Leslie La Duke Banionis
For this month’s interview, I reached out to an acquaintance who has become very dear to my heart over the last year; her wit and repartee charmed me, and I was amazed at the depth and breadth of her experience, especially in regards to cannabis. She is my gem tucked away in the pacific northwest, and a shoulder on which to lean. Leslie La Duke Banionis is a woman, wife, mother, cannabis advocate.
Thank you so very much for your time Leslie, I greatly appreciate you sharing your experience and perspective with our Femme Nuri audience. I would like to start with your story; who are you, and what brought you to cannabis? I ask this because I feel your story is not the norm, but an exception that illustrates our collective diversity of experience.
Who am I? I’m a 1967 model, but “model” is an overstatement; perhaps we might insert “plus size” to model? I am one of four generations of my family to have been raised in Santa Monica, CA. I’m the daughter of teachers, a former writer for AB Måns Widman in Stockholm, and wife of Arūnas, physician and USAF flight surgeon. I’m the mother of Adam, Michael and Ava, as well as an orchardist, gardener, jam maker, dog whisperer, cat chaser and chicken rustler in Poulsbo, Washington. I’m not a patient, but an advocate.
When I was in junior high, I had a friend who got cancer; she lost her appetite, her hair, her color, and became emaciated during treatment; attending school was no longer possible. Her parents let her smoke cannabis to ameliorate the nausea and pain, temporarily alleviating if not entirely abating her suffering. This was revolutionary, and was my first exposure to the medical use of cannabis.
She died, but it was her life, and not her death, that changed my life.
I’m a huge fan of topicals.
No, that’s not a size joke.
Well, maybe it could be one.
The joke is on me if it is funny.
I’m not a fan of smoking; vaping and dabbing hold no appeal for me. However, culinary use of cannabis requires no formal training as a chef. The intimidation factor does no service to a society increasingly interested in normalization.
The appeal of a backyard plot rife with leaves one may prune as needed, harvesting fresh, raw cannabis with the power of THC-a through a macerating juicer or the miracle of a green berry smoothie in a blender requires basic kitchen equipment. An activated cup of cannabis tea with boiled with a fat to bind THC such as coconut oil for 15-20 minutes at 220 degrees, then strained and sweetened in the land of milk and honey requires a pot and thermometer. The myriad uses of this medicinal plant are universally non-threatening to novice and village elders alike.
I make jam; if one is able to stir a hot cauldron of fruit that bubbles, one may wish to consider the possibilities of spiking a jar of preserves with a clean green extract. There are 96 teaspoons in a pint, so if you want 5mg per serving, my guess is you know how to multiply.
6-8 cups of organic fruit; wash, peel and/or slice as your preparation.
1 cup of lemon juice; I also like to add a few drops of food safe lemon essential oil at the end of the process. All citrus contains the mood-elevating terpene limonene, and there is no soul who can’t use a little dose of happy.
3 tsp. Ball no/low sugar pectin; folks who experiment with measurements and sweeteners need a flexible gelling product.
BOIL stirring constantly.
1 cup of fruit juice or honey to taste; one may substitute with 2-3 cups of sugar, but make sure it’s organic, unbleached turbinado or a tree-hugging variety.
BOIL stirring constantly.
This is when you add your 2-3 drops of food safe lemon essential oil and stir. Using a funnel and ladle, pour jam into hot, clean jars, leaving 1/2 inch at the top, where the jar is threaded.
Lid and band tightly; use a glove.
With a jar lifter, lower sealed jars into a pot of boiling water for a 10 minute bath.
Remove the hot jars with a lid lifter and let cool on a towel.
Lids will POP to indicate seal.
Store in a dark, cool pantry or cupboard; refrigerate once opened, and consume within the year.
I have an affinity for the very young and comparatively old, but Lord have mercy on the midlife souls subject to my sharp tongue; whatever I can do to soften my rough, gloved edges for folks is great, and a jar of jam leaves a sweet memory, wherein the charms I lack fall short. Everyone loves farm-fresh preserves, and my childhood nickname is Eki (pronounced EK•ee); if one adds cannabis concentrate, label for safety. Jam with THC is “Eki Bird Errrl Preserves.”
As a mother, what do you feel are the most significant aspects of utilizing the cannabis plant, what positives does it bring into your life?
As a mother?
Frankly, I’m not hysterical, and that is a huge advantage when educating any age, especially adolescents and young adults, but also friends and family. Many of our parents experience common chronic conditions like arthritis, and being approachable and open to all provides opportunities for understanding. Cannabis is statistically safer than any intoxicant; when grown using organic methods, one may eat a leaf straight from the bush without consequence. The LD50 of cannabis is zero (0), which means that the lethal dose (LD) for half of humanity (50%) is nothing, nada, zero and zip. One may consume more than is prudent and need to sleep it off, but one should start small; microdosing is smart, and increasing experience is best one experience at a time, not during the same day. One cannot overdose, but cannabis can kill; if a 1,500 pound bale fell on you, you could die. Additionally, if you mix cannabis with alcohol, the synergistic reaction that occurs will rule you out from safely driving or operating heavy machinery. Because I’m a DUI conscious driver, I do not consume and drive. Period. Erring on the side of caution is exercising prudential wisdom; this is vital to teach, and has a significant impact upon society that is always positive. Designate a driver, call a cab, Lyft or Über, or call your mother; she loves you best. That isn’t always how you need to be loved, but if that is how she is able to love you, that merits your compassion and mercy.
Everyone deserves to love and be loved.
Can you share with us some of your hobbies or areas of expertise?
Building soil. Gardening. Cooking. Canning. Heckling. Hospitality is a gift that cultivates the virtue of hope; everyone needs hope, and a cup of tea or meal made from farm to table is a wonder in a society that desperately needs to learn to love. My Grandma Grace always said, “to the heart through the stomach,” and I am living her legacy to the best of my ability every day.
No thank you. Ask me when I’m 80. However, I shall state that practice makes perfect, and the rocky road paving the path to perfection requires a sincere willingness to be humble, make mistakes, apologize, forgive, learn, correct and improve daily.
As a resident of a highly restrictive/regulated recreationally legal state, what impact, if any, do you feel it has had, or not had, on patient access and care?
Washington State currently has the worst cannabis laws on the books; we not only have every right to take umbrage that our federal government has not ended the prohibition incrementally enacted almost 100 years ago, nor removed cannabis from schedule one of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. We are overqualified to call our Washington State electorate absolute idiots for passing 502, and our local municipalities myopic for declaring moratoriums that render “dry” communities or counties, and our state legislature far worse for compounding a poorly written law into a difficult situation for medical cannabis patients via 5052. This act ensured the de facto decimation and destruction of the producers, processors and retailers via medical cannabis farmers’ markets and medical patients’ dispensaries.
Regulation and taxation do not comprise freedom; the restrictions do not guarantee the safety of consumers, be they medical patients or folks from the adult use market. There are over 400 known products used on cannabis to prevent various plant disease processes and pest infestations, yet our laboratories test for a fraction of toxins. Some convert to cyanide when heated, others are neurotoxins, and many have not been researched adequately.
Clean Green or Certified Kind seals of approval are helpful for consumers, as these farms have been inspected for organic methods, cultural habits and techniques as well as integrated pest management and healthful amendments, but there are too few farms worthy of those CG or CK labels; these growers are worth their weight in gold, which is what one may pay in 502 flower boutiques, and provides excellent argument for supporting home grow.
Medical cannabis patients merit compassion, care and donation, but it is illegal to share cannabis in Washington. One is not permitted to possess more than one ounce of cured bud, unless one has an affirmative defense or registers in a state-sponsored database through the Department of Health via the Liquor and Cannabis Board. Interestingly, the DOH and LCB accidentally released confidential patient information from the registry to the public over a year ago; physicians write recommendations of up to 15 plants, but are not involved in protecting patient confidentiality. HIPPA laws are declared neither broken, nor able to be cited in damage done by DOH and LCB using a third party contractor and inadvertently sharing diagnostic and personal data, allegedly including home address, telephone number, email and social security numbers.
Another challenge in the Washington State cannabis market is that the PPM or parts per million permitted in extractions i.e. concentrates of solvent residuals (hexane, butane, etc.) has been raised to unreasonably toxic levels; whereas an extract artist might lab test at 5 ppm, the current permitted PPM in Washington State is 500 ppm.
Additionally, very few labs test for and report on cannabinoids beyond THC and CBD, much less the terpenes that comprise an entourage effect, nor the important CBG or psychedelic THC-v. In order to educate and inform, it is critical that we consistently report on the truth of this plant and what it contains; one cannot argue medicinal value without sharing the measurable medicinal worth of cannabis through liquid chromatography, mass spectrometry, microbial and organoleptic testing.
Patient access is a huge issue; one may face a 1-2 hour round trip plus gas in order to procure cannabis of irregular quality with possible pesticides in limited quantities on fixed incomes.
We have a 37% cannabis tax with an additional 8.7% sales tax in my county. Patients with an affirmative defense and doctor’s note do not receive a waiver of the 37% tax, but registered patients who risk their private information being made public have the 6.5%+ state sales tax waived.
We have problems.
And lastly, in this blooming industry of cannabis, what does YOUR “perfect world” look like?
My perfect world is one in which no one cares about what I grow in my garden, wherein I am free to share the bounty of the earth with those whom I love, and am able to advocate for all of my friends with cancer, MS, arthritis, PTSD, Crohn’s, TBI, eczema, HIV/AIDS and for any reason, including adult use or bodily autonomy, sans fear of reprisal or recrimination.
I’m just one woman; I have a family whom I adore, and am blessed with friends whose understanding of and love for my mountain acres includes patience with a process that requires a lifetime to produce, and a lot of time in the trees.
I cannot say that my thoughts comprise a symphony, but I can quote a saint:
“In essentials, unity.
In non-essentials, liberty.
In all things, charity.”
St. Augustine of Hippo
Leslie, thank you so much for sharing your comprehensive perspectives on so many varying topics and humoring my request to do so. I am absolutely positive our readers learned something today, you are an Incredible Woman of Cannabis and I thank you for using your voice to help educate others.
This month’s theme was about confidence and servant leadership. True leaders must lead by serving others, and doing so with right reason and conviction; they are compelled to do so by their very nature.
Femme Nuri recognizes Leslie La Duke Banionis as a leader in the next generation of cannabis. Thank you for your service.