The CEO of Death Row Cannabis on smoking Snoop Dogg’s weed, marrying her dealer, and parenting precautions.
AS TOLD TO GOSSAMER
I was born in Ohio, raised in the suburbs of Chicago, and when I was 10, my dad’s job moved us to Beijing.
I don’t know who does this anymore but, at the time, the company paid for all of the relocation expenses—like your moving costs, your apartment, your child’s education, all these different things. We were definitely in our own little bubble of other expatriates, other transplants. Everyone kind of looked and sounded like me, but they were from Canada, Australia, the U.K., Mexico, Korea—all over. It was an interesting experience to go from a very middle class lifestyle in the Midwest to being in the capital of one of the most populated countries in the world.
I remember watching movies that really glorified the American high school experience and wondering what that life would be like.
In China, we wouldn’t get movie releases but we would get bootleg DVDs. The ones where someone snuck a camera into the theater and you’d see heads moving around and janky filming. I remember watching movies that really glorified the American high school experience and wondering what that life would be like, but at the same time knowing that we had been afforded really great privilege.
My parents didn’t sell their home in the U.S., so we would come back every summer, and for winter holidays. Whenever we went, I was like, “We have to go to American Eagle and Abercrombie.” Or, “I need to go to Costco so I can stock up on gum.”
Gum was a huge currency in middle and high school. “Oh my God, you have the new Orbit flavor? I’ll split one with you. Can you give me that? I’ll give you a Snickers,” or whatever, all that stuff. So I was still tied to American culture that way.
Cannabis entered my periphery when I was a senior in high school. I was definitely a good student but also not a perfect student. I didn’t get straight As. I got one or two Bs, but when you’re Chinese, you should be getting straight As, that kind of thing.
I was in every extracurricular you could imagine. One of them was jazz combo, which I don’t want to say was a highly coveted group to be in, but there was a jazz ensemble and then jazz combo. The combo was the older kids who had mastery of their instruments and could do a great job soloing and improvising. We would sometimes play at bars in Beijing, which was cool. I played the saxophone, alto and bari.
Later on, I’d find out that lung capacity really helps me with my work.
I really enjoyed being the girl who played bari, because it’s not something a lot of people expect. My mom would say, “I don’t understand how you have the lung capacity to play these instruments.” Later on, I’d find out that lung capacity really helps me with my work.
There were these three guys in the jazz combo—a piano player, a drummer, and a bassist—who were super cool and broke off into their own trio. The bassist and I were good friends because we lived in the same apartment complex. They were good guys who everyone in our school were friends with. And very smart, but they were always smoking weed.
They weren’t, like, junkies. They weren’t getting bad grades. But at our senior year bonfire—that’s where you burn all your textbooks and tests and notes—everyone was drinking and two of the trio were off to the side smoking. And one of my best friends, who was also one of their friends, said, “I can’t believe they’re smoking weed. It’s so bad for you.” All of us were very concerned and just like, “It’s addictive. It’s terrible for you.” So my first exposure to weed was thinking about it in that way. Then when I got to college, my hall neighbor was like, “Let’s all go to the quad and smoke some weed.”
It was maybe my senior year of college that I really got into consuming and the culture and everything. I was a pretty late bloomer when you think about people who are super involved with and have great affinity for the plant. But I think that because of my delayed exposure, I was able to see it from a more objective point of view, as opposed to, say, potentially trying to escape some issues from my adolescence.
I’ve always been a fan of Snoop.
After graduation, I worked for a consulting firm in Philadelphia but I wanted to go into entertainment. I thought of it as a very inelastic demand good. Even when things are down, people still listen to music. They still watch movies. They still want to go see live shows or sporting events. I also consider professional sports to be entertainment, in terms of the dollars they make and the emotions they evoke in people. And I really wanted to be a part of that.
I was combing through the Penn alumni and job board and there was one listing for an internship in Los Angeles for Stampede Management, a company that represented Snoop Dogg, Far East Movement, and Busta Rhymes, among others.
I’ve always been a fan of Snoop. My sister’s eight and a half years older, so when she was 13 and listening to his music, I was 5, and listening in the backseat of the car. And Far East Movement was the first ever all-Asian group or individual to hit number one, right around the time I graduated from college. So I was like, I have to get this internship.
I don’t think they saw a lot of Penn applicants come across their table, and it turned out that Ted Chung, the manager, had also gone to Penn. It was two 15-minute phone interviews. I’m not even kidding. The second one actually woke me up from a nap because of the time difference. I had just got home from work and definitely picked up the phone half asleep.
They were like, “Okay, we’ll fly you out. Do you want to start in two weeks?” The pay was $1500 a month and I was like, holy shit, that’s a huge pay cut for me, but I’m going to take this chance. So I gave my two weeks notice, packed up all my stuff, and told my roommate I was breaking my lease. I’ve since paid her back for what it cost her.
Two or three years later, I started running their cannabis division. I often say that it was a confluence of lucky events.
Luckily, I have some family out here who were so, so gracious, and helped me find a place to stay, a car to buy, all that stuff. After three or four months, Stampede hired me full-time because I think they saw my potential and liked what I did. And then two or three years later, I started running their cannabis division.
I often say that it was a confluence of lucky events. A lot of people, mostly friends, tell me not to say that because it brings forward that you don’t believe that your own work and effort got you to where you are now. It’s discrediting yourself. But it’s a combo of both. I very much thank whoever is in charge for gifting me that.
When Colorado and Washington legalized, Ted was like, “I don’t see anyone in my office who has the two components needed to help head up this new division.” Whether or not someone smokes every day is one thing. But understanding the grow process and all the terminology, as well as having that business acumen is another. He was like, “Except for you.”
I was still in my mid-20s. I thought I moved out to Los Angeles to try to be a manager or an agent—an entertainment person, whatever that meant. I was like, Is this going to pigeonhole me? I also worried about things like, what if the DEA comes and shuts down our brand? What if federal regulators and the senate and congress decide we cannot move forward?
I’m really glad that I took the leap because look where I am now. I’m able to work with one of, if not the, largest champion of cannabis in the world. And as the cannabis space progresses and opens up, it’s clear that you can’t unring that bell. You can’t close that dam.
It’s just been such a pleasure, and Snoop is just one of the smartest clients I’ve ever worked for. He gets it. And if he doesn’t, he asks me questions until he does. It’s very refreshing compared to other managers or agents or lawyers I’ve had to talk to, who maybe look down on me for my age.
When I first moved out to Los Angeles as an intern, I didn’t want to get a medical card. This was before California was legal recreationally. I didn’t want to be in some database. I was 23 and paranoid. But Snoop would come into the office every week or so to do his show, GGN, which is a play on CNN: Snoop Dogg’s Double G News Network.
Snoop is just one of the smartest clients I’ve ever worked for. He gets it. And if he doesn’t, he asks me questions until he does.
He would have guests on and bring a lot of flower. Most of the time they couldn’t keep up with him and he would always leave some behind. So what does an intern do? She puts out the water. She sets things up. She leads people to the conference room. She cleans. So here I am cleaning up and I’m like, I’m not going to throw this stuff away. This is literally the flower that Snoop Dogg smokes and it’s not been touched. I’m going to take it.
At the time, my tolerance was lower, so whatever he left behind would definitely last me a week until he came back. Then the summer months came and he was like, “I’m going on my summer tour.” I was like, Oh, great. That’s two months of no flower. But a coworker of mine was like, “My boyfriend is in a band with this guy who grows commercially, but in the gray market. He usually sells by the pound to stores, but I think for a friend or a homie, he’d hook it up.”
So we exchanged numbers and he came by my apartment in West Hollywood. He rolls up in a sedan, and like these exchanges go, I get in the passenger’s seat. It’s really awkward to stare and have a conversation with someone at a 90 degree angle. But I take one glance at him and roll my eyes because I’m like, He’s cute, and I don’t think my teeth are brushed. I have no makeup on. My hair’s up. So I’m like, “Okay, here’s your money. Give me my weed. Bye.”
Then three months later, I hit him up again and said, “Hey, I’d like to do that again. Also, I don’t know if you remember what I looked like, but would you like to go for a drink sometime?” He was like, “Yeah, sure.” Later, once we started getting more serious, he told me, “I’m really glad you asked me out because I’m not a dealer, but as a person giving out weed, I try not to be a creep.” And here we are now.
He brought me into his world of gray market growing. I helped him with watering, trimming, bucking, drying, curing, all that stuff. All the different things that someone under a master grower might do at a larger facility. From him, I learned all the relevant NPK ratios and where things need to go during the veg periods to the flower and the flush periods—the lighting and how close things need to be, and whether or not certain plants are healthy just by looking at them.
It’s our love story, but also how I got into this space and how I got to where I am today. You know how everyone says behind a strong man, there’s a strong woman? It’s kind of the same thing but vice versa here. I would not be where I am today without having him by my side. Not just because of the support, but also educationally. It was just really, really great to get that knowledge from him, way before I was even in the cannabis space.
My husband brought a few vape pens to the hospital with us.
We got pregnant pretty quickly, but I didn’t stop consuming cannabis while we were trying to conceive. And then one morning, I felt something was off and took a pregnancy test. When the two lines came up, I quit cold turkey.
I just stopped and I was like, That’s great. We’re going to just keep doing this. Then 9 or 10 months later, Lucy comes out. It’s funny, because my husband brought a few vape pens to the hospital with us. He was like, “Right when you pop her out, I’m just going to stick it in your face and you can relax a little bit.”
Unfortunately, we had a pretty rough birth. Lucy basically had some type of anencephaly when she first came out. It was really scary for us. She was in the NICU for six days and we were discharged maybe three days after she was born. So we came back to the hospital every day for six hours just to sit with her.
The worst thing ever was coming back home that first night and being like, Let’s relax. Let me smoke a little bit of weed. And immediately getting into my head and freaking out about everything that had gone down. Feeling like it was somehow my fault or that she might not be neurotypical or whatever the diagnosis was pointing towards. (She is neurotypical and hitting all her milestones.)
But after that, I didn’t smoke again for a while. And on top of that, I was breastfeeding, so I really didn’t want to consume. As time went on, and as we stopped breastfeeding, I slowly brought weed back into my life. I started doing it maybe two or three times a week, and then a month later, maybe four or five times a week, and then got back to the everyday.
The thing is, I do not consume during the day. That’s just not who I am in general. I’m one of those people who, when I do consume, for the first 10 to 15 minutes, I can’t be around people. But after that I’m golden. I can work. I can’t operate heavy machinery, but I can do everything that I can do sober.
I have definitely shifted my consumption habits from almost exclusively combusting, to a combination of vape and edibles and smoking, to now almost exclusively edibles and vape. We’ve got five vapes on our shelf right now. With the amount of samples I get, we probably have over 10,000 milligrams of THC in our apartment right now.
I know what the studies around cigarette smoking and smoke—even just on your skin, clothing, hair—mean when it comes to having a young child, and what they mean for SIDS and potentially infant death. So we were very cognizant to not consume in that way until after she went to bed. And then even if we did, we would always shower or wash our hands thoroughly, wash our face, all that stuff.
We obviously keep things on the highest shelf where she can’t reach. I don’t keep any of those small, potentially Oh no, I dropped it. Where did it go?-type of things. We only have things that are huge inch-wide gummies, and we always keep them way up high where she has no access to them.
It’s definitely scary sometimes to think about what might happen if that were to happen. But I think we all know this: there’s no amount of cannabis that can kill you. There literally isn’t. So you will get crazy, you might freak out, but you’re going to be fine. Alcohol or any other drug on the other hand . . . I remember learning in chemistry you can die from water consumption before you can die from cannabis consumption. That is crazy.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Tiffany Chin photographed by Jennelle Fong in Los Angeles. If you like this Conversation, please feel free to share it with friends or enemies. Subscribe to our newsletter here.