The Vancouver-based cannabis company offers cartridges in flavours like pineapple punch and blueberry pie.
Our parents are usually among the first people to know when we land a new job. But when Vancouverite Audrey Wong left her executive position at the BC Liquor Distribution Branch (BCLDB) to serve as multinational company Aurora Cannabis’s vice president, she decided not to tell her mom.
“There’s a lot of stigma in the Asian Canadian community,” she says. “It’s unfortunate because a lot of Asian Canadians are actually in that legacy market. And be it the stigma or other issues, it prevents them from successfully crossing over and coming to the legalized market.”
When cannabis got tapped to be legalized, Wong’s experience in the distribution of regulated products at the BCLDB—as well as her law degree from UBC—made her the perfect person to prepare B.C. for legal cannabis sales operations.
Zyre. Founder and CEO Audrey Wong
“I felt I was a very well-equipped person to navigate all the regulations and the operational pieces that most people not from this world just wouldn’t understand,” she maintains.
And yet, despite her expertise and accolades, it took Wong a month to break the news to her mom: “It’s probably not a job that parents will approve of…the stigma of cannabis is so much worse than the stigma of alcohol, and it is scientifically proven that alcohol is more harmful…even recently, [my mom] said, When are you going to get a real job? I can’t tell people what you do.”
Wong recognizes that her background in law and C-suite roles puts her in a unique position to be a strong advocate for cannabis and the Asian Canadian community. “It gives me some credibility to say, Look, someone who is a cannabis entrepreneur, and also consumes cannabis can be successful, can be put together. It’s not just a fringe group of do-no-gooders that are participating in cannabis.”
To that end, Wong officially launched cannabis company Zyre last week. Zyre introduced two of its first vape cartridges to cater to what Wong calls the “modern consumer.” The full-spectrum of one-gram cartridges, made with single-strain B.C. bud, come in flavours like pineapple punch and blueberry pie, and are said to retain the whole-plant benefit for consumers.
“Cannabis is in its infancy in the legal market,” says the founder and CEO. “I looked at the largest growing category in the 20-to-30-year-old group, which is vapes.”
The entrepreneur makes sure to use zirconia ceramic as opposed to metal in her products, so instead of being hand-poured (which leaves holes in the ceramic that’s later coated with enamel), Zyre vapes are machine-pressed to avoid pores and chemical coatings. And with names like “Launch” and “Recline,” it’s easy to choose the right strain to fit your vibe.
But as the executive director of anti-racism nonprofit Elimin8Hate (the advocacy arm of Vancouver Asian Film Festival), Wong also feels the responsibility to address the stigma in her community. “Five years ago, would [VAFF] have brought on an executive director that ran a cannabis startup? I’m not sure.” She credits her role in the organization to progressive Asian Canadians in VAFF that understand that Asians are diverse and not monolithic.
“I’m very conscious that I am an advocate and an ambassador for the Asian Canadian cannabis entrepreneurial community,” notes Wong. “And no, my mom is still not on board with this at all. So I’m conscious that Zyre is not just a vape brand for the modern consumer, but Zyre is also a vape brand that can reach out to the Asian Canadian cannabis community. And that’s very much on my mind as I take this company forward.”