Ophelia Chong on Stock Pot Images and Women Doing Great Things in Cannabis
Ophelia Chong is founder of Stock Pot Images and Asian Americans for Cannabis Education (AACE). She is driven to help shape the new conversation of cannabis and is guided by one mission: to advocate for the legalization of cannabis and psilocybin and offer truthful reflections of the faces and communities that embrace both.
As executive producer for DoubleBlind magazine's series on mushroom growing, Chong is also continuing her work with the DB community with a class series with Dr. Del Potter.
We spoke with Chong for this inaugural edition of Higher Calling, our new cannabis Q&A series profiling leaders in the cannabis space.
Ophelia, tell us ...
Your current role in the cannabis industry, and where you're based.
Advocate based in Los Feliz, a quaint area in Los Angeles.
Your earliest cannabis memory.
Telling the cops that all is "a-okay" when I had a house full of friends my senior year in high school. My best friend had a joint hanging out of his shirt pocket and he was smiling right next to me.
A story about the positive impact cannabis has had on your life.
When I created Stock Pot Images, it was to dispel the propaganda and stigmatisms of cannabis users. When I began to see the changes in mainstream marketing, I saw my own work and designs being used by others. I knew that the years of work was making a dent in the perception of the wonderful plant cannabis.
A favorite flower, edible, product or brand.
My favorite strain is grown by the Santa Cruz Veterans Alliance, Super Sour Diesel. I am of the heavier, denser connoisseur of the more "dank" flowers; I love the fullness and robust flavors from the "fuel" flowers.
The biggest challenge cannabis marketers face today.
Where can you market. Online and traditional advertising are controlled by each state, county and city; each can have different or opposing rules. One day a billboard is fine in one area, and a month later it is not. It is a full-time job to understand and read all the bylaws regarding each area and online. Any marketer should have someone well-versed in each area so that they can create a campaign for a client correctly and not lose money over not reading the fine print.
One thing you're excited about right now in cannabis branding, partnerships or marketing.
The most exciting part of cannabis is how each state sets the rules. Oklahoma is really the wild west that California promised to be, whereas California is strangling the small to medium-sized brands with over-taxation, testing and changing labeling rules. I am also excited to see the industry embrace other product lines other than the traditional chocolate and gummy edible.
A cannabis trade/social justice organization that you support and why.
As the founder of Asian Americans for Cannabis Education. I am one of the few APIs pushing forward the community. I focus on entrepreneurs to the ones on the ground working in cannabis. As for other organizations, I am in support of Supernova Women, a group of African American cannabis advocates who work toward social equity and an even playing ground.
A recent project you're proud of.
One that I created that wasn't recent but still resonates with me is a Veterans Internship program, the first of its kind in 2017. I offered 12 weeks paid internships to veterans who wanted to learn how to grow indoor cannabis at a large cultivation in downtown Los Angeles. We supported them with books and visits from other notable cannabis advocates. I also had them interviewed by national and local press to tell the stories of their use for PTSD. To this day I am still in contact with half my cohort who are still in the industry.
Someone else's project you admired recently.
I admire many many women and their push to create their own space in the industry. One that I admire is Karyn Wagner. She came from a background of owning a well-known restaurant and bar in New York City to becoming one of the top saleswomen in health supplements. She went into cannabis and became a top cultivator up in Garberville, winning many awards for her extracts and flower. She is now making her mark in infused cannabis joints and selling out before they are made. I admire her strength and determination to climb the Prop 64 mountains of legal paperwork to legalization and still be standing tall in our industry uncompromised.
Someone you admire in cannabis who's doing great things.
Maha Haq, an Asia American of Pakistani heritage. She created the first Cannabis Club at UCLA and grew it to over 10 more university campuses. She helped educate her peers and made cannabis acceptable to them. She graduated last year and will be continuing to pursue her M.S. in Pharmaceutical Studies at the University of Maryland, at the School of Pharmacy, the first cannabis graduate program in the nation.
What music, movie, TV show or food do you find most enjoy pairing with cannabis?
I love sitting in my hammock with my headphones on and listening to … punk, new wave of the mid-'80s to the late '90s. I am a nut for Iggy Pop, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bowie, Spandau Ballet, the Clash, Psychedelic Furs, the Pixies, STP, the Ramones…
What you'd be doing if you weren't in the cannabis industry?
I would still be in the publishing industry designing monographs and magazines. And creating book covers and making art. My letterpress and collages have been featured in multiple books and shows. I really do miss the hands-on part of my past world. Now that we are in this enforced semi-vacation, I've been getting back to my art.