AACE INTERVIEW: Adriana J. Machado

Adriana J.M.
6 min readJan 16, 2020

From my interview with Ophelia Chong of Asian Americans for Cannabis Education

Adriana is a hyphen, a happa, a mix of all things wonderful in our beautiful state of California. Adriana is our future, she epitomizes the mixing and fusion of our future, born half Korean and Brazilian, raised in Georgia and now planted firmly in California. She is an artist, an explorer and a woman I respect and honor for carrying the torch forward. Please let me introduce you to Adriana ….

How have your views on Cannabis changed?

I started working in cannabis a year before recreational legalization and fell in love with the passionate people and culture around wellness. The philosophies and ideologies of cannabis have changed significantly in California due to the “green rush” and the spectrum of quality to crap that came in with it. If you ask many new comers to the industry who Dennis Peron, Allyn Howlett, Raphael Mechoulam, or Arno Hazekamp are — or about the various names and products that pioneered medical cannabis — they look at you with a blank face. All that talk but they have no product or real industry knowledge — all quantitative and no qualitative. There’s a reason we got to the point we are with legalization. It’s defeating, to say the least, when folks who are making millions off the industry don’t appreciate what it took for that opportunity to be legal; the people who endured DEA raids, were sentenced to jail, and the AIDs patients who protested and contributed to the medical legislation that paved the way for these pockets to deepen. The plant often feels like it has become another objectified female in our capitalist society.

Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of wonderful people and things happening in our industry, but the ones who prioritize volume and numbers over true product quality and safety, are the ones that worry me. The issues in our industry are directly reflective of the issues in our country from public health, gun safety, economic oppression, to single-use plastics — it’s all here, ya’ll — the dark side of consumerism at its finest in all its often terribly branded glory.

What was the impetus for the change?

It started while working in retail and seeing the great patients of San Francisco drop like flies back to the black market because regulations were increasing prices, increasing environmental waste, and removing compassion programs. The people who fought hard for regulated, tested, safe access couldn’t afford the medicine they had fought for. I appreciated the public health aspect that recreational regulation brought, but it was defeating as an empathic, idealistic millennial to hear the grief and despair directly from the patients’ mouths. The public is not the same as patients. The public wants instant gratification — to be happy with one sterile pill or a controlled dosable vape, and they don’t understand why they can’t always pay with their credit card, no matter how many times you explain the federal banking system. How do you tell a stranger they need therapy, a joint, and maybe some good sex or a solid hike to relieve their stress and sadness; when this stranger specifically asks for NO THC, all while not making eye contact, and cross-checking everything you recommend with Leafly the ENTIRE time you’re talking? This happens in so many forms when you’re behind the counter. It really makes you appreciate the few good ones in between.

I finally gave up, for now, after working in distribution — where every side of the industry meets, including the darkest side of prohibition, and none of them were inspiring me anymore.

How did you enter the industry?

I started in a dispensary. I was working in the environmental field, when my friend took me to get my first rec from Amoeba Music, on Haight, then to the original Apothecarium at Church & Market in San Francisco. I’ve used cannabis for a long time to manage anxiety and depression along with occasional pain issues, but I didn’t really know all the intricacies and formulations. I learned a lot from the patient consultants and was able to really take that mental health management to a new level. I then realized I wanted to help people in a different way, so I applied and started working at The Apothecarium, in 2016. After working there and going through their training program, I got really interested in learning all about medical research and experiencing the amazing patients I interacted with daily. My passion for the plant really grew after that first job. I then worked my way up to management, contributed to patient education, helped open three SF stores, and after being the Inventory Manager, for their SoMa location, I went into compliance and operations at a third-party logistics company that distributed 30+ active brands to the entire state of California.

Did you do research into cannabis before entering?

I had done some personal research but it was mostly popular media and surface information on the medical benefits. I really dug into the research when I was consulting patients and contributing to education and training. I later did a lot of research on compliance for my operations management roles — this can be so interesting and fun if you like policy and creative problem-solving.

How does your family feel about your cannabis businesses?

My immediate family was pretty supportive. I have a few healthcare and business folks in my family and most of them understood the value in the industry from one perspective or another. My more conservative family members were told I worked in “alternative medicine” but they eventually found out. They never criticized it either out of politeness or from my convincing after sharing information. I think everyone was just happy I had found something to apply a BA in Philosophy to and was happy to see me constantly moving up in a career path.

What is the most frequent question you are asked about cannabis?

What is the difference between CBD and THC? I’m not sure people fully understand the value in the whole plant and the many other compounds that contribute to the effects of cannabis unless they have some underlying knowledge of plants. I guess it’s easier for people to learn about new things when it’s broken down into simpler, easy to digest, and relatable terms but that’s so reductive and boring.

What is your favorite way of ingesting cannabis?

Smoking or vaporizing flower and/or hash. You can’t replicate that natural phenomenon and where it can take you. If I’m targeting for something specific, say for pain or anxiety, I’ll go to topicals and edibles.

Where do you see the cannabis industry in five years?

I’m hoping it’s a diverse industry with all sorts of business models flourishing — from fun, passionate, minority-owned, and creative businesses that care about quality products to big business cheap alternatives. Something tells me it might take more than 5 years for that to securely happen though. Over the past few years, I’ve seen a lot of businesses sunset. A lot of companies are laying off or going bankrupt, still; but the numbers keep growing.

I think in 5 years we’ll see more regulatory change, than anything, as we learn from mistakes and irresponsible businesses are held accountable. I worked with regulators while in operations and most of them are pretty reasonable; it’s more about taking the time to show them you are trying your best, willing to honestly correct mistakes, and transparently work with them. They are also willing to learn from regulatory mistakes and already a lot of amendments are making their way through Sacramento.

Why do you think some Asians are against cannabis?

Culture of productivity, narrow thinking, and misinformation. My mother is South Korean and my father is Brazilian. Both sides of my family have successful people but their styles are totally different. The older generations on my mom’s side tend to stay away from substances — anything that enhances or alters. Being the strongest, the best, and the most successful is what is strived for, and asking for help from a substance or a person shows vulnerability, which isn’t always viewed as a strength. It’s easier to blame things than look at things holistically. I can’t say cannabis is for everyone but it’s not fair to pigeonhole it and say it’s for no one. With the increasing evidence and public acceptance, Asian culture is definitely coming around. South Korea has medical legislation, already, which is sparking a lot of positive conversations.