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Ophelia Chong: Why We Should All Grow Cannabis at Home

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Ophelia Chong
PHOTO | Josh Fogel

In the space of four short years, Ophelia Chong has become an indomitable force in cannabis. The founder of StockPot Photography came into the cannabis industry through family illness and quickly realized there was much work to be done around changing the stigma of cannabis and its users.

A stunning amount of poise and grace adorn her razor-sharp eye and wit. These characteristics have led her through an illustrious career in design advertising and imagery for top-level clients.

She is one of those pushing for all of us to grow cannabis at home — and she leads with her actions. So when you read her words, know that it is preceded with plenty of action.  

Cannabis Aficionado: Tell us, who is Ophelia Chong?

Ophelia Chong: Let’s start with the physical. I was born in Toronto, Canada. I became an American citizen in 2000 which I’m very thankful for. Considering our political climate right now, I might not have been able to get in and it would be a harder road today to becoming a citizen. I came down here and graduated back in ‘89 from the Art Center College of Design.

I went into photography to support myself and was hired by David Carson at Ray Gun. I shot for them for about three years. I followed him after he left Ray Gun and worked for about a year for his clients. Because I was in that business of shooting bands and art I was hired by many other labels as well and eventually came up on the radar of some film companies.

One in specific was Strand Releasing, and they are a niche. It was right around the time of Sex, Lies and Videotape… Sundance just started bursting out. I was involved with that because the company I was at acquired a lot of films for Sundance, Toronto Film Festival, Berlin and New York, Outfest, that were in our niche. We were always on the fringe. Plus, a lot of LBGTQ.

What was the majority of the work you were doing at this time?

I was a creative director, so marketing films, designing and we were a very small company, so everyone did a lot — but we did a lot. We either released on DVD or video and also theatrical, probably about 50 films a year. Because of that, I joined Slamdance film festival, which runs congruent with Sundance, for 10 years as their creative director. Releasing and directing their film festivals and all that. Chris Nolan had his first film with us at Slamdance.

Then let’s fast-forward to Jennifer Aniston where I got snagged from a film company to design her website, which no longer exists. And I’m not going to say the URL because if you go there, it’s all porn. Someone snagged that all of her real quick. Then from there to publishing; I designed monographs for about 10 books over four years. So, a large monograph. Then I went to magazine design and a lot of illustration as well. Book covers, for Simon & Schuster and I am featured in about 10 books with my illustration work. A lot of work by hand and letterpress. I’ve had many gallery shows, my work is at Saatchi and Saatchi in letterpress. Everything I do, I love it, it just seems to get out there.

 

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Popping seeds this weekend #growroom #DNAGenetics #PRHBTD 🙏🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱🌱🌟

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What was the catalyst for your transition into cannabis?

I discovered cannabis in 2015 so I’m a very late comer. I’m not an OG. I’m not one of those people that are out there with Dennis Peron. I’m not going lay claim to that.

I got involved in it for personal reasons. My sister is very ill, she started to use cannabis to relieve some of her issues. She is still on it she is on CBD. And that’s why I came into weed, so we can fast forward to all of this.

So, you didn’t really have interactions with cannabis younger in your life as a designer and an artist?

No, because on March 18 I just celebrated 14 years being sober. That’s sobriety from alcohol. Because of that, in those 14 years, I had to abstain from everything. Because if you are in AA, you can’t say well I can do this, but I can’t do that.

In the last five years, I had to really make the decision to be in this industry. If I’m going to be consuming this, what do I do? So, I made a plan for myself; “OK, so you can start by trying an edible. Then you can only have it at night after your work.”

I have to set up these boundaries for myself. And I still adhere to it now. I only will have one joint at night after I finish working. Usually after eight or nine and if I need to, I’ll take an edible to go to sleep. Because I know my own habits and how I operate and if I don’t control it in that way, it can get out of hand.

What is it about edibles that you like?

It’s going back into working with how your brain works. An edible is not food, but it can be considered food because you’re chewing and tasting. So, I went that way at first. It took me about six months after I was in cannabis to actually smoke a joint. Because there was an inherent fear of falling off the wagon. That was my biggest issue because I had worked so hard to stay sober, so I really needed to work a way that I can smoke and still manage my obsessive compulsiveness. Because alcohol is that. It’s about drinking so much or telling yourself you’re not an alcoholic because you don’t drink on weekdays but you do get flipped on weekends. But that still an alcoholic, it’s the mindset that you use to justify something. I needed to work my way through all that.

So now I really do enjoy smoking and ingesting an edible or a tincture. But in public, if I am driving, I will not smoke because I know the effects of driving under the influence of alcohol. With cannabis, I know how it affects me, I get very tired, basically, it helps me sleep, so I know I can’t do that when I’m driving.

I don’t need to show someone I am in the business by smoking in front of them. They need to understand my reasons why I can’t. I do believe though if you are in this industry, you do need to smoke. I’m not going to hold it against you if you’re not smoking it right there in then. I’m not going to use it as a litmus test like that. Hopefully, people don’t use that on me when I say, “Hey, I would love to, but I just can’t right now.”

PHOTO | Josh Fogel

Could you speak a little bit more to what you’ve noticed about the ability to use cannabis and have it not affect your alcoholism? What is that discovery like?

Part of alcoholism is the need to disentangle yourself from reality. I use cannabis to fall asleep. I’m not using it to leave where I am right now to a different reality, right? I’m not doing it to get that high. I’m getting high so I can fall asleep. That is the difference.

With alcohol, I was using it to just get out of my own head because of the pressure I was under. I was at the end when I stopped drinking. I was with a company that was very high pressure and also the people I worked with were alcoholics and previous cocaine addicts. I was in this environment with people who had no filters and no boundaries. Being a people pleaser, I would drink along with them and at one point I just couldn’t do it anymore. I looked at my behaviors and I realized I just had to stop.

With cannabis, when I’m around people that are high it’s different because it is a different type of behavior. As you know a drunk is way different than someone who is stoned. What I’m getting at is for my use I see it differently. I see my use with cannabis as a way to relax and fall asleep not to black out and leave reality. When I’m high, I am still in reality, I am still experiencing everything as it is, and I am able to experience it on a level that alcohol wouldn’t let me.

There must have been some trepidation the first time you use cannabis having been an alcoholic?

A little. By the time I did try I had done enough research because I was also creating Stockpot at the same time. I did a huge dive into what cannabis is, the history. I bought a lot of books. I did a lot of research online plus I did a lot of cold calling and ask people “Can you help me?”

It seems like you took your first cannabis consumption on as a design project, doing all the research before you even took one step?

I wanted to know what it was and get past the propaganda. The reason I started Stockpot was to get away from how we viewed cannabis consumers. Because my sister was a consumer, I looked at her and I thought “Man, she’s a stoner” but then again, after I thought that in my head, here I am, a person of color stereotyping my sister, who is ill and about 80 pounds and calling her something that was derogatory in my head. That is the moment I created Stockpot to change my perception of who my sister is… basically that was it. Because how can I do this to her and then I realize it’s because this is the image that I have been fed? So then going into it, if I were going to sell this, then I needed to know what it was.

I did all the research and considered my habits and dipped my toe in. Then I did the foot and then the whole body. Then my whole bucket list. Now also I have images of psilocybin. So now I’ve been microdosing mushrooms because I need to know the effects. If I’m going to sell these images I need to be able to talk about it authentically. Plus, I’m going to be growing them too.

 

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Good morning ladies #dnagenetics #joecanna

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Speaking of growing, you’re vocal about people growing their own plants?

When I first started Stockpot I went to see a woman up in San Luis Obispo. I call her a white witch, she has an amazing house that almost looks like Goldilocks. Or Hansel and Gretel. But she doesn’t make kids into cookies, she makes weed into cookies. She opened up this mason jar and she said “Open up your hand,” she gave me a few seeds. “They are not feminized and what you were going to do is you are going to go home and you’re going to grow this. This is the only way you’re going to know what this is.”

That first year I grew 23 plants. Probably only had three males. I brought them all the way up to harvest, cured, trimmed. I did everything so I knew this whole friggin plant. I even would call people and say “Can you bring over your magnifying glass to see if she’s ready to harvest yet.” He would say “Ophelia, look at the resin, look at the color look at the trichomes, this is when it’s ready.”

After that I didn’t do that many, I do about ten now because that’s what I can manage. But it was growing a plant all the way from seed to smoking it that made me appreciate what it is. Also learn every part of it, because if I’m going to sell this I need to know everything about it. Convincingly right? So that’s the story of that part of where I am now to destigmatizing my sister to growing the plant plus opening up Stockpot.

How are you getting the message out?

I made three posts on Facebook. First one was if you were going to be in this industry you should be growing a plant. A plant, right? I got a lot of blowback from that. The second one was you should at least smoke it. I got some blowback from that. And the third one after getting a lot of feedback I posted well you don’t have to smoke it or grow you just have to have a really great marketing plan which was capitulation. First I poke the bear but then the whole leg goes up his ass.

It was interesting reading the comments such as “I can’t grow but I still love the plant” and “I live in an apartment and I can’t grow,” which is fine. Or “I can’t grow because I don’t want to get arrested because I have kids.” But when I see these comments I’m kind of thinking well the people who grew had all the same reasons. They have been growing since before Prop 215 and I’ll have the same reasons. But they did it anyway to get you here, to where you are now.

It was slightly ironic in that point where I can’t do this because I have these excuses yet they are trying to build a business off the people who had all the same excuses but went ahead.

One guy even asked me who is Dennis Peron and Prop 215? And he claims to have been growing since fleeing to Colorado so that his kid, who unfortunately did pass away, could get hemp oil right. He asked me who is Dennis and why are you saying LBGTQ is behind this? Then I realized we are even in worse trouble than I thought.

One of Chong’s infamous Facebook posts.

There is a serious lack of education about the history and the heritage upon which this whole thing is built.

Exactly. And probably those three posts brought out a lot of that. The fact is, if you have great marketing then you can get away with it. There are CEOs of cannabis companies who don’t smoke or have never touched a plant. I just really believe if you were going to be a fervent advocate of cannabis at least know the stages of the plant or just learn what it is.

I’m not expecting someone who wants to take pills to go and make Tylenol from scratch, that’s unreasonable. They are not scientists. But to grow something is human. That is how we feed ourselves. It’s from day one of the human race that we had to grow to eat. The fact that you can’t or you don’t want to grow something that you are involved in really speaks to me about why are you here. Because humankind grew to eat right? And to feed their animals, that they then ate as well, or they got milk from. So, it is natural for us to grow something because we have to feed ourselves.

But now we are in this consumer society where you could just go to the store and get some nice package in a nice styrofoam dish with some plastic wrapper that’s containing an animal that’s been slaughtered that you never came in contact with. It’s just a piece of them. Or a bag of carrots, we have no connection anymore to our agrarian roots.

Also, I’m really observant. I was a very shy kid growing up, so I would just sit in the back of the class and just watch everybody and everything. I learn how to be very observant and also watch body language and be that. Now just observing the people in our industry — and again, I’ve only been in it for five years — is very interesting. It is divided into certain groups. And those memes I create talk about those groups. I try not to be too mean. What I do see is the ones that come in for monetary reasons. And then the group that has been in it for at least ten years that are seeing this new group come in and making money, or at least trying to make money. And then you see the group that was 20 or 30 years ago basically working on and living on handouts. Or no one knows their name.

The group now that is making the 18 karat gold vapes get all the media play because they are shiny, they are new, they are young, they are fun. But there are people that have been in it for a long time, like Pebbles Trippet right? She’s not young, she’s not blonde, she doesn’t post the side boob on Instagram. I would say not a lot of people know who she is, but they should. She is one of the few reasons why they able to sell 18 karat gold vapes.

What really ticks me off is that they don’t have any respect for this or where it came from. Of course, I’m involved with some of those people but I’m always taken back when they don’t at least acknowledge where it came from. Especially looking at many of the comment online from people in the industry saying who is Dennis Peron and what is Prop 215? I had to basically send the guy a Wikipedia link to it and say this is the group that made the way for your CBD company. Have some respect for it. Because it didn’t begin with you. So that’s a big issue. Respecting the elders, because they are almost gone.

You are asking the cannabis world to learn how to use design thinking in their process. And the first thing you do in design thinking is you understand history and do research.

Exactly. So well put. We need design thinking in our industry. And I’m not talking about great looking packaging. I am talking about the design thinking of fundamental empathy for the customer and the product. Did you do your research? Did you do your homework? Did you get in and dig in the dirt? Did you throw down and pay tribute and understand whose shoulders you’re standing on, and then, start standing? It’s fine to stand on the shoulders of giants as long as you know and respect who those giants are.

There’s a great designer that I respect whose name is Mau. He put out a book called Massive Change. There is a great quote in there which I feel really reflects cannabis is this one. “Most of the time we live our lives within these invisible systems, blissfully unaware of the artificial life of the intensely designed infrastructures that support them.”

So, for me, this is about cannabis. These people that are coming in now are blissfully and intentionally unaware of what built it, and what supports them. That ignorance, this is what happens when the ignorance hits. When they see that it’s invisible, that’s when their businesses are going to fail.

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Lady Jane Society Hosts First Women in Cannabis Central Valley Retreat

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Lady Jane Society
PHOTO | Stephanie Baker Photography

The Lady Jane Society, a Central California-based event company, hosted its inaugural event for women in the cannabis industry on October 4-5, 2019 at the scenic Bella Forrest venue in Hilmar, CA. Nestled in a private forest located just off the Merced River, the Women in Cannabis Central Valley retreat brought together female leaders, influencers and educators from throughout the nation to the scenic location — many of whom made the trek from Sacramento, the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington state and Florida,

The Lady Jane Society retreat spotlighted the regional Central Valley cannabis industry and featured sponsorships, speakers, and pop-up shops from local businesses such as Legacy Nursery, and Lyfted Farms — both based in Modesto, CA — Sisters of the Valley, Mission Nurseries/Don Primo, and Highway 33 Cannabis Club. Meals were prepared by local eateries Greens on Tenth and Traveling Pizza. 

The event was held in the secluded, magical grove of fig trees, creating a natural, whimsical outdoor setting protected from the elements  lit by sun rays in the daylight and hanging lights in the evening. Dotted throughout the luscious landscape were lounging areas, and vendors offering infused goodies and decked out accessories. 

PHOTO | Melissa Hutsell

Also on site was the multi-media social movement This is Jane Project, Peace of Mind 209, Wind Valley Apothecary, Custom Blingggs, Potency No. 710 skincare, and clothing and accessories from White Buffalo Spirit, Collective Hearts jewelry, among more pop-up shops. 

Attendees were treated to a plethora of infused goodies, which included CBD sparkling waters from DayTrip, THC-infused coffee from SomaTik, pre-rolls from Sexxpot, and a dab bar courtesy of Eel River Organics.

PHOTO | Stephanie Baker Photography

Guests also sipped on mocktails and cocktails from Humboldt Apothecary and enjoyed activities such as Sparked — an interactive card game created to uplift and celebrate women — before ending the first evening with a collective ‘cheers’, made possible by Lyfted Farms pre-rolls. 

The weekend’s agenda emphasized education, networking and the celebration of all who were in attendance.

MC’ed by Kay Ramirez, aka Mskindness B, the speaker series spotlighted community building and women in the supply chain.

Lady Jane Society

PHOTO | Stephanie Baker Photography

The panel included Jennina Chiavetta of Legacy Nursery, who spoke about breeding, genetics and building a canna-company in her hometown of Modesto, Wendy Kornberg of Sunnabis Farms spoke on cultivation, Angela Kadara of MediZen discussed manufacturing, Margot Wampler of Fenix Distribution, Kimberly Cargile of A Therapeutic Alternative talked about retail, Jaqueline McGowan of the Facebook group California City and County Watch spoke about policy, Manndie Tingler of Khemia talked about community building and Scheril Murray Powell, Attorney, who made the journey to California from Florida to speak about civic engagement.

Kyra Reed, co-founder of LJS, said the event was an offline manifestation of what the group has been cultivating on the Women Empowered in Cannabis (WEiC) Facebook group: “encouragement, empowerment through honest dialogue and sharing of resources,” she adds, “all while in a gorgeous environment that made us all feel like we were in a bubble of support that our emcee, Mskindness B, wrapped us in from the moment our guests arrived.”

PHOTO | Stephanie Baker Photography

In addition to the inspirational and educational speaker series, attendees were also treated to some serious swag. Each ticket holder was sent home with a goodie bags with more than $200 in edible, smokable, wearable and topical cannabis products, including pre-rolls by Sexxpot and Lyfted Farms, snacks from MediZen and SolDaze, CBD oil and capsules from Manitoba Harvest, salves by Sisters of the Valley and more. 

As relaxation was at the heart of the event, attendees received the full retreat experience. 

The second and final day of the retreat opened with a Relaxation and Recharge session, complete with breakfast, guided meditation and CannaBliss Yoga with Michelle Patino, and sound healing with Eliza Moroney, the Cannabis Yogi

Lady Jane Society

PHOTO | Stephanie Baker Photography

During the afternoon, visitors were treated to massages, a taco bar, an afternoon of engaging speakers, and pop-up shops selling clothing, accessories and infused goods. 

As the sun started to set on the final evening of the retreat, more women took the stage for The Lady Jane Society’s Award Ceremony. The society’s co-founder, Kyra Reed, presented scholarships to Oaksterdam, and Cloverleaf University. 

The awards ceremony, sponsored by My Bud Vase, recognized leaders and allies. Awardees included Manndie Tingler of Khemia, educator Amanda Soens, and Ed Breslin and Brian Walker, founders of Making You Better Brands, which include Xternal topical relief sprays.

PHOTO | Stephanie Baker Photography

AnnaMaria Riedinger, founder of Hey Honey! Artisanal Lemonades, said she noticed the doors opening slowly for women in cannabis here in the Central Valley, “not only to connect but to own their truth as team players in the local industry and understanding their success depends on moving forward collectively.”

“As co-founder of the Lady Jane Society, I am so honored to be part of making the space and shift for women wanting solid and authentic lasting relationships,” she added. “I truly believe change begins at the local level, and witnessing the change all weekend was the most heartfelt experience!”

PHOTO | Stephanie Baker Photography

The most important thing women took from the Lady Jane Society event, explains Reed, is that women were given “permission and inspiration to ask for what they want! And the results were real empowerment.”

Many of the women in attendance had little to no cannabis community with other women. “That changed at the event, too,” added Reed. “That is what we wanted — to build community and truly empower women to thrive in their cannabis careers.”

Make sure you don’t miss next year’s Lady Jane Society retreat. Save the Date — the first weekend in October 2020.

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Network in Paradise at the CanEx Jamaica Business Conference & Expo

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CanEx Jamaica
PHOTO | Konstiantyn

According to a new report by Grand View Research, Inc, the global legal cannabis market is expected to reach USD 66.3 billion by the end of 2025. Helped in part by the increasing acceptance of cannabis to treat numerous medical conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, cancer, arthritis, and neurological disorders, along with the lucrative revenue created by legal cannabis sales, there has never been a more crucial time for entrepreneurs and businesses to network and expand their businesses on a global scale.

As one of the leaders in international business-to-business (B2B) events, the CanEx Jamaica Business Conference and Expo brings together top cannabis industry experts from around the globe including the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia and the Caribbean.

Taking place September 26-28 at the Montego Bay Convention Center, in beautiful Montego Bay, the fourth annual CanEx Jamaica Business Conference & Expo features addresses, panel discussions and presentations on a variety of topics — from advocacy, cultivation, science and medicine to investment, banking and finance, and the business of cannabis including women entrepreneurship.

Over 70 world-class speakers and panelists will provide insights into the direction of the global cannabis industry to over 3,000 delegates.

Steve DeAngelo, founder of Harboride dispensary and the Last Prisoner Project, is speaking on two panels — “Post Decriminalization of Cannabis: Towards Restorative Justice” and “Strategic Approaches to Cannabis Investments” to how the investment landscape is evolving.

Bruce Linton, founder of Canopy Growth Corp, the first cannabis producing company in North America to be listed on a major stock exchange, will host a fireside chat with CanEx founder, Douglas K. Gordon.

Former President of Mexico, Vicente Fox, will host “The Global Cannabis Movement” that will explore what globalization means in practical terms for the industry, where things stand presently and the future of the global market.

Cam Battley, Chief Corporate Officer of Aurora Cannabis Inc., will be speaking on the panel “CEO Roundtable: Roadmap to Sustainable Profitability for the Industry” to discuss the global challenges and opportunities facing the cannabis Industry.

Plus, over 200 exhibitors and sponsors, from cultivators to investment firms and media experts will provide attendees opportunities for networking, business expansion and identify new areas of growth within the legal industry.

Held for the first time in 2016, CanEx Jamaica is responsible for connecting cannabis experts, researchers, business professionals, creating new strategic partnerships in a truly memorable and vibrant setting.

For more information, visit canexjamaica.com.

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After 25 Years, Supreme Closes Iconic Lafayette Store

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PHOTO | Supreme

In a move that has shocked through the streetwear community, Supreme has closed its original space on Lafayette after 25 years of business.

Back in February, the brand announced that its famous Lafayette location would be under renovation. Now, due to the unforeseen closure, the 190 Bowery location in Manhattan will now be the brand’s main location in the Big Apple.

 

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Celebrating 25 years. Pooky, Lafayette Street, New York City 1995 📷 @suekwon_

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