Honeysuckle is proud to present “Asians Across The Supply Chain: Profiles In AANHPI Cannabis,” in partnership with Dutchie! Through this final week of AANHPI Month, we will be introducing you to cannabis industry stakeholders who are building the foundation for this evolving space and pioneering the brands that serve the ecosystem as a whole. These professionals come from all across the cannabis supply chain, proving that each sector functions in tandem to build an inclusive, expansive and growing industry.

First up, meet Marina Theresa Gerard, Operations Manager of licensed New York retailer Silk Road NYC and Event Coordinator at High Functions, a special event space in Jamaica, Queens.

What Is Silk Road NYC?

Located at 166-30 Jamaica Avenue in Jamaica, Queens, Silk Road NYC is a family-owned dispensary that takes its roots from the legacy movement. Founder Sohan Bashar honed his craft over twenty years of meticulously handpicking the finest cannabis strains. Today, the retailer - which made history as the first Bangladeshi-owned licensed cannabis store in Queens - proudly operates from an ethos of genuine care and compassion for all. 

“More than just a dispensary, it is a community,” the Silk Road website states. “A gathering place for like-minded individuals to share stories, insights, and moments of camaraderie.” 

With the store’s initial opening in February 2024, consumers are beginning to recognize it as a haven for education around the plant. From beginner to seasoned connoisseur, visitors at any level will find products suiting their needs. As the Silk Road team says, “Each item is carefully procured resonating with the spirit of the forbidden.” A stop at this dispensary is truly a transportive experience!

What Is High Functions?

Adjacent to Silk Road, High Functions is a revolutionary event space redefining cannabis events in NYC. The venue provides a platform for remarkable events that foster open discussions and destigmatize cannabis, inviting individuals from all backgrounds to engage in vital conversations and education. In its latest iteration, High Functions serves as a multipurpose workspace and lounge, offering endless possibilities for engagement and exploration.

(C) Silk Road NYC

Join Silk Road NYC’s Team For “Island Insights”: A Seminal Discussion On AANHPI Perspectives In Cannabis

On Saturday, May 25th, join Sohan, Marina, and the Silk Road crew for “Island Insights: AANHPI Cannabis Talk: Perspectives, Progress, Potential.” Powered by High Functions, this enlightening discussion delves into the world of cannabis within the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities. A panel of cannabis professionals from a wide array of sectors will share their insights on the plant, moderated by “Hawaii” Mike Salman, co-founder and CEO of Chef For Higher. Speakers will include Amy Chin of Calm Better Days and HIGH EXPOSURE, Britni Tantalo of the New York Cannabis Retail Association (NYCRA), Anne Forkutza of Dutchie, Viraj Mehta of Ayrloom, Winde Bertran of Sinsemilla De Ma 420 CBD, Jerry Lin of CannaDreams, Khaled Ahmed of Sinsemilla Consulting, and of course Silk Road’s own Sohan Bashar and Marina Gerard. 

"Island Insights" offers a platform for open dialogue, shedding light on diverse perspectives, highlighting progress, and exploring the untapped potential of cannabis. Doors open at 3PM, with the panel at 4. Food and refreshments will be provided by Chef Ali of HiFive Edible Wonders

Tickets to the event are FREE but RSVP is required. (Click here to get yours now!)

Sohan Bashar and Marina Theresa Gerard at Silk Road NYC's soft opening, February 2024 (C) Jaime Lubin / Honeysuckle Media, Inc. @jaimelubin

Marina Theresa Gerard Talks AANHPI Heritage And Advice For Entering The Cannabis Industry

HONEYSUCKLE: Tell us a bit about your background. How did you get to your current position in the cannabis space?

MARINA THERESA GERARD: I'm a 29-year-old originally from Southern California, specifically Carson. I made the move to Jamaica Queens, NY, to pursue my education at St. John's University, majoring in biology with aspirations of entering the pre-med track. However, in 2014,  I was arrested, booked, and sent to Rikers Island on a $300,000 bail, alongside Sohan Bashar, the owner of Silk Road NYC, where I currently serve as operational manager. Interestingly, that cannabis conviction was the catalyst for qualifying him for the dispensary license. Despite facing expulsion from St. John's University due to the arrest violating the code of conduct, I didn't let it deter me. I transferred to CUNY Queens College and graduated in 2019 with a Bachelor of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders and a Bachelor of Arts in General Linguistics, both of which I hustled to pay for. Though my majors were chosen with the hopes of becoming a Speech-Language Pathologist, my journey has taken a different direction.

Currently, I'm embracing motherhood after welcoming my first daughter in March 2022, and I'm eagerly awaiting the arrival of my second daughter this June 2024. Balancing the responsibilities of managing a dispensary, being a mother, and coordinating events at High Functions keeps me incredibly busy, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

What’s your connection to your heritage?

My background and heritage are quite diverse. On my father's side, I have Mexican and Spanish roots, although my father was adopted by white parents, adding another layer to my cultural identity. On my mother's side, she immigrated from the island of Samoa, enriching my heritage with Pacific Islander influences. I grew up being a blend of Mexican, Spanish, and Samoan cultures but very much embraced my American identity when I was younger. Now, at an older age, I'm starting to connect more deeply with my roots.

What advice do you have for Asians looking to enter the cannabis industry?

The advice I would offer to Asians, and anyone else, going into the cannabis industry is to approach it with an open mind and a humble attitude. No matter your level of experience or background in the industry, there's always something new to learn. Embrace the FACT that you don't know everything about cannabis, and be open to continuous learning and growth.

Furthermore, leverage your unique perspective and cultural background as strengths. Your authenticity and genuine connection to your heritage can offer valuable insights and perspectives that others may not have or people are waiting for representation, and you can be that relatable person to them. Embrace who you are and use it to your advantage in shaping your approach to the industry. Authenticity is key. 

The stigma is still real. What is something you wish the Asian community knew about the cannabis industry?

Something I wish the Asian community knew about cannabis is a realization I've had recently through various learning experiences. In particular, taking a course on the chemistry of cannabis with Dr. June Chin and engaging with individuals like HIGH EXPOSURE, Annette Fernandez, Amy Chin, and Kassia Graham has been enlightening. It's the understanding that joy can be a form of wellness. 

As someone who is currently 35 weeks pregnant and has abstained from cannabis for over nine months, I've reflected on my own experiences. Even when I did consume, it was in small amounts due to my low tolerance. However, I used to feel guilty when asked why I consumed, often citing reasons like back pain or difficulty sleeping, which are indeed valid. But those weren't always my primary motivations.

The truth is, finding joy and happiness can be just as important for our well-being as addressing physical discomfort. It's perfectly acceptable to consume cannabis for reasons related to enhancing joy and relaxation. Understanding this aspect of cannabis consumption can lead to a more holistic approach to wellness within the Asian community and beyond.

“Island Insights” takes place on Saturday, May 25, 2024 starting at 3PM, at Silk Road NYC, 166-30 Jamaica Avenue in Queens. Click here to reserve your tickets now. For more information about Silk Road NYC, visit silkroadnyc.com. To learn more about High Functions, follow @highfunctionsevents on Instagram.

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Marina Gerard

Sohan Bashar

"Hawaii" Mike Salman

Britni Tantalo

Anne Forkutza



Featured image: Marina Theresa Gerard (C) Silk Road NYC