, Ophelia, just so you know.
Ophelia Chong: Oh no. This is DNA. Asians don’t raisin.
Rick Kiley: Oh right. This isn’t trips around the sun. This is the age of her soul.
Ophelia Chong: Yeah. It’s all the fermented stuff we eat. I started out as the in-house photographer for Raygun Magazine. This is way back. And then segued from there I got hired by a lot of record labels to shoot and then landed as Art Director a couple of record labels. Then from there, I got pulled into film. So, I was the Creative Director for an independent film distributor and launched about 70 films. We have films in Toronto, Sundance, Berlin, New York, Outfest. Also, during that time, too, I became the Creative Director of Outfest Film Festival, which is our largest LGBTQ film festival in the world and also for 10 years at Slamdance. Then I went from there to I got headhunted by Jennifer Aniston to build her website. But I won’t say the name because they abandoned it and is now a porn site. So, girls, I’m not going to tell it to you because when you land on it, it’s going to be like, “Whoa, nasty,” and all these pop-up things will come up. So, that one…
Rick Kiley: So, WhoaNasty.com is what I’m getting? Okay. Sorry.
Ophelia Chong: No. It’s, oh, it’s nasty.
Rick Kiley: All right.
Ophelia Chong: So, launched that, left after that, and then went into publishing. So, I was Creative Director and did monographs, da, da, da, blah, blah, blah like a magazine, la, la, la of fine art collage work, letterpress work which has been published in a lot of books. And then one day, I was sitting at my desk. My sister was visiting from China. She has an autoimmune disease and I looked at her and she said, “You know, I want to try cannabis to help my issues,” because basically she’s my younger sister but I will outlive her. And so, I said, “Sure.” So, once you got a medical card, I walked in there as a newbie, and this is the days when they had guns on the counter.
Jeff Boedges: I don’t think I knew about those.
Rick Kiley: Wait. But we’re in America. I think they’re still there.
Ophelia Chong: Oh, yeah but they weren’t in the counter then. It’s like Prop 215. So, there were a lot of illegal dispensaries along with dispensary sets were collectives that were gray area legal. So, go in there, of course, there’s a Bob Marley poster, the guy with a gun and says, “So what do you want?” I said, “Ah, ah, ah, ah, well,” because my sister can’t smoke. So, I said, “Well, what can you eat?” He goes, “Well, we’ve got these cookies here.” And I said, “Okay, I’ll take a few of those cookies.” No nothing like, “Hey, this is how you take it. This is the dosage.” So, gave it to my sister. She had a few nibbles, did really well. Next night she was…
Rick Kiley: I was really scared for the story.
Ophelia Chong: She ate more than half of the cookie. Again, went into that period where whenever we had experience of dosing too much THC, basically, you run through the paranoid, your brain can’t shut off, and you’re basically pacing for about three to five hours. So, that happened to her. And also, a little bit of hyperventilation. However, out of that came the moment where I looked at her and I said, “Man, you’re a stoner,” and then I said, “No, no, no.” I called my sister a stereotype and I’ve been in the stock photo world by relaunch. I launched one agency that got bought by Jupiter. So, I went over to and then typed into one of the largest stock agencies in the world and I typed in stoner. What came up was a series of African American men, typical hysterical pictures of bongs, people blowing smoke in cat spaces, and I looked at the keywords because that’s how you find images. So, keywords were illegal, addict, criminal, drug dealer. All these words that were put onto black men, convict.
And I was shocked. So, that is how Stockpot started. So, I got the LLC. I launched it. This was January 8, and I launched everything, the LLC, the whole website that I did was Sodatech, which manages the backend for a lot of major stock indices on 420.
Jeff Boedges: Of course. Willie Nelson.
Ophelia Chong: I started with about 3,300 images and about 20 photographers. Because in 2015 Colorado Assist is about to get online. So, it was still very underground. And to talk these guys, these men and women, photographers to give me their images, the license and to put their names on it, only a few wanted names like Doobie Duck. So, yeah, he’s actually really good.
Rick Kiley: Doobie Duck?
Ophelia Chong: Yeah. Doobie Duck. He’s like, “Oh, okay.”
Jeff Boedges: That’s going to be my personalized license plate.
Ophelia Chong: Well, he’s actually this little man.
Rick Kiley: There’s another dude. Yeah.
Ophelia Chong: Yeah. So, it was a big jump. But also, I was the only person with the model release that had a Schedule 1 written and read on there, that the model acknowledged that I’m holding a Schedule 1 drug, and that I allow my image to be used for stock. So, you can imagine that leap that they’re allowing their face holding a drug to be used for licensing. And from there, my collection grew to about 30,000 images about over 240 photographers. I had favorites.
Rick Kiley: Just how many people? Was there a large percentage of people who were turned off by that and said, “You can’t use my image?”
Ophelia Chong: Nope. They were all…
Rick Kiley: All for it? Great.
Jeff Boedges: I mean, I would think you kind of go into a shoot with the idea like you don’t spring it on, “Oh, by the way, we’re doing a Schedule 1 shoot today.”
Ophelia Chong: Well, because everyone use their friends, right? And my favorite series was Paris Jefferson, a 75-year-old black man who wore his Sunday best, his hat. He had a handkerchief in his pocket and he was holding a joint smoking in public. Now, if he was doing that, even two years ago before that, he would have been holed up in a jail but he allowed his image to be used. And so, that was the power of what Stockpot was to bring all of that to the forefront, and we got ripped off by MedMen. My whole campaign about not to be a stereotype was done six months before. Of course, they trotted out theirs. So, in a way, I’m kind of flattered. In another way, of course, I know karma has to get them back. So, I just had to wait a few years.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. Well, Jeff and I have a long history in our world of feeling like we’ve come up with ideas that other people produced and we always get a little miffed by that. But miffed is the nice way to put it. So, I won’t use the other word.
Jeff Boedges: We have existing creative directors now that like, when it happens, they get really freaked out. I’m like, “That’s part and parcel of this industry we play in. It’s dirty.”
Rick Kiley: But I love what you’re saying here because it’s funny, like I feel like and, Jeff, it’s like the last six or seven of these interviews we’ve done, this idea of the industry needing to shed a stoner stigma, and that they’re not sort of I’ll just call aspirational images associated with people using the product being a major, major challenge. And as we come from, we come from working in the alcohol beverage industry quite a bit and that’s one thing that’s not a problem there. We’ve had images and movies and cinema and TV and advertising showing successful upwardly mobile professionals using the product. And so, the baggage doesn’t exist there whereas here you just run into it constantly. I am so glad you’re found a way to be part of the solution and that’s just amazing and I think for someone that who likes telling stories about brands really important work that needs to be done and keeping done so that’s awesome.
Ophelia Chong: Well, it’s the power of the image because you don’t need words to go with an image. If I just give you a few keywords, the images will come in here with a victory kiss. The Syrian baby on the beach, napalm girl, right? I can just give you two or three words and they’re in your head. Execution by gun in Vietnam. You already know these images in your head with so few words but they bring up so much emotion and impact. So, that is why I veered towards visuals rather than words.
Jeff Boedges: Yeah. Well, that spits part and parcel with our creative approach. When we develop concepts for clients, we’re like this page, it’s got to work a lot harder with a lot fewer words. We need much better images and we spend a lot of time and a lot of resources making sure that our imagery is correct for the exact same reason.
Rick Kiley: That’s great. I mean, it’s great work. So, I think one thing I’ve noticed is that you started this company in 2015 and I’m going to make a leap here. So, it was your sister’s experience with cannabis that kind of got you introduced to the category? Yes?
Ophelia Chong: Yes. That was interesting. Because before that, well, I still am. I’m sober from alcohol, right? And so, if anyone knows you can’t really mix the two. I mean, you can’t have one and say that’s the only one that’s okay. But through my sister and through having Stockpot, I learned that all the propaganda that I had learned about cannabis was that it’s not a drug, it’s a plant and it’s a plant medicine. And to enter the industry, I had to make the decision not to be sober with cannabis. I actually had to use it. Even then it was very minimal. Although, I will tell you my edible story.
Rick Kiley: Everyone’s got one.
Ophelia Chong: Oh my gosh. So, I had to use it because back then too is like you’re a narc if you don’t smoke. And why are you in the industry if you don’t use it, right? In my first year, I went to the Seven Sisters in Ojai, and we photographed them and one of them pulled me aside. Alice who’s a White Witch, she had a mason jar. She said, “Ophelia.” She pulled out my hand and she poured these seeds in my hand. She says, “If you’re going to do this, you better f*cking know how to grow this plant.” So, I took these seeds home and they were feminized. So, there were male/female in there. And I grew 23 plants the first year in my backyard. My whole yard was just full of weed.
Rick Kiley: Wait. What year was this?
Ophelia Chong: 2015.
Rick Kiley: Okay.
Jeff Boedges: That’s a big year going from the first experience to I’ve got 23 plants in my backyard. I’m just saying.
Ophelia Chong: Yeah. I launched in April and I had a crop in September. So, that was a huge leap but then I learned everything about this plant, right? How to tell from male to female, how to trim, how to fertilize everything. And this one, when someone pulled a prank on me, she said, “Ophelia, okay, the best time to harvest your buds, okay, this is how you’re going to do it because this is how everyone else does it.” “Okay. Tell me how. Give me the gospel.” And then he said, “You got to get up at 4:00 in the morning. You got to go out there before the sun rises because once the sun rises, it changes all the terps and the resins. It just messes it all up.” I said, “You’re right. You’re right. The sun must affect it.” So, I went out there 4:00 in the morning, trimmed all this stuff, dragged it in and started trimming the buds and I thought, “F*cker. F*cker. This is not real. This is so not real.” Of course, I then googled it, right? I should have googled it before and there was nothing like that in the world. I think maybe one guy and so after that, my subsequent crops like that I just harvested whenever. Okay. So, back to the edible stuff.
Rick Kiley: That’s when you need an AB test. You got to do that on only half of them, right?
Ophelia Chong: Oh God. I’m doing a lot of AB testing on other plants right now.
Rick Kiley: All right.
Ophelia Chong: Fungi. So, my edible story. All right. Back before Prop 64 where it was regulation-only 100 milligrams per product, right? Back then you could get 1,000-milligram bars, chocolate bars. 1,500 milligrams.
Jeff Boedges: One bar, 1,000 milligrams?
Rick Kiley: How big are the bar?
Jeff Boedges: Yeah. Is it like one of those Toblerones you get in the Duty-Free?
Ophelia Chong: Like this. And so, it was a brand called Korova. Back then it was a brownie bar. If you know brownies, they’re like the moon, right? There are craters. It’s not flat. It’s got this. And how Korova did it was and also how gummies were done too was they laid everything flat is basically a pre-made brownie mix too. They bought this in bulk. They then sprayed it with THC on top of the brand. So, you’re spraying something and it could go into some craters a lot more than other craters. Okay. So, being obsessive and a Virgo, I measured the thing out. I measured it and I thought, “Okay. So, this is 10 milligrams in each slice.”
Rick Kiley: Sorry. You cut your 1,000-gram brownie bar into 100 pieces?
Ophelia Chong: Virgo.
Rick Kiley: All right.
Ophelia Chong: I’m a Virgo. Okay.
Jeff Boedges: You’re a surgeon is what you are. I mean, it’s small.
Rick Kiley: Well, I think this bar was much bigger than she’s saying like this is a bar.
Ophelia Chong: Well, it’s about this big. So, cut it up. Thought I took 20 milligrams. Hell no. The thing probably was I probably took 100 milligrams, which is if you know anything about edibles. Okay. So, that night, I fell out of bed, crawled to the bathroom, I threw up, and then I had the other stuff come on the other end. So, I’m sitting on the toilet, bent over going, and then I fell off the toilet, hit my head against the counter across from it.
Rick Kiley: It’s not funny.
Ophelia Chong: No. Oh, it was funny later, and had a huge egg here and I was laying on the floor and I thought, “I’m not going to die like Elvis. I’m not going to be found like this and have my obituary: She ate too many edibles.” So, I crawled back to bed and I threw out that Korova bar. So, that is the issue for consumers going about marketing is that you have to educate people on dosing and what it’s about. Just like you tell most people already know like you said with liquor. You drink a whole bottle of wine, you know what happened to you because it’s ingrained in our heads through many things but for cannabis for the new person, they don’t know.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. And it is experiential learning a lot of it.
Ophelia Chong: But then you lose that consumer if they have that bad experience. They’re never going to go back to that again, if you don’t educate them on a you wait 20 minutes, an hour, but right now there’s a lot of fast-acting edibles. Juana has it. Vertosa has the, yeah, Ben Larson has a fast-acting THC that’s encapsulated. It’s really fast. Someone works within three minutes. Usually, it takes an hour to go through and get into your liver. Right now, it’s absorbed through here through your lungs.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. I mean, that was always the problem with edibles is you would take some, you’d have to work for a while and you’d be like, “This isn’t working.” And you’d be like you take another and then 90 minutes later you can’t tie your shoes and you can’t get up off the ground.
Ophelia Chong: It’s human nature. You give someone a chocolate bar. They’re going to eat the whole chocolate bar. And so, how I taught somebody is like, “Okay, I’m going to give you a box of Chocolate Egg Surprise. Are you going to eat the whole box because it’s chocolate?” They go, “Oh, hell no.” They go, “I’m going to have diarrhea.” So, I go, “Well, same thing. Are you going to eat this whole bar?” You have to change the consumer’s mind that this bar is medicine. It is not food which is what the big disconnect was in our industry that it was sold as food. Infused potato chips, infused popcorn, chocolate bars, gummies, any kind of candy. It is sold as our brain thinks is food. When we buy Tylenol, we don’t think it’s food. So, that is where marketing has come in and say, “We got to pull those two things apart.”
Rick Kiley: Yeah. I feel like the products that are out now have gotten much better about the dosing though. Like, at least it’s very clear on the package like that doesn’t exist, I mean.
Jeff Boedges: Most of the state regulations now require it.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. And I’ve had a bad chocolate bar experience before where that sort of like even distribution, I totally get where you’re talking about but I think a lot of times now we’re doing tinctures, we’re doing mints, we’re doing gummies and they’re like very specific and small doses. So, I think you’re getting a lot of 5s and 10s that you could take more of if you want to rather than trying to football 1,000 milligrams. Dear Lord.
Ophelia Chong: With a ruler and an X-Acto blade.
Rick Kiley: Of course, it would have to be an X-Acto blade. How else would you do that?
Jeff Boedges: I think you add that surgeon to your title.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. It was a number six, right? Okay.
Ophelia Chong: Eleven.
Rick Kiley: Eleven? Perfect.
Jeff Boedges: This one goes to…
Rick Kiley: I want to ask you a question, though. Like you mentioned something about really feeling like you needed to grow the plant to understand it. Is that something that you think everybody who uses this product should do in order to understand it? Like, personally, when I learned about a whiskey brand or something like going to the brand home, understanding the manufacturing and getting my hands on that process does help me understand it. But large swaths of the world don’t do that. I mean, do you get a sense that that is a really important part of education for people?
Ophelia Chong: Yes. And also look where we are now. We’re homebound. And if you look at the craft beer, you have people making their own beer, trying to make their own wine, right? I’m not sure they’re distilling their own liquor but everyone is doing their homegrown. They have victory gardens. And so, to sell that idea of growing the plant, just like you would sell the idea of heirloom tomatoes, it is a whole new product line. It is you grow this plant, be the cool person in your neighborhood, and learn about it because that’s how you sell it. It is not growing the plant because you want to understand, okay, it’s not like you buy ketchup and got to go grow tomato plant because you want to know how that ketchup is made. But it is more about selling the idea of that you can craft your own product and then right now it is a great selling point to do that at home.
Rick Kiley: Right.
Jeff Boedges: I want to encourage our listeners to please check your state legal before starting your own victory weed garden. Because even most legal states, they still don’t allow it.
Rick Kiley: I mean, I think it’s actually the states that have medical programs are more allowable for medical patients to grow their own plants to some three, four, or five or something. We talked to someone in Missouri.
Jeff Boedges: Twenty-three.
Ophelia Chong: We’re allowed to do six here.
Rick Kiley: So, six, you’re in California and I think it was…
Ophelia Chong: If you’re really good, you can get 6 pounds out of that.
Rick Kiley: Right.
Jeff Boedges: That is a lot of weed.
Rick Kiley: That’s a lot of weed. Yeah. But do you think that people would be able to learn? So, the experiential journey with this stuff is quite large because you have to understand like the intake that works for you best. You have to understand like the strain that works for you best, whatever is working for you. Do you think that people need to have some sort of journey to identify what works for them and then be planting that? I’d be curious about like crafting that experience, how do you do the sort of exploratory to get connected to what works well for you and your body and your lifestyle?
Ophelia Chong: But unfortunately, because when cannabis is placed on Schedule 1, there has not been a lot of research. And most of what we know now is anecdotal. Because to bring it to Tylenol, how do we know to take two capsules is going to work for us? Somehow it has worked out. Someone worked it out. Did a lot of research. Of course, we have a lot of people who have to take more but how does two capsules for someone who weighs 100 pounds works for someone who’s 250? Obviously, probably not some of you but you kind of gauge it but with cannabis, it’s all anecdotal. And plus, you’re looking at different types of ways in ingesting. In edibles it’s distillate. So, that’s basically just the boil-down plant into an oil. And so, that is one product. If you are talking about smoking flower, the flower now is tested for the percentage of THC in each in the flower. So, right now, the big dick thing is to have it over 33%. There’s like, “Whoa, this is so dank. It’s like it’s this much THC.” In everyone’s mind, “All right. Whatever.”
Rick Kiley: So dank.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. Because it’s the size thing but also that affects you differently than a distillate would or say a tincture because then it’s going through your body a different way. It is very hard right now. I feel for people marketing this on if you have a specific brand, you’re going to have to really look at what their research is and how this affects different people, different blood types, different weights, different genders, different…
Rick Kiley: Blood types?
Ophelia Chong: Yeah.
Rick Kiley: What we have got into here? Holy moly.
Ophelia Chong: No, you can go really deep. So, what are you talking about? Just the effects, right? You’re going to feel more mellow. You’re going to feel this but you got to keep it vague because cannabis affects different people in different ways. One stream for me like say, Kosher Kush, there was one strain that was grown by these amazing veterans, Santa Cruz Veterans Alliance. They’re based, of course, in Santa Cruz. Their Kosher Kush is so strong that they donated to their veterans or people with extreme PTSD and those veterans would take it and they’d be pretty, oh, they’re still functional. I smoke it and I’m basically out flat. And I could only smoke maybe a dogwalker, a small one. So, then again, dosage for me and dosage for someone else is completely different. Also, THC, you build a tolerance to it. The more you smoke it, the more ingest it, the more you’re going to need. You build up a tolerance. So, you can see some people who start dabbing in the morning and they’ll go through 1,000 milligrams, but they’re totally functional. Because their tolerance is so high at that point, that that’s how much they need. So, it’s very hard to figure out you guys stay at the baseline. 10 milligrams is what you’re marketing. You’re not marketing to the person doing 1,000 milligrams because they’re not going to buy your product anyways because it’s too expensive to get that high.
Jeff Boedges: Did growing, though, help you to sort of start to understand this? Because I kind of feel like, for me, if you’re growing it, you really don’t know what you’re getting if it’s at home unless you somehow have a chemistry kit at your house that tells you THC isn’t a plant you just grew.
Ophelia Chong: I buy seeds from my friends like Humboldt Seed Company. And so, he has purple panty-dropper, blueberry muffin which actually smells like blueberry muffins. And so, I know what I’m doing but also the whole plant is usable. When you pick the leaves, you can juice those and they’re not psychotropic so you’re not going to get high. But they’re really good for abdominal issues or gut issues, for inflammation and so, that part of the plant can be used. And also, you can put it in tempura batter and deep fry it and it’s very crispy too. It’s very nice, a little bit of sea salt because you can use in families for that. The root some people also use too. They will make that into. They’ll cook it in a crockpot with coconut oil and make something out of that, a balm out of that. The stocks, again, the distillate, sometimes mostly from shake, which is all the secondary stuff that falls off after you trim the bud, the leaves, the stalks. That made a distillate. So, the whole plant is used for production. Nothing is wasted.
Rick Kiley: That’s great stuff. I’ve learned a lot already and my favorite, I’m sorry, a dogwalker? So, I haven’t heard the term dogwalker. So, that is a joint that you smoke while walking the dog and it lasts that long?
Ophelia Chong: Yes, exactly. Yes. That’s enough to walk the dog.
Rick Kiley: Check out the big brain on Rick today.
Jeff Boedges: All right, man.
Rick Kiley: That’s cool. I need a dogwalker.
Ophelia Chong: Well, they’re very popular here because other people called them minis too like Sundae School has them, Sunday Goods. Quite a few brands sell them because to the consumer, they’re not smoking a whole blunt.
Rick Kiley: Right.
Ophelia Chong: And so, a small one is perfect and what’s really big here now too is infused This is like your Four Loko. You got your Jolly Rancher flavor and you got your alcohol in there. It’s basically weed-infused with hash and kief, rolled in kief.
Jeff Boedges: What is kief? Sorry. I know hash but what…
Ophelia Chong: Kief is ground up. You know when you grind your flower, there’s a powder left. That’s kief. So, if you’re really into it.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. It’s like the crystals.
Ophelia Chong: No. It’s basically a powdered weed. It’s at the bottom of your grinder. So, if you’re really into it, you take your joint, you put oil on top of it, then roll it in kief and so you have a triple …
Rick Kiley: Yeah. You’re starring on Broadway. You’re a triple threat.
Ophelia Chong: Oh, yeah.
Jeff Boedges: There’s nothing to do with Keith Richardson then?
Ophelia Chong: No. And I’m not related to Tommy. So, there we go.
Rick Kiley: All right.
Jeff Boedges: I did ask that question.
Rick Kiley: No.
Jeff Boedges: I did.
Ophelia Chong: I get that on LinkedIn. One guy he said, “Hey, I want to connect with you.” And I said, “All right. Why?” He said, “Well, because I want to talk to your dad.” And I said, “My dad, George? You want to talk to George? He’s an engineer. What do you want him for?” He goes, “Isn’t your dad Tommy?” And I said, “No.” And then that was the end of that one.
Jeff Boedges: Well, we had a close brush with Tommy in another podcast earlier this week that we recorded but our listeners will have to stay.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. So, we actually had someone on who’s doing data analytics for a lot of these retailers right now.
Ophelia Chong: Oh, Headset?
Rick Kiley: Yeah, Headset.
Ophelia Chong: Was it Jocelyn?
Rick Kiley: No. Sorry. It was Liz.
Ophelia Chong: Oh okay.
Rick Kiley: She mentioned that the large, I mean, maybe part of the reason these dogwalkers are more popular is that the larger pre-rolls aren’t selling very well during the COVID because people don’t want to be sharing them. So, those are very social and they’re not passing along to other people but I could see sort of like something intended for one for someone who likes flower doing better.
Ophelia Chong: You want to hear like this is from a Virgo obsessive-compulsive point of view, Emerald Cup, which is one of the biggest and most traditional gathering of growers. Every December, people bring their flower and it was a big, huge marketplace. It’s up in Santa Cruz. So, a couple of years ago, I was standing at the 420 circle which is led by my friend so there’s a circle of 100 of us, right? And everyone had to bring a joint and pass it to the next person. And oh my god, every time he came to me and said, “I don’t smoke during the day. You all know that,” and he goes, “Oh, yeah, no worries, Ophelia.” So, I just kept passing it and there are joints like this and there were joints like this and they just kept passing it. As I was watching, I kept seeing all these lips on them. And then two weeks later, a couple of my friends go, “Oh man, I came down with strep throat.” I said, “You know why. You know why.”
Rick Kiley: Well, strep throat would be a godsend right now. I mean, I can imagine just a COVID outbreak as a result of a giant joint passing circle. That wouldn’t be good.
Jeff Boedges: That’s just a bad idea. That’s right up there with the ice luge.
Ophelia Chong: Oh my god. [indiscernible 32:16]
Rick Kiley: The herpes machine.
Jeff Boedges: The herpes machine, yeah.
Rick Kiley: So, this is all great conversation but one thing I want to make sure we talk about is you are a woman, you are Asian-American, and even though it’s a relatively new industry, cannabis does seem to be dominated by white men. And I want to talk to you a little bit about your experience working in the industry and curious, do you have any thoughts on why women or minorities are underrepresented right now in the industry from your perspective?
Ophelia Chong: That’s a really good question. And also, what industry isn’t dominated by white men?
Rick Kiley: Yeah.
Jeff Boedges: Yeah.
Ophelia Chong: Unless you’re talking about subscription box or something
Jeff Boedges: Football, music.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. But I think it’s a new industry so it’s like we’re hopefully progressing and it’s still surprising that here we have it, it’s new industry and it’s still…
Jeff Boedges: Still.
Ophelia Chong: Well, from the Asian-American point of view, is because our stereotype is that we’re law-abiding. We come from a Confucian society where we honor the parents. We have to get a really good job, lawyer, accountant, doctor, right? We’re up there. You got to be that because then you have to make the money so you can support your parents and they can live with you. It goes on like that. And so, yes.
Jeff Boedges: Which makes it very hard doing in Kansas when mom and dad are hanging around in your 30s.
Rick Kiley: It’s a strange incentive.
Ophelia Chong: So, yeah, in Kansas you can’t because they saw it as taboo. You’re going to get thrown in jail. I mean, they saw the movies. They saw Dare and all that. My parents are very supportive. Actually, they were very supportive of what I do but also, they’re outliers. However, in the Asian-American community, you don’t touch a plant. You just don’t touch a plant. However, there is another side where there’s a hell a lot of us touching the plant underground. Some of the best growers are Asian in their homes. But that’s the black market side but you find a lot of Asian-Americans in the ancillary. Who provides all your vape pens? China. Who provides all your dupe tubes? Your bags? The stickers? The t-shirts, the hats?
Jeff Boedges: Yeah. Who’s walking your dog? Exactly.
Ophelia Chong: Yeah. Wow. Totally. So, that part they can see because that’s commerce. So, in Asian-American lines, they have that line. So, what I found was that there was a lot of stereotyping within my own community, which is why I started Asian-Americans for Cannabis Education. So, we’re running on our fifth year and I interview CEOs of companies, growers, health practitioners, advocates. Even in Korea, I have a pastor in South Korea who’s a cannabis advocate there to educate my own people about the plant and how to destigmatize it. So, that’s what I do for Asian-Americans. And so, with that, I also helped the mayor of El Monte try to speak to that community and also San Francisco with Apothecarium help their lobbyists up there when they had issues with the local community, trying to educate my own people about cannabis. But also, in a weird way too, it kind of brought all these Asian-American CEOs into the light in the general industry seeing how many there are of us in the industry.
Because usually when I walk into a conference, there’s a room full of marshmallows, right, and I’m the raisin. And so, I’m always looking for another raisin like, “Oh, a person of color over there.” We’ll run over and say, “Hey, what’s your name? Look, we’re so different.” It’s becoming a little bit better with social equity and also Kamala Harris and Nadler that now the Harris bill more, which is bringing expungement and also social equity but is moving forward very slowly but actually quite quickly as well. So, that’s what I do for the Asian-American community.
Rick Kiley: That’s great.
Ophelia Chong: And as a woman, too. There’s a lot of female dispensary owners out there. A lot of female-run brand companies and there’s actually a lot of there are some of the biggest cannabis brands are owned by Asians.
Rick Kiley: I did not know that.
Ophelia Chong: You know, select.
Rick Kiley: Okay. Are there specific things that like you think that women or Asians can bring to the industry that will make it better?
Ophelia Chong: I think in women, in general, we bring a different way of management. Also, we are trained as listeners. You might not think that during this interview that I’m a listener but we tend to listen a little bit more and also, we have to compromise our whole lives. That is natural to us so we kind of bring that to the table. And also, if you looked at COVID, every female-run country has beaten down COVID whereas male-run ones is running amok.
Jeff Boedges: We can also say every intelligently-run country is…
Rick Kiley: Right.
Ophelia Chong: Yeah.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. Everyone that listens to scientists or have leaders who are women who are scientists. We have a lot of women who are scientists leading other countries, which is also great. I think there’s just like being smarter is also helpful. One thing, it’s funny because alcohol beverage is a little bit similar. When we talk about, there’s a lot of winemakers and a lot of spirits makers that are men but one of the things that I’ve always thought is that women would be better at being like sommeliers and winemakers because I feel like their noses are better. And I wonder sort of how like that sort of if that quality like translates to this industry very well. I don’t know how scientific we’re getting about sort of like flavor and odor in cannabis right now but I feel like that’s probably, that’s going to bubble up at some point where that’s actually part of somebody’s decision tree. There’s the effect that works for me and the feeling that results but I also have to think probably the enjoyment of the intake is going to start becoming more and more important as people get more sophisticated. So, I don’t know, I feel like there’s room. I just think that women’s noses are better than men.
Ophelia Chong: There is because I’ll tell you one experience because I judged a lot. And one of my favorite ones is Golden Tarp as run by Kevin Jodrey, Wonderland. And it’s up in the woods, Garberville, right on the border between Oregon and California. So, way up in weed country, Humboldt. That’s weed. And so, The Golden Tarp is held to judge the best weed in that area.
Rick Kiley: Right. So, it is a quality of weed competition.
Ophelia Chong: Oh, completely. It’s like you’re judging the rated 90 wine.
Rick Kiley: Wait. And you’re a judge for this?
Ophelia Chong: Yeah. I was a judge for that.
Jeff Boedges: How do you do that?
Rick Kiley: Yeah. With wine, you can spit it out and taste the next one. So, please explain your secret.
Ophelia Chong: Because it was held at a lieutenant of Al Capone, right? When Al Capone got arrested, this lieutenant got a lot of money. He moved up there and built a series of houses and one of these houses, Kevin got the use of. And so, under the redwoods, you can imagine under the redwoods, the sun is shining and he had put out all these couches and coffee tables. They were strewn with clean bongs, rolling papers, grinders, lighters, everything you needed. And then you were brought out this golden plate. And there’s a series of fun. It was judged on four things. You know, it was fuel, fruit, earth, and something else. I can’t remember.
Rick Kiley: Twinkie ratio? It’s like a Twinkie ratio. It’s like how many Twinkies do you want to eat?
Ophelia Chong: Stoner thing. Like that fuel is diesel. The fruit are the sherbets. Earth are more the OGs. And there’s a fourth one I can’t remember now. But anyhow, so you brought up the series of four plates. And on the four plates was all these buds with just numbers. I saw on the couch with one of my best friends, Allison Jason, who has the nose of a hound dog and the palate of Julia Child. So, you can imagine Julie Child made it with a hound dog but prettier.
Jeff Boedges: Man, I don’t want to know that.
Rick Kiley: How did you know what I dreamed about last night? That’s so strange.
Ophelia Chong: So, she would sit there next to me and I was watching her because I would be grinding through my pipe and I watch her put – she was sniffing, crushing between her fingers then snip her fingers and then grind a little bit, put it in the pipe. And she would do this, she go, “Uh, huh, huh, huh,” on the pipe and then cough like a demon, just hack away, and then she would sit up, “Oh yeah, that was really good bud,” and then she write down.
Jeff Boedges: That’s like sloping in wine tasting.
Ophelia Chong: Oh my god, it was so good. And so, I would start imitating her and the reason why she hacked because when you cough that hard, it really activated THC so you are just getting high as f*ck.
Rick Kiley: Off to get off. That’s what they say.
Ophelia Chong: So, after like the second plate of like 10 samples, you were smoking each of these bugs. At that point, you’re like, “Uh, hookaay.” So, we’re on these couches.
Rick Kiley: Yeah, of course.
Ophelia Chong: Of course. It was a magical experience because as I was watching her, she was still so on it and not a stoned as I was. She would go, “On terpenes, I can taste limonene. I can taste the myrcene. Oh yeah.” And she could break down all the terpenes in it and the pinene, all this stuff.
Jeff Boedges: Is that something that because I know that there are budtenders out there and we jokingly referred to some of them sommeliers but is that like a growing type of skill set that’s out there right now? I mean, because you’re the first person I’ve ever heard really described somebody who can break it down on that sort of level through taste and not through a chemical process, not through a chemistry process.
Ophelia Chong: Oh, yeah. Because what you would realize is that it’s just like wine. There’s a first taste and then the second and then what lands on your palate after. So, the same thing with smoking really good cannabis is because when I was searching for High Times, I had like a really good loop and I was looking at the crystals, I look at the resin. I look at the density of flower, the sugar leaves. I would break it down, sniff it, and then try and break down the terpenes and then do a quick inhale, then see the efficacy and then the aftereffects. So, it’s the same as wine and we’re moving towards that because there are going to be brands that are the higher, you know, when you have tequila, you got the tequila. This is tequila, right? And then you got the other tequila up here. You want to aspire to that. You got your every day [racot 44:42]. Okay, that’s your no-name weed, which is Bs. They are lower grade. Basically shake, right? Then when you got enough money, you go for that premium brand from that grower that you just love, you know, who takes care.
Rick Kiley: Is there a pricing disparity like that is similar to what we might see in the wine business? Like you can buy a $7 bottle of wine and know it’s going to make you feel terrible and probably tastes pretty bad up to spending gobs and gobs of money from wine that needs to be cellared in that sort of year. I mean, are we looking at a disparity where there is that different? Like you might pay, I mean, I don’t know but you go to…
Jeff Boedges: $100 for a quarter versus a $400 quarter.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. Is that out there right now?
Ophelia Chong: Yes, because there’s a brand called Opal out here. Wonderful guys.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. We know that. We’ve seen that brand. It’s a great brand.
Ophelia Chong: Oh, amazing. And basically, what they did that is your Two-Buck Chuck. It is shake. Basically, the Bs, right? But it’s a great Two-Buck Chuck, right?
Rick Kiley: Yeah. The package is awesome. It is what it is.
Ophelia Chong: The branding is beautiful. I love it. Because I remember when they started, they just have a little table and we talked to them and so that is your Two-Buck Chuck. And then you can graduate to the higher end of hash and flower, right? So, you can go like Frenchy Cannoli. His hash balls, I mean, a little tiny marble-sized one is about $120 but is beautifully done handmade hash. And then you have flower from certain growers up in Humboldt which is sun-grown that is just superb. You can taste the sun in it. Because there’s a different joint indoor and outdoor. Indoor is like your mass-produced tomato. I mean, of course, there are some great indoor that I’m not going to say is all bad.
Rick Kiley: Bud Light, I got it. Yeah.
Ophelia Chong: Yeah. But then you have your sun-grown which is seasonal. That is what you want. That is your special moment. When your parents are over. It’s Father’s Day. You crack up your dad. Your dad goes, “Oh son, you’re the best ever. Let’s grind that up.” That’s behind your brand.
Rick Kiley: You got a different relationship with your dad than I have.
Jeff Boedges: Yeah. My dad, he’d call the cops.
Rick Kiley: And so, what’s driving the price? Is it production quality and product quality? Is it sometimes like it’s scarcity in alcohol beverage like maybe there’s only this limited amount of this very special thing as well? Is that part of the equation like that you mentioned seasonal but if somebody’s got like only 10 of these really special super plants that are doing this really special unique thing that are producing this super-duper high-end weed? I’m just curious.
Jeff Boedges: Supply and demand. I got to imagine it’s supply and demand.
Ophelia Chong: Yeah. It’s supply and demand. Also too, it is trends, right? When I first began a lot of the OGs, a lot of diesel was big, super heavy, dank robust flower which is like Super Sour Diesel, OG Kush, and then as it got more mass-produced, people want more fruity flavors like strawberry sherbet for more lighter fruitier flavors. So, now we’re into I think I feel like we’re going back into the OGs like Wifi OG. Wedding cake is one of the most popular ones. It is kind of in-between. It is a really smooth, wonderful smoke that can be transcendent. After today, you can take that and you are just super lifted. You’re just sitting there and everything is wonderful. The more stronger diesels you got a little more pain issues. You need to really just shut down kind of thing. And the sherbets are like a spritzer, a wine and soda kind of thing.
Rick Kiley: He’s never much of a spritzer. Yeah, I bet there’s a market for it. So, that’s great. So, I mean, how do you get to be a judge? Now, are you judging things regularly like this is…
Ophelia Chong: The last one I did was this last year for High Times. I’ve done about six High Times and a few other smaller ones like Golden Tarp. And also did all flower. So, for one time it’s topicals and that was the weirdest one because things came in jelly jars and you’re thinking, “I’m not slathering this on my skin.” It’s like I’m not going to go for a rash or you look for the dog, hey, come over and you flip him over, you put a little bit over on the pink side. See what happens in an hour?
Rick Kiley: Oh no.
Jeff Boedges: Yeah, we’re joking here, folks.
Rick Kiley: Nobody’s putting…
Ophelia Chong: Topicals are fine. Topicals in your dog because my dog did eat edible ones and that was very embarrassing.
Jeff Boedges: That’s a Cheech & Chong episode.
Ophelia Chong: Oh god, yeah. It’s horrible.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. I mean your dad was in that. Bring it back. Curious. So, I want to come back to the creative conversation because, obviously, you have great creative chops. Do you see brands advancing creative to where the direction it needs to kind of go here? I mean, I think we see brands that sort of look like either a Grateful Dead show or I think Jeff is like medicine, right?
Jeff Boedges: Yeah. They’re produced by Johnson & Johnson so either they’re really clinical or really stoner but not too much in the lifestyle. They haven’t really gone to the wine world yet where they’re really kind of embracing this moment.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. I mean, do you have any, I don’t know, thoughts, advice, trends that you see? Like, is anyone starting to play in that lifestyle area, that aspirational front that uses that high-quality imagery you were talking about earlier?
Ophelia Chong: Well, that is your Gordian knot.
Rick Kiley: That’s the first time Gordian knots been said on this podcast.
Jeff Boedges: Yeah, for sure. Ding, ding, ding, you get points. Yeah. You’re on the big board.
Ophelia Chong: Because there was the previous market, the underground one. And it wasn’t really shaped because it was that market. It was shaped because of the music. It was shaped because the buyer was a 70-year-old with a backpack. But then it swung a word completely to dosist side where it was Helvetica or whether on white, a little red.
Rick Kiley: I love using Helvetica.
Jeff Boedges: Yes.
Rick Kiley: Hel-yesica. Sorry. Terrible.
Ophelia Chong: You want off an Arial. No one’s used Comic Sans yet. Oh, yes. Maybe someone had.
Jeff Boedges: I’m sure someone used Comic Sans for sure. As long as they’re not using Times New Roman, I’m okay.
Ophelia Chong: It’s coming back.
Rick Kiley: Oh, that’s going to happen.
Ophelia Chong: Oh yeah, lemonade is a good one too.
Rick Kiley: Opal’s going to use it.
Ophelia Chong: Oh, and they did. It’s going to be cool. Yeah, it’s going to bring it back. But the thing is, what your issue is who is your market? There is no soccer mom. That soccer mom is a myth because if you’re talking about that’s basically a Karen, a blonde white lady in a van.
Jeff Boedges: I think Karens could actually use it.
Rick Kiley: When did that image become the scariest one in America suddenly? Like oh my god.
Jeff Boedges: They’re going to get guns.
Rick Kiley: Yeah, you’re right.
Ophelia Chong: Whoever sells the most Revlon blonde in that city has got the most of them. So, who is your market? That is what your issue is. Who is that market? Who? And are you selling it recreationally? Are you selling as medicine? And they’re two completely different things because a scotch, you’re not selling as, “It’s good medicine for you.”
Rick Kiley: Well, there was this one time but yes.
Ophelia Chong: Cigarettes, yes. Remember cigarettes, the T-zone? And they had doctors holding it and says it’s good for you and the doctor’s holding a cigarette. Back then they tried to sell it then and then, of course, look at where we are now. Your issue is your brand. Is it going to go for medicine, the tinctures, and topicals? Or is it going for edibles and smoke? Where is it going to fall? And then who is that buyer? Your buyer now is probably 27 to about 60 but then again in that group, it’s completely different as well.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. Is it your sense that the intake is starting to segment its way medically and recreationally like you just said that tinctures and capsules and powder are really where medical users are going and smoking and I guess vaping and edibles are all recreational like is there not crossover? Or you think that’s just like starting to naturally happen?
Ophelia Chong: It started when Hemp Farm Bill came in and hemp was legal. It was you’re able to legally grow it. Kentucky is covered in hemp. And so, what you came out of that is hemp-based CBD. They are trying to take that medical mantle on, right? And of course, there’s a lot of fraud and a lot of scams in there too. But you’re noticing like say Kiehl’s, they have a Cannabis sativa which has all CBD removed from it. Basically, it’s selling olive oil without the olive in it. So, that’s how they can get away with it and selling it across state lines.
Rick Kiley: Wait. What?
Ophelia Chong: Yeah. Look into it. There’s no CBD in it at all. It’s called cannabis sativa oil so it’s olive oil without the olive.
Rick Kiley: I just want to point out that that’s just oil.
Ophelia Chong: Yeah. It’s just oil. But people, the public don’t see that. They go, “Oh, it’s got this. It must have cannabinoids and CBD must be really good for me.” So, it became really good seller.
Jeff Boedges: It’s got electrolytes.
Ophelia Chong: Yeah. Let me just lick a block of salt then I’ll get more out of it or eat a banana. So, CBD has started taking on that hemp-based anyways, that medical mantle because you notice a lot of brands now are selling as tinctures, balms, and capsules, and gummies. Florida is the home of the CBD gummy. They’re all bad. They’re all bad.
Rick Kiley: Wait. They’re all bad? Alright. Bad CBD, I mean.
Ophelia Chong: They did so many test on those things where it had no CBD in it at all.
Rick Kiley: That’s too bad.
Ophelia Chong: But now because you look at the COAs, it’s minimal but on the cannabis side is more going towards recreational, edibles, really good flower, some tinctures. If you look at like Headset, when you had Headset, if you look at what’s selling the most is flower.
Rick Kiley: It’s flower, yeah.
Ophelia Chong: Flower. Well, vapes was, pre-rolls and vapes. Those are three things and that’s where you’re going to head towards, it’s recreation.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. Okay.
Ophelia Chong: And then tinctures and all that stuff is way at the bottom.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. It’s okay. I like a good tincture. So, you know that we’re events guys, and you’ve been in this industry for a little while. I’m curious if you’ve ever had…
Jeff Boedges: You get invited to the best events, by the way.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. You’ve got to have a good one you’ve been invited to. What has been like a cannabis event that you’ve been to in the past that you think was really cool, really well done, something like that?
Jeff Boedges: That was legal.
Rick Kiley: Yeah, the legal one.
Jeff Boedges: Yeah. Not your friend’s backyard.
Ophelia Chong: Or my backyard. The first legal one I went to was High Times in Colorado when I launched Stockpot on 420. Oh, no, actually, I went to the San Bernardino before that one. And if you’ve ever been to California and I ever said San Bernardino to you, you go, “Hoo Ha.” Basically, it’s not where you want to go. So, that’s what they have here. So, San Bernardino, I’m going to High Times. I look like this. So, I’m walking around. I go, “Wow. There’s a lot of half-naked ladies,” you know, all this sexualizing that and, man, there’s a lot of kids in here buying a lot of weed. This is before Prop 64. And so, as a joke, I looked at a bunch of kids and I went, “Tommy, get in the f*cking car.” And they all looked at me and they go, “Is that your mom? Is that your mom? Is that your mom?” So, I was there on myself and so I walked around. That was my first experience.
Rick Kiley: Great. I’m totally stealing that idea.
Ophelia Chong: Oh my god. It’s like, “Get in the caravan now! I see you!”
Jeff Boedges: So, that’s just mean.
Rick Kiley: That’s hysterical.
Ophelia Chong: No one knew who I was. Basically, I’m a short Chinese lady who looked totally out of place. Then from there, things are getting really nicer. There was smaller events with sommeliers and also, I worked as one too for a couple of clients where I had bar setup where you could test all our flowers and I had a vape exhale set up so that everyone could vape the flower which is better because you set the temperature. And I’ll use alcohol wipes. Everything was always clean. Even back then I was very anal-retentive. And I’ve been to my first infused dinner was with Chris Sayegh. It was beautiful.
Rick Kiley: I’m very curious about that type of experience.
Jeff Boedges: Yeah.
Ophelia Chong: Oh, it was beautiful. It was my first one because then also I went through the Flow Kana one which was totally like, oh my god. But anyhow, so the first one I went to was Chris Sayegh and every plate was infused unless you did not want something. And he said, “There’s only 1 milligram in each plate.” I said, “All right.” No, there wasn’t. After that beautiful dinner, I drove home because I live in Los Feliz in Hollywood. So, basically, it was maybe a five-mile drive. Drove home. It took me 20 minutes to get into my driveway, which is a straight on driveway. Because I was so stoned that I kept saying, “I’m going to hit the house. I’m going to hit the house. I’m going to hit.” So, I was backing in and out. I said, “I’m never going to do this again.” So, Uber’d after that. The Flow Kana launch party that was in this beautiful, covered city warehouse. It had a wall living, you know, the succulents thing and long community tables, beautiful wooden, roughhewn tables, and they brought out these plates. They go, “Now, we’re going to start with a sativa pre-roll. Please take one.” And I’m going, “F*ck yeah.”
Now, I kept thinking, “If you’re not going to take that, can I have yours?” And so, we’re smoking sativa starting because they want to start you high first, energetic supposedly. Sativa, indica, that’s all bullsh*t. Anyway, so you’re smoking that and you get your dinner, your side dish, and then dinner to bring you in a hybrid, “Here’s your hybrid.” I was smoking out. There’s puffing. And then at dinner at dessert, they bring, “Here’s your indica because we want you to mellow down.” And I thought, “You’re not smoking that. Can I have that? Can I have your pre-roll?” By the time I got home I had hell a lot of pre-rolls, because I have no shame.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. But did you keep them in separate pockets so you knew which was which? Or were they all just…
Ophelia Chong: No. They had the label. They’re all labeled. And then another beautiful event was the Emerald Outpost, which was set in Malibu up in the hills and there were all yurts there. Each brand had a yurt or a tent. So, you’d go in, you smoke, you can buy stuff. This is all pre-Prop 64. So, you can buy flower from Humboldt, everything. Smoking, you can eat it, sit there and chill in Malibu. Those were beautiful events. Gorgeous. Not legal anymore. So, unfortunately, when Prop 64 came in, a lot of that went out the door. Because pre-64 when I was judging for High Times, I would get 36 entries. In each entry, I was given almost an ounce. So, basically, I walked out the door over two pounds of weed.
Rick Kiley: Good lord.
Ophelia Chong: Post-64, you’re only allowed to travel with one ounce of weed. So, if you can imagine 24 entries separated into 1 ounce. So, basically, you were given…
Rick Kiley: Those are nickel bags.
Ophelia Chong: Oh no, your nickel. You’re lucky you got nickel bags. It’s the size of this. So, Prop 64 changed the events from this beautiful freewheeling buy it here experiential events to lockdown. Well, here’s another thing. Well, I’ll let you talk. I hate yoga and if you put yoga at another cannabis event, I’ll shoot you. Yes, because there was so many events with that.
Rick Kiley: It’s like seven-eights of my ideas. Okay.
Ophelia Chong: Everyone’s mixing those two together. And every time they had an event that had yoga, no one took part in the yoga thing. You’ll see the poor yoga lady going, “Anyone? Anyone? Anyone would like to do yoga?” And everyone go, “F*ck that. We’re just sitting here smoking. Yeah, I’m not going to bend over. F*ck that.” So, when they tried to mix the spiritual with the events, it just did not work for me because…
Rick Kiley: Yeah, interesting. No, that’s good. It’s good to know because I think people…
Ophelia Chong: Bumper cars and weed, much better.
Rick Kiley: I could see that. Yeah, I mean, I think if it’s recreational, weed is fun. People want to have fun but I totally see brands that are trying to sort of ride a kind of like wellness sort of message and we interweave that into their brand that they may be trying to position in like kombucha.
Ophelia Chong: Yeah. It’s a low-hanging fruit, yoga.
Rick Kiley: All right. That’s great. We’re getting towards at the end of our time here and I think one thing and, Jeff, I’m down to one of your questions towards the bottom here. It’s been a couple of months since you founded your last company. So, I’m curious as to what’s coming next. Why have you not put up a new company, Ophelia?
Ophelia Chong: Well, there’s a landing page now. It’s called The Short Yellow Gnome and it launched in September, and it’s not cannabis. It’s…
Rick Kiley: You can say it.
Ophelia Chong: Legal mushrooms.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. Alright.
Ophelia Chong: But in a way, I can’t tell you exactly. Well, because you’re going to put this on September. Okay. Maybe I can. So, I’ve been growing mushrooms of all kinds for quite a few years. And so, I’m now going to develop. It’s only local to LA but you guys, okay, mid-century glass, black depression glass, cranberry glass, vintage Corning Ware filled with living mushrooms of multiple colors but they’re all one-off pieces. It’s only in LA so that’s what I’ll be starting in September.
Jeff Boedges: That’s pretty cool.
Ophelia Chong: And they’re edible. They’re legal mushrooms.
Jeff Boedges: Okay. And how are you sourcing?
Rick Kiley: She keeps saying the word legal.
Jeff Boedges: Hitting all the thrift stores and trading spots.
Ophelia Chong: Oh, God, I go to so many dead people’s homes.
Jeff Boedges: Do they know? I hope they know like, yeah.
Ophelia Chong: Oh, no, they can’t know. They’re dead.
Jeff Boedges: Well, you know, the families.
Ophelia Chong: Yeah. No, they’re state sales, a lot of state sales.
Rick Kiley: That’s fine.
Ophelia Chong: Yeah, I went to one who was a dead drummer for a big band yesterday and, god damn, this guy was into Rococo but a lot of beautiful pieces in there. So, if you can picture Murano glass, Blanco, like I’ve been collecting all these stuff for decades anyhow but those pieces filled with pink and blue and black and gray and golden and pearl colored mushroom.
Jeff Boedges: Can I walk around your house when I come? Next time, I want to do a tour.
Ophelia Chong: Oh, yeah. I’m in Los Feliz. You can see the grow rooms too with a fungus in there. Yes.
Rick Kiley: Very nice. Did the fungi play nice with the hemp plants, with the cannabis plants?
Ophelia Chong: I don’t grow weed anymore. Yeah, I’m over it.
Rick Kiley: All right. Run to the next thing. Next thing is mushrooms. Cool. Awesome. So, I guess, being involved in the industry as you have, where do you see it going next? We’re kind of getting to the end where we always ask the same question but do you have any predictions about what’s going to happen next for cannabis?
Ophelia Chong: It’s a commodity already and already is multi-state operators. So, it’s a commodity. It’s going to be liquor. It’s going to be not as much as cigarettes. It’s going to be liquor. You’re going to have different brands. You’re going to have top-shelf. You’re going to have well, and it’s going to be marketed in the same way. Like you can market one scotch put in different segments. So, you’re going to have different messages for each of those groups, for the older people and for the younger people. It’s a commodity now.
Rick Kiley: How do medical and recreational play nicely together? Like is it possible? Do you think it’s possible for those two sort of camps to coexist as more states make one or both legal?
Jeff Boedges: There’s really no medicinal alcohol industry.
Rick Kiley: Yeah, I think that’s the question when you say that and I believe you too, like, I totally see it going that direction. We agree but like the medicinal brands, I wonder about how that’s going to work.
Ophelia Chong: Well, medicinal brands is like your dad teaching you how to ride a bicycle, right? You got your training wheels. That’s your medicinal. Once you take those training wheels off, it’s recreational. So, medicinal is an easy way for a state to enter cannabis in a way to say it’s medicine. Because if you say it’s recreational, you’re going to freak out a lot of people.
Rick Kiley: So, a state’s medicinal program is essentially the gateway to a pathologist.
Ophelia Chong: Training wheel.
Rick Kiley: Got it. Cool. So, then that leads us to the question we always conclude with which is we have this federal prohibition. We started this podcast part under the belief that we are marching towards federal legality. Do you believe that that’s going to happen? And if so, when? Put your vote up on the big board.
Ophelia Chong: It will because I think what we’re at 6.6 trillion in debt.
Rick Kiley: That’s it.
Ophelia Chong: Yeah. Drop in a bucket. We’re going to be looking for more tax revenue. And so, states are going to have to just bite the joint and say, “Raise money somehow.”
Rick Kiley: Suck on that bong. We’re going to work about that phrase a little bit, I think.
Jeff Boedges: Ophelia, you’ve dominated the memorable soundbite contest we’ve been having.
Rick Kiley: Bite the joint. Oh, man. All right. Cool. So, first of all, thank you.
Ophelia Chong: You’re welcome.
Rick Kiley: You’ve been an amazing guest and we love people who talk a lot. We’re not that interesting so we want to hear other people talk. That’s great.
Jeff Boedges: That’s why we have more interesting people.
Rick Kiley: Absolutely.
Jeff Boedges: If it’s Jeff and Rick show, no one’s doing that.
Rick Kiley: Yeah.
Ophelia Chong: Like Ren and Stimpy.
Jeff Boedges: Exactly.
Rick Kiley: We’re good at that. So, if someone wanted to find out more about you, more about what you’re doing, if they want to come visit your mushroom shop, what’s the best way for them to connect with you? Where do you want people to go?
Ophelia Chong: Basically, you can just google me and find there’s so many ways through that. That way or they can go to The Short Yellow Gnome and just email me through there.
Rick Kiley: Short Yellow Gnome.
Ophelia Chong: I’m short, I’m yellow, and I’m a gnome.
Rick Kiley: All right.
Jeff Boedges: Okay.
Rick Kiley: Yeah. Cool. Well, again, Ophelia, thank you so much for joining us today on The Green Repeal. You’ve been a great guest, and we’ll catch everybody next time. Hopefully, you can come back and talk to us another day.
Ophelia Chong: Thank you. It’s been an honor to speak to you guys.
Jeff Boedges: Yeah, I’m serious. I’m coming to see you when I come to California next. I got to see all this Corning Ware.
Rick Kiley: We’re going to have one of these parties.
Ophelia Chong: Up in the hills.
Rick Kiley: One of those illegal yurt parties.
Ophelia Chong: Yeah.
Rick Kiley: All right. Cheers.