Washington State cannabis advocate Leslie La Duke Banionis is a modern-day apothecary, making remedies for herself, while teaching others.
When Washington State voted to legalize cannabis for adult use, its medical program was put in jeopardy, with caregivers pushed out of the proverbial driver’s seat as legal remedy makers for many in their community.
The caregiver cooperative model often began with friends, family, and neighbors as an affordable healthcare option, with its patient base growing as people heal. This model ran smoothly for decades under the compassionate care program that began in California and was then practiced in many medically legal states. The program is now fading as recreational weed makes its home in pricey dispensaries—pushing many patients back into an unregulated market.
Apothecary was the method of healing for thousands of years, using plant-based remedies, gradually replaced by the late 1930s, with synthetic, patented pharmaceuticals. Those who practice apothecary, like Banionis, have continued to make remedies, sharing recipes on social media, now forced to teach, rather than care for patients. If they have the wherewithal and funds, caregivers are now creating their own brands or working for larger, licensed companies.
Under the name Stella Maris, Banionis, with her business partner, producer, and processor Matthew Wonson, bypassed the pricey cannabis market altogether, looking beyond cannabinoids. Using other beneficial terpenes, they created High Seas Beard Balm, with compounds such as Beta-caryophyllene (BCP), said to be as potent as CBD, binding with CB2 receptors of the endocannabinoid system in the same way as cannabinoids do.
And though Banionis, a mother of three, says she ingests her own homemade edibles more often than smoking, her stash box is an impressive mix of flower, hash, concentrates, tools, and functionality. Her stash is housed in an impressive multi-tiered maple box, created by Washington State woodworker and owner of Mr. Keifbox Wood Working, Myron Connery.
Known for his beautifully appointed boxes, each has a built-in kief separator with flower compartment, allowing the kief to land on a glass-bottom “boat,” with the top tier stowing smoking implements and remedies.
The flower in Banionis’ Mr. Kief Box is Eki Bird, a phenotype, grown by Afghani genetic specialist, Michael Anderson of Vashon Seed on Vashon Island, Washington.
“Eki Bird is my childhood nickname,” Banionis mused. “The cultivar comes from Early Bird chemovar. Anderson relocated to Colorado for a breeding and research development project, but the seeds are available from James Bean.
Banionis waxes poetic on the methods of which her flower is grown and harvested, musing, “it’s Humboldt hung, bucked, and shucked, but not Mendocino trimmed – according to my traditional cannabis preference,” giving full credit to Matthew Wonson via Golden Beaver Farm, Test Kitchen, and LAH, LLC.
Banionis’ layered stash of accessories and remedies reads like a handmade weed history of the Pacific Northwest, with hash and tools made with skills honed in the region for decades. One wonders if much of the handcrafting and apothecary will go back to black, like so much folklore from the once-illicit family farm.
On the top tier of her stash box (clockwise from top left), is an antique checkerboard case from Stephen Damgaard, in memory of the longtime Seattle Hempfest advocate who passed away in 2018 and is now missed greatly by many.
Among her array of enviable concentrates is a King Cake chemovar chief coins, grown and pressed by Matthew Wonson; King Cake chemovar steam distilled cannabis derived terpenes from Matthew Wonson; Temple Ball hashish from Azad Gazurian; and bubble hash made from Nepali landrace, grown and processed by Marc Sandhaus.
The tiny red and white polka-dot amanita-designed dab tools are gifted by Sarah Jett Rasor, made by Arch DJ of Sensible Concepts. The deer antler-handled hashish knife was made by Banionis’ father, Ken La Duke. She also has a steel hashish knife made by the blacksmith Scro.
Lastly, Banionis’ local advocacy is represented via her Vashon Island Marijuana Enthusiasts Alliance pin, produced by Shango Los of VIMEA; and a modern day scrolled case from the Vashon Island pharmacy.
Old apothecaries never stop healing themselves and others, in real time or via the folklore that continues long after they are gone. Banionis is a treasure in that regard, with her stash box a treasure trove of healing and stories behind each item from legacies that will continue to be shared long after the failed War on Drugs is gone.