November 07, 2017 | WES ABNEY
Joung is a brain tumor survivor, Cannabis activist and marketing wizard who applies passion for the plant to every part of is life. Photo by Daniel Berman.
When did you first start using Cannabis?
I’ve used Cannabis since I was a teenager, I’m one of the people who is a drug war vet. I used to bring pot from Canada, bringing it down over the border on foot. I went to jail for 26 days in Whatcom County for 8.5 pounds of CB, caught in Bellingham, when I was 19.
Did getting arrested make you want to stop using pot? How has it helped in your life?
Getting arrested only made me more of an activist about Cannabis. I’ve had a really rough childhood and life, and it has always helped me. My father died in my arms of cancer at 13, and I lost my brother and mother within a few years of that. I’ve been on my own since 16, including through my own health battles.
When did you start having your own health issues?
In 2006 I started feeling like I had strep throat, and after a week my throat was so closed I had to go to the hospital for what I thought would be a penicillin shot. I actually had an infection in my throat, they rushed me into emergency surgery and had to slice my neck open and pump me full of antibiotics to fight the infection. They did MRIs and CT scans on me in that time, and when I woke up from my second surgery, there was a doctor standing over me.“I’m sorry I have to say this, but you have a brain tumor.”
That had to be devastating. How did you feel in that moment, and what did you do next?
I swore at him and said, “What the fuck are you talking about, I’m halfway awake from surgery and you’re telling me this?” I was panicked and upset and really scared honestly. I thought I had a little infection, and went from that over a couple days to multiple surgeries and learning I had a tumor. So, I tried to come to grips with it, and to seek further help. I had no insurance at the time and couldn’t get state insurance, and so for three years I lived thinking I could die at any time.
What was that like, living with that thought hanging over you?
I was living in worry constantly. In 09’I was getting more headaches, so I went back to the hospital and did a CT scan, and the doctor said you don’t have a brain tumor. I argued with him, but he was adamant I didn’t have a tumor. But the headaches didn’t go away. So in 2011 I got insurance and went to a neurosurgeon, and the first thing they told me at Swedish Hospital was, “Yes you have a tumor, and it’s almost doubled in size since 2006.”
What a terrible rollercoaster moment. What happened next?
The doctor who said I didn’t have a tumor was medically negligent, and in 2011 they sent me in for my first brain surgery to remove the tumor. I nearly died from my brain bleeding, but until now it has solved the issue. The surgery damaged the nerves in my right eye, so it barely waters now. I have to use prescription ointment and artificial tears about 20 times a day, and have super bad headaches from the nerve damage. But I’m here.
Does Cannabis help with the pain, and what about the tumor?
I was always honest and open with my doctors that I used Cannabis, and my neurosurgeon said that he believed I didn’t suffer more side effects from my tumor is because of my heavy Cannabis usage. That was a positive in my eyes against the stigma of Cannabis—when my surgeon, who is one of best in country, and a teacher at University of Washington and on the board of neurosurgeons—to tell me that was positive light. To know I need to keep using and keep using heavily because this is what saved me…that’s one of the highest doctor’s advice you can get. So I said right on, I’ll keep on trucking and I’ll keep on using my medicine.
How do you feel about people’s right to use Cannabis?
All these prohibitionists are going to go down in history and be looked back on like, “What the hell were they doing, letting people die because they didn’t want to give them a plant, that could have cured others?” It almost makes me angry, that’s why I’ve been such an advocate. So many people are misinformed, and I feel like my dad and aunt could have possibly been saved with Cannabis. It seems illogical that the government doesn’t recognize it, when everyone knows the benefits firsthand.
What is Make a Mill PR and how does it connect to Cannabis?
I’ve always been connected through my music label and promotions with Cannabis and people who smoke. As soon as medical and legalization took place, I knew I had to keep my foot in the door and keep doing promotions like I had for my record label. So, I decided to start Public Relations? for the industry, and I started Make a Mill PR. My first client was fresh carbon filters out of Australia, and then Tarik Rosin Presses. Since then I’ve been helping local brands as well!
How do you help Cannabis clients, and what is your driving force behind starting in the industry?
We help businesses grow. Social media promotions, helping build brands from word of mouth to hand to hand contact, online and in-person. I also do branding. Bigfoot Farms was my branding. I do marketing, I have a logo artist and graphic designer, and offer consulting for Cannabis businesses. My main purpose is to spread the good word of Cannabis, and to help champion businesses I believe in. My strongest feeling is that I don’t promote anything that isn’t positive or I wouldn’t use myself or isn’t good for the industry.
What’s your final message to people as we continue to move forward and wrestle with legalization in our country?
Please take into consideration that this is a helpful medicine for people. It’s not an illicit drug, it’s a medical drug that helps people around the world and has never killed anyone. Especially with the opiate troubles we have in this country, with doctors pushing drugs on people, we need a safer alternative. I had a brain tumor and I survived it, doubling in size and afterwards, and it’s like I did it all in my eyes through Cannabis.