Higher Profile: Steven Jung, Chief Operating Officer, PAX

From captain in the Army to corporate America, Steven Jung has found his home in the cannabis industry and is making a splash.
Jung
Courtesy of Steven Jung

Steven Jung grew up in Northridge, California, otherwise known as the Valley in Los Angeles, a wide expanse of suburbs just east of the Santa Monica Mountains and the Pacific Ocean.

He began his career in operations leadership as a captain in the U.S. Army, where he held both strategic and tactical roles.

“Along the way, I told myself I was interested in business and became an economics major in college,” he shared. “But I always thought if it didn’t work out I was going back into the Army.”

Jung holds a Bachelor of Science in Economics from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and an MBA from the Columbia Business School, graduating in 2009. He immediately went into finance, working with several private and public companies, before working for Twitter, responsible for scaling its revenue operation.

He was then Head of Business Operations for LendUp, a Google-backed financial tech company based in San Francisco, before working as President and COO for Weedmaps, a leading tech and media company in the cannabis industry in Southern California.

This path to the cannabis industry led him to PAX, a leading device brand in the U.S. and global cannabis market, and makers of hand-held vaporizers, pods, and merchandise.

Founded in 2017, PAX’s technology was developed and launched more than a decade ago with the debut of its first device and cult classic, PAX 1, for vaporizing loose-leaf cannabis.

Its new line (available soon in California), PAX Live Rosin, features 11 seasonal, small-batch cultivars, including favorites Blue Dream and Pineapple Express, and contemporary cultivars including Tahoe Rose and Wifi Mints—all available in one and half gram units.

“Live rosin is extracted from fresh or frozen flower that has never been cured or dried,” he explained. “So, the difference is in the terpenes—and the flavor is superior because it’s so fresh.”

Jung
Courtesy of Steven Jung

Educate Thyself

Once Jung crossed over into the cannabis industry, he took it upon himself to learn methods of creating products—kind of a backdoor approach to understanding how things work.

“I learned how to make rosin at home using dried flower,” he explained. “I used homemade equipment—hot plates, manual levers—and it’s amazing how much of this wisdom is already out there, now commercial or large-scale. It’s been fascinating to see how much of this industry was pre-existing.”

In fact, the entire multi-million dollar cannabis industry did exist before and within the medical market, since 1996, when California first implemented its compassionate care program. Even in illegal states and countries, the medicine was being made—albeit, via word-of-mouth only—for decades.

“We in the corporate space need to respect the knowledge already out there,” he concluded.

Courtesy of Steven Jung

Help for Vets

As a former veteran of the armed forces, Jung has a soft spot in his heart for those who might be helped by cannabis. This he knows first hand after being helped himself.

“When I got out of the army, I was having sleep issues,” he shared. “I don’t formerly have a diagnosis for PTSD, but was feeling the symptoms when a friend suggested I try cannabis to get some sleep.”

Jung had been getting just two to four hours of sleep at night, with healing deep sleep a rarity.

“I had tried sleeping pills, but didn’t really like that grogginess or the eventual dependence—it just felt unnatural to me,” he said. “The first time I tried cannabis for sleep, it was a rudimentary edible, and I didn’t see it as being effective. Later, after I’d entered the cannabis industry and was able to try more consistently made products, I found what worked.”

Jung’s preferences are Era life with any of PAX’s sativa Live Rosin—Blue Dream, Jack Herer, or Pineapple Express. For edibles, he prefers 5 to 10 milligram doses. His favorite brand is anything by Mellows and Wyld gummies.

Cannabis therapies induce Rapid Eye Movement (REM), inducing a deeper sleep. According to Sleep Foundation.org, cannabis is also said to stop nightmares, something common with vets suffering from post-wartime PTSD.

In a paper published in PubMed, five milligrams a day of THC enhanced sleep quality and reduced frequency of nightmares associated with the disorder. 

Author’s Note: Like many of these papers or observations, it’s important to note that it only states a delivery of “THC,” with no mention if whole plant was used, or if the delivery to the system was smoked or ingested. We do know that all the beneficial compounds working together give a much different effect than just one compound, and that smoking and ingesting can give different outcomes, depending on your own alchemy. That said, CBD alone is also said to have the same beneficial effect to calm for a better night’s sleep.

“I use cannabis at the end of the day to decompress, as a sleep aid, and for better peace of mind,” he said. “I’m also passionate about getting veterans access to the plant—as you know, it’s such a huge issue.”

In the military, he said, it was difficult accepting the idea that he needed anything to help him sleep, as asking for help comes with the brand of weakness.

“Illness and injury are a sign of weakness in the military,” he continued. “Because of this judgment, vets have a lag around how to deal with health issues. Lots of behavioral change needs to occur to heal yourself once you are out.”

Personal and Proactive

Growing up within the Asian culture, Jung said his parents didn’t necessarily tell him and his sister what to do, but they did have a sharp focus on school. His sister, he said, took the virtuous path, attending Harvard Medical School, becoming a doctor.

“She checked all the boxes along the way—Then you have me,” he laughed. “When they look at us now, my parents see similar outcomes, but different paths. Once I left the military they struggled to understand—Then I left the cozy world of high-finance for Twitter and had to explain to them why that was a viable move.”

Crossing over to cannabis, he said, took some time for mom and pop to understand.

“It was an uneasy conversation, to say the least,” he said of breaking the news to his parents. “But, they told me if I felt this was another right path to take, they trusted me. Bottom line, they want my sister and I to have meaningful and productive lives, and this has been accomplished for both of us—with me firmly and happily in the cannabis industry.”

Today, Jung said he’s able to see clearly the wrongdoings of the failed War on Drugs from the other side of the desk, so to speak.

“I think back to when I was in grade school, listening to a police officer from the D.A.R.E. program in our classroom talk about drugs—they seemed nice, but it doesn’t take long to see the discrepancies of what we were told. I started questioning everything—Where does the stigma come from, and is it something I can still believe in?”

His homework on industrial hemp alone, in seeing how the plant could save forests, replace plastic, and so much more, was enough for him to question the politicians using the subject of hemp and cannabis as a tool, perpetuating the ignorance of misinformation lingering for decades.

“Once you start digging, you can see how the political agenda impacted our current view of cannabis,” he added.

In the military, he said, he believed he was in a greater-good organization. He felt fulfilled, met a lot of good people, but said he always felt like something was missing. When he was able to step back, he saw his role in the cannabis industry as a place to do more, to help more people on a different and grander scale.

“When I was able to get past my own stigma of the plant and false beliefs of this industry, I began to realize how blessed I am that the plant found me,” he surmised. “At the time, I didn’t understand how important it was to be a part of something larger than myself—to be a part of an industry doing good things in the world, while healing humans, is rewarding beyond words.”

For more information on PAX click here

Check out the PubMed paper on PTSD and cannabis. 

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