We’re celebrating AAPI month at L.A. Weekly and taking a look at a couple of Asian Americans absolutely crushing the cannabis and hemp spaces they’re underrepresented in.
Despite new data in recent years placing the ancient origins of cannabis on the Tibetan Plateau, Asian Americans have long been wildly underrepresented in the U.S. cannabis industry. Thankfully, over the course of the 2010s, that began to change.
While there is still work to be done diversifying the racial representation in the highest echelons of cannabis and hemp, where stakeholders and policymakers plot the future of the industry, things are certainly getting better.
On the CBD side of things, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone who has had a bigger impact over the last five years than VETCBD founder Dr. Tim Shu. His product helped normalize the use of CBD for aging pets – and who doesn’t love to see an old dog run again?
Also, Shu took part in the cannabis community more so than 99% of CBD companies to date as he got the ball rolling on the company. Even if someone was playing both sides of the CBD and adult-use fence, you didn’t see the branding start to match until the last two years. Shu represented a CBD company out in the real cannabis space explaining what he was trying to do for pets.
We asked Shu if, given the circumstances of the Asian American underrepresentation we just highlighted, it makes the view from the top that much better?
“I appreciate the kind words,” Shu told L.A. Weekly. “But for me, there’s always so much more to be accomplished. But yeah, I mean, it is an honor to be able to be where I am. We certainly are a minority in both the cannabis space and the veterinary space. So my hope is certainly that I inspire more Asians to be able to go into the veterinary space and then also to go into the cannabis space as well.”
We asked Shu how different the industry crowds look now at events compared to when he first hit the circuit to get the word out for VETCBD. He quickly pointed to things trending in a positive direction.
“There certainly are some more Asians now in the cannabis space,” Shu said. “I know that when I first started back in 2015, it was incredibly rare, and I used to get comments all the time whenever I met someone else who was Asian, like, ‘Hey, it’s so good to see you!’”
After a quick laugh on those interactions, Shu emphasized how those moments stood out because they were so rare. “Now, it still is uncommon, but I am starting to see more and more Asian faces in the cannabis industry, which is great,” he said.
As for VETCBD, things are awesome. With people heading back to work in the months to come, Shu looks forward to helping their dogs get through the anxiety of not having their families at home all the time to interact with.
“A lot of people adopted their pets during the pandemic, and so this is actually the first time that they’re stepping away from their pets for prolonged periods of time,” Shu said. “And so that’s where CBD provides a great benefit to these animals to help decrease that stress and anxiety.”
When it comes to the Asian Americans absolutely crushing it in the cannabis industry, Vince Ning is a name you’ll find near the top of the list. Since founding massive distribution company Nabis, he’s gone on to move hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of pot throughout California. We dropped in a few months back when State Treasurer Fiona Ma stopped by the ribbon-cutting ceremony. That’s how much money in weed we’re talking about. Since that day last fall, the facility had moved over $200 million in cannabis products.
We asked Ning about the underrepresentation of Asian Americans at the level of the industry he’s reached. At the moment, Ning admitted he’s thinking in a lot broader terms than the cannabis industry as an Asian American.
“I mean it’s definitely interesting,” Ning replied. For Ning, however, in this moment, he identifies more with all Asians dealing with the current wave of hate crimes.
While Ning is excited to represent Asian Americans winning in cannabis, he never signed up to be a poster child. It was always just the drive to execute a plan that creates value for everyone along the way, from grower to consumer.
“I guess the facts certainly say that we are a minority here at the executive level,” Ning said. “But I don’t really think about it in business too much. I sort of think about it as a fair playing field. From a competition standpoint, and when we built our business, it was not about who’s what color, who comes from what background, so that we can sell the best products for their customers.”
Ning said he’s solely focused on winning on a merit basis. But he is glad to have a platform for his community in these recent times where they’ve faced a new wave of discrimination.