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How This Asian American Became A Cannabis Crusader In Her Community

The cannabis industry is filled with passionate, forward-thinking people who have devoted their life's work to changing people's perceptions. But the question remains - how do people become involved in the cannabis industry in the first place? It turns out everyone has a unique personal journey that has brought them to the world of cannabis. Each week cannabis professionals, activists, and others will tell their stories in their own words. This essay comes from Monica Lo, Creative Director and Co-Founder of Asian Americans for Cannabis Education (AACE).

Photo by Steve Cerniak

I lost both my grandpa and my favorite uncle to diabetes.

Diabetes is a chronic condition that requires drastic lifestyle changes and extreme control. Asian Americans are almost twice as likely to develop diabetes as the general population in the U.S. I cried when I found out about the recent studies on medical marijuana as a potential preventative treatment for diabetes. Could it have helped my loved ones? With more funding and research, is there a possibility it could prevent the rest of my family from developing this disease?

After scouring the Internet, I found there are also a number of neurological conditions like epilepsy in which medical marijuana can treat, and patients who are dying waiting for it. There are people in need and living a lesser quality of life because we haven't yet legalized this miraculous plant. To me, cannabis isn't about getting high, it's about getting people the care they deserve and safe access to it.

My personal goal is to share the health and therapeutic benefits of using cannabis, and I'm working to end all prohibitions associated with such use.

I use cannabis responsibly - as a wellness aid, not as an intoxicant. I make lightly medicated meals to enhance my day, manage my chronic lower back pain, and reduce stress. I've been sleeping better, I'm more creative, and I live a more enriched life. My personal goal is to share the health and therapeutic benefits of using cannabis, and I'm working to end all prohibitions associated with such use.

As a cannabis activist, I teamed up with Tiffany Wu and Ophelia Chong to create Asian Americans for Cannabis Education (AACE) because we realize Asian Americans face unique issues and stigmas in using and supporting cannabis legalization. It was difficult "coming out" to my parents and we've heard similar stories from our own members. We want to help the Asian community to learn more about the benefits and open up a fair discussion.

Around the same time, a local dispensary with a permit in the Sunset district contacted us for help. It's in a predominately Chinese neighborhood and the community had banded together to keep cannabis out of their neighborhood. It reinforced why we formed AACE. We realized it's important to come out and talk to the community so we can craft an effective message to encourage them to do their own research.

Asian Americans have a powerful voice and it's important for everyone to understand their place in this movement as we look forward to legalization in 2016 in California, as well as many other states. At AACE, we believe in the medical benefits of cannabis and we fight for patients who need access now. We also strive to dispel myths and provide more education to the public on the latest news and policy. Our goal is to be a neutral conduit for discussion and education amongst the Asian American community, local politicians, and the cannabis industry.

AACE is growing and we want to hear from you. Please sign up for our newsletter on if you want to get involved.


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