Sisamon Fafon and Eunice Kim grew up in cannabis with very different perspectives.
Fafon, 37, founder of the Gulf region and chief executive of Khuenfu, the CBD wellness brand, based on Asian healing traditions, has been a part of her life for as long as she can remember. Her father raised it in the family garden with lemongrass and chili peppers, and her mother used it as a cooking herb (especially in her pho broth, “says Fafon).
Kim, 35, founder and chief executive of the LA-based online cannabis education platform HiVi, became familiar with the plant’s properties much later in life, only five years ago looking for a self-medication for anxiety. And insomnia due to the “hamster wheel” of professional life.
However, Asian Americans (Fafon Lao, of Thai and Cambodian descent, Kim of Korean descent) working in the cannabis field have faced similar stigma and injustice in their own families as well as in the wider Asian community. Using that shared experience as a catalyst, they embarked on an ambitious project to create a pot primer called “Modern Cannabis: An Early Guide to Conscious Consumption” in an effort to increase education and reduce stigma around the plant.
A type of weed 101, it touches on plant history (including the war on drugs), describes conditions such as cannabinoids and turpentine, seeks out consumption methods and offers advice on how to read product labels. It’s not the scope of what makes the project ambitious – it’s mostly basic, entry-level Intel – but that check-in-a-medical-advisory information first appears on 14 pages of English and then translations into 11 Asian languages: Bahasa, Cambodian, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Lao, Malay, Mandarin, Tagalog, Thai and Urdu.
Launched during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, a version of the book was posted online at aapicc.com in early May, distributed free of charge by fellow members of the AAPI Cannabis Collective. Direct-to-consumer channels and dispensary partners.
Prior to the launch, I shared with both women the experiences of zooming out of their cannabis closets, hoping that their project would help others do the same, and talk about some of the challenges they face. The way Below are the highlights of the conversation.
Can you share your ‘Cannabis Coming Out of the Room’ experiences?
Younis Kim: Your family should be the first to know, right? … I kept it quiet until HiVi got its first Forbes feature. I started eating cannabis in 2018, and I entered the industry in 2020 with HiVi as a community platform. And for those two years, they didn’t know it. I think the way Asian parents work is that they like a little bit of outside certification, and Forbes was excellent certification, so I decided to come out of that room with that article.
Sesame Fafon: My close family is cannabis-friendly, but my uncles, aunts and uncles, they were all afraid of it. A cousin with me sent me a direct message and asked me point blank: “Are your products like other products on the market that are full of bad stuff and not safe for you?” … I still had to deal with family members who were stereotyping what I was doing, who were afraid to touch and support it.
How has your family’s attitude changed since you left?
Kim: I am very proud On vacation, I was at home, and we had a low-dose meal … so we’re on the THC train – slowly. Would I smoke a couple with my mom instead of enjoying a glass of wine with him? Probably not. But eating less is a victory.
Fafone: There is a challenge even today. My parents are definitely fine. My mother uses [KhenPhu] Elephant balm [topical] All the time, and my siblings have fun [CBD] Gummies for their regular ailments. But the rest of the family has a challenge to decide what I’m doing.
Kim: Its illegality is alarming, 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, isn’t it? So any illegal is automatically considered bad, no questions asked. And then, through the hype, we see a picture of cannabis … heroin and all these really harmful drugs. The immigrant mentality is that if this is something that can confuse your mind and turn you into someone you are not, that is definitely negative.
Fafone: The fact that you could be arrested for it was a big fear for the community, as it would embarrass your family as well. And not being ashamed is a big thing in the Asian community. If you have a son or daughter abusing marijuana, it brings shame to the family, and then you can’t show your face in the community. And that’s really where there’s a lot of fear and stigma. We also have this big stereotype of being a sample minority. We have to be doctors, we have to be engineers, but seeing a successful stoner is not in that picture. If you smoke, you may not be as successful as your cousin who is a doctor. You’re going to be sofa-locked on your parents’ couch.
Who is the target audience you are trying to reach?
Kim: It’s really for the immigrant community here in America that there may be second generation children who understand or consume but – and this is my case – they are not able to have an intellectual conversation about the science behind it.
What is the relationship between education and distigmatization?
Kim: It is an access to education that has never been more readily available in our mother tongues. Many translators [we worked with] This content was first seen, and some local languages did not even exist – words like “cannabinoid” and “terpenes” – these words do not exist in our Asian languages. Making it feel as small as translating it into different languages is a big step to discredit it, as it makes it more accessible.
I think it brings together more than 40 different AAPI founders and leaders in this space – as sponsors, supporters, creators and collaborators – to expand it. I think it makes a big statement to the Asian community that it’s not just Sesame and me who are the Asian founders in space.
Fafone: The whole book was a challenge for our translators, but of course the long forms of cannabinoids like THC – tetrahydrocannabinol – were challenging. For our Cambodian translator, I had to record my voice reading literally every cannabinoid so that they could understand how it was pronounced in English so that they could translate correctly into Khmer, because they had no words.
Looks like you’re traveling some seriously unknown waters with this project.
Fafone: If you think about it, this country is full of a lot of refugee immigrants, and how did they learn about our different systems in this country? We had to translate for them. There are many translations in Spanish and Mandarin to help educate people who do not speak or read English, so why not? How do we help them understand the plant if they can’t read about it?
Kim: It is also about misinformation and misinformation in general. With so much content at our fingertips, it’s so easy to get sidetracked and deceived, which perpetuates a kind of stigma and stereotypes. That’s why we’re using educational materials tested and certified by our medical consultant, who has been an integrated medical practitioner for over 28 years, who understands science, understands the latest research. It is really important to ensure that the right education is now translated and accessible to our communities.
How do you know if your endeavor is successful?
Kim: Community welcome. We know that it will not be achieved by open arms as we – in an ideal world – would love to see it. But we want to see that change and we want to hear stories from the younger generations in our community, “Look, look. We’ve shared the book and [its] Satisfied with our parents, our grandparents. And we’re starting to have that explicit conversation “or” they’re trying products instead of leaning on their prescriptions. “We’re excited to see that change – even if it’s late.
I would like to remind the community that Asians have been consuming cannabis for thousands of years
– Younis Kim, founder and chief executive of HiVi
Fafone: Keep an open mind about what we are sharing.
Kim: I would like to remind the community that Asians have been consuming cannabis for thousands of years. It has been a healing plant for generations to come. The Chinese have used the first record of this plant. So whatever complicated journey it is going through, remember it and get back to our roots.