Leaf Brief

Leaf Brief: May 2024

May Cannabis News & Updates

Apotheculture Club delights Santa Fe

The woman sitting next to me opens her purse and starts fumbling through it. She clasps a pair of glasses with her hand, turns toward me and says, “I’m blind.” She puts her glasses on, tilts her head back and howls. I don’t know this woman, but we’re a third of the way through the Santa Fe Symphony’s production of Oceana and, like the rest of us, she’s been staring transfixed at the orchestra since the musicians first took the stage at the Lensic Performing Arts Center.

She’s stoned. I’m stoned. The group we came with are stoned to varying degrees. I laugh with her, as I am momentarily pulled out of my own trance. I look around at the group of people I came with, all of them unknown to me before this afternoon. I look at the stage filled with musicians and their instruments. I look up at the ceiling. I look down at my hands in my lap. Do those belong to me? And then the music escalates, pulling me out of my surroundings and back into a state where I can hear and see every note expand and collapse like some sort of synchronized dance.

James Blaszko was right. Cannabis and classical music go together in the most beautiful, unexpected way. Blaszko, the CEO and co-founder of Apotheculture Club, whom I interviewed for SFR back in April, sits on my other side, eyes focused on the stage, just as transfixed. We are in the midst of Santa Fe’s first Apotheculture Club event.

The afternoon began at a private residence in Tesuque. I was greeted in the driveway and whisked into the courtyard, where I was offered a Cannarita, a cannabis beverage produced by Minerva Canna, who sponsored and provided the cannabis for the event.

Kya Brickhouse of The Exodus Ensemble, who co-hosted the event with Blaszko, showed me the menu for lunch and asked how much cannabis I’d like in each course. There was no food on the menu, just dosing options. I chose 5 mg for the first course, no cannabis for the second course and 5 mg for the third course. Each attendee could select how much or how little cannabis they wanted throughout the meal, so that all levels of cannabis tolerance could be accommodated.

It was clear this was going to be a real farm-to-table experience, but not in the traditional sense. The distillate used in the olive oil and butter for the meal came directly from Minerva’s farm in Bernalillo. Erik Briones, owner of Minerva, walked me through their facility and process. The distillate for our meal began in an indoor greenhouse, where the plants are carefully monitored. Once the plants are big enough, they are moved outdoors and grow to incredible heights in the sunlight. Next they’re dried, and the parts of the plants that aren’t photo-worthy, the yellowish bits, are soaked. Then the plant is processed through a machine to meet its ultimate destiny of becoming a distillate, which can then be used in edibles, beverages, cooking and so on.

Once I had concluded making all the important decisions, I began mingling with the other attendees. As joints were passed around, we introduced ourselves and bantered about what was in store for the afternoon. Before I knew it, it was time to eat. We were called indoors and the 24 of us gathered around an incredibly long table covered in fresh cut flowers.

Chef Nestor Lopez, of Albuquerque’s Gobble This, curated the cannabis-infused luncheon. Blaszko coordinates with a local chef in the city, or nearby city, of an event, often one with cannabis culinary experience. A mutual friend brought together Blaszko and Lopez, who share a connection as first-generation Americans whose parents left their respective countries during times of unrest. Blaszko’s parents left Poland and his stepfather left Pakistan and immigrated to Connecticut, while Lopez’s parents left El Salvador and immigrated to Los Angeles.

Each course of the Salvadoran-influenced cuisine was inspired by the symphony’s Earth Day and ocean themed program. Lopez came out to introduce the first course, titled “Natural Reef.” A lion’s mane mushroom cake sat atop micro greens and an edible herbal sand made of cannabis infused butter, or regular butter depending on the preference; crushed fried wontons; yucca; and pumpkin seeds with parsley, thyme, oregano and cilantro. The “sand” tasted what I imagine the earth would taste like. My pallet felt like it was out in a field rolling around in wood chips and pine cones, with a hint of a freshly mowed lawn in the air. And did I mention there was pot in it? A coconut red cabbage water was served on the side. The “water” was purple and I wanted to swim in it. I practically licked the plate, leaving no trace of the exquisitely textured and flavored sand, or the cannabis.

Music curated by Blaszko played in the background as he and Brickhouse posed questions while the group discussed cannabis, the arts and classical music. At this point, Dawn Briones, wholesale director at Minerva, offered me another Cannarita and I happily obliged. My senses were so stimulated that I’m fairly certain I completely forgot the beverage contained THC and the sand I had just devoured also contained THC. Whoops!

Lopez appeared at the table again as the second course was placed in front of us. This course, titled “Underwater Salad,” was so bright and welcoming I could barely follow along to the description being provided. My eyes were glued to the dish. Perfectly seared scallops nestled into a coconut white wine beurre blanc sauce beneath a frisée watercress salad. A verde seaweed chimichurri encircled the plate and Marigold petals accented the dish. Cannabis was infused in the oil and butter. Thankfully I had chosen not to have cannabis in this course as I was already feeling pretty great.

Another dish was placed in front of me that was so unbelievably stunning, I stopped breathing for a moment. Lopez had returned to the table and told us this dish was called, “Ocean to Land.” It was the prettiest surf and turf I’d ever seen. A gorgeous steak leaned against a couple of plump shrimp. Below, a white bean and plantain mash acted as the foundation. A black matcha salsa was drizzled over the plate. The sauce, which contained cannabis if desired, was crunchy and exquisite. After every bite I feared I was going to have to put smelling salts on my tongue for fear it would die of pure bliss if not revived.

I had never eaten so slowly in my life. Every bite that entered my mouth was unreal. I don’t recall speaking much. I don’t know if this was due to my mouth being too occupied with food, or if any thoughts I had made enough sense to say out loud. Luckily we were entertained by a performance from Brickhouse who read “Plant the Seed,” a piece written by Ben Holbrook, a co-founder of the club.

An excerpt from “Plant the Seed”:

“A musician may say that music brings everyone together, even though it is often used to do the opposite. A whiskey distiller may tell you that lowered inhibitions are necessary for any successful party. A psychopharmacologist, however, may tell you that the THC in cannabis is a disruptor of our short term memory, which means that it slows down our perception of time, it makes us present and helps us to notice details we didn’t notice before. It also adds a random neural static to our brains, which opens us up to new possibilities and new ways of being creative.”

Just as I wondered how this afternoon could get any better after the meal of a lifetime, someone announced the bus had arrived. Right, we were going to the symphony. We piled on the bus. The woman sitting next to me asked if I was feeling the cannabis. Yes, absolutely yes, I told her. She said she couldn’t tell yet, but I did notice she smiled a lot during the drive into town.

The bus parked right in front of the Lensic. We entered the theater and were ushered to our seats in the balcony. Before I knew it, the lights had dimmed, the musicians and their instruments were on stage and the conductor was at his post. And then it began.

The symphony began with George Frideric Handel’s Water Music: Suite in F Major. For a moment I felt like I was in water. It was buoyant and then dramatic. I had the urge to clap, but thought better of it. Is there clapping at the symphony? There were times to clap, but even though I wanted to clap, I couldn’t seem to find a way to bring my hands together to make any noise, at least not until the end.

The next piece was by Native composer Jerod Impichchaachaaha´ Tate (Chickasaw Nation). It was titled “Chokfí,” the Chickasaw word for rabbit. Whoa. The drums coming out of the percussion section were incredible. I had heard classical music before, but this felt alive, like it was a living and breathing thing. The drums kept building. I caught myself gasping. The piece felt fast-paced, which surprised me, or maybe that was just the effects of the cannabis. Again, I wanted to clap, but my paranoia had set in and I was still worried about coordinating my hands.

It was sometime after my clapping conundrum that intermission arrived. I decided I should use the bathroom. It turns out it was a good call. My bladder was full, even though I couldn’t tell. As I left the bathroom, I spotted a couple I had been sitting next to at lunch. Seeing them felt like finding a port in a storm. I told them I felt like the cannabis kept hitting me in waves. He had opted not to have cannabis infused in any course. She looked at me and nodded, as if to say she too was incredibly high and completely mesmerized.

The third piece, Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s “Variations on a Rococo Theme,” featured American-Brazilian cellist Gabriel Martins. Never have I watched a musician play quite like Martins did. My entire body was riveted. I had no words to describe what I was witnessing. And I’m supposed to be a writer. His hands danced up and down every note. It was graceful and yet the velocity with which he moved his hands had to be out of a normal range. And so much precision. For a minute I thought I was at the ballet. I’d never been this observant in my whole life, and probably never would be again. His head got so close to the stings at one point, I worried his eyelashes were going to get tangled in the strings. The instrument and Martins were intertwined as one. Literally, at one point I couldn’t tell them apart. I was aware that Martins was a human and the cello was his instrument, but together they were in a dance that was so fluid and so in sync.

I didn’t think the symphony could get any better by this point. I was so wrong. A screen dropped down above the orchestra and the sound of whales filled the theater. The music started and then whales were swimming across the screen. The final piece, “Oceana” by Stella Sung, had begun. For the first time, I took my eyes off the musicians. Whales were joined on the screen by schools of fish moving like tornados through the water. Jellyfish and sharks moved around bright patches of coral. Otters darted at the camera. There was even a sea turtle!

The music sounded like waves crashing on the beach; some were gentle and others were massive, thrashing hard into the shore. The music soared to a dramatic height as a beach filled with trash came into view. Scenes of boats and pollutants interfered with the harmony and sounds of the sea life. The music became sad. I became sad. We are destroying this planet, I thought to myself. How could this composer immerse such beautiful music with images of the ocean and its occupants, coupled with the things that threaten its survival, be so utterly moving and clear without the need for any words? I suppose that’s art at its finest.

We filed back on the bus, Blaszko took a head count and we were off, headed back up to Tesuque to have dessert. We walked back into the house and found Minerva Chocolate bars at each place setting. Pyramids of cannolis stuffed with yellow filling, covered in a crumble and edible flowers also awaited us. The cannolis were served with a side of bright pink glaze. After I finished my cannoli, I watched a man dip his cannoli into the glaze as if it were a chip entering a dip. It was one of the most genius things I’d seen. I had merely drizzled the glaze over my cannoli like some sort of novice.

Before departing, we all lingered after the last cannoli had been consumed, content in each other’s company and still a little in awe of what had happened that afternoon.

The beauty of Apotheculture Club is the collaboration of so many art forms. Chef Nestor excelled at his craft and the Santa Fe Symphony excelled at their craft. And Blaszko and his team excelled at their mission of combining food, classical music, performance, cannabis and people to create a harmonious event at which all senses feed off each other and into each other, so the overall experience is so great that you question whether it really even happened. But it had happened. An art form as old as classical music could be made anew and introduced to an entirely new cannabis-enthused audience.

Apotheculture Club will be returning to Santa Fe! No date has been announced yet, but hopefully sometime this summer. Follow them on Instagram or email them at apothecultureclub@gmail.com to get on their mailing list. The Apotheculture Club encourages individuals who have previously been incarcerated for, or exonerated from, marijuana-related offenses to reach out via email or Instagram to learn about unique perks and privileges.

Shake: Odds and ends from New Mexico and beyond

The private phone call that became very public

A leaked audio of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s private phone call was posted to X, formerly known as Twitter, expressing the governor’s frustration with US Border Control and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over the seizures of legal cannabis on the state’s border and the lack of the agency’s willingness to work with her administration on immigration. It’s unclear who she was speaking with in the audio but, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican, the call was with an unidentified high-ranking official in the Biden administration. In the audio, the governor says she has been hounded by the press in regards to the seizures, has been boxed in and may even have to send a letter to the Department of Homeland Security about her frustrations. Jodi McGinnis Porter, a spokesperson for the governor, confirmed it was the governor on the call and in a statement to the newspaper said, “This unauthorized and edited recording of the governor’s private phone call reflects what she has already said publicly—that she is frustrated by federal seizures of licensed cannabis products in New Mexico, particularly those from small producers.” McGinnis Porter adds, “She has expressed the same concerns in phone calls with secretary Mayorkas.” In the recording the governor says Mayorkas should be ashamed for telling her the cannabis companies that experience the seizures can afford to absorb the financial loss of their product. The governor was quick to point out that “baby” producers cannot absorb a loss like that and could easily go “belly up.” Although medical and recreational cannabis may be legal in some states, or roughly half now, it is still classified as a Schedule I controlled substance under US federal law and therefore individuals who violate the Controlled Substances Act are subject to seizures, fines and arrests.

Cloud Top Comedy Festival with a side of cannabis

Folks gathered at Minerva Canna’s downtown location (125 E Water Street) for “Sky High,” a night of comedy on May 10-11. The idea was for six comedians to perform two sets. For the first set, the comedians were sober, or somewhat sober, and before the second set the comedians sipped on cannabis-infused beverages and other treats before taking the stage again. The first night, Erik Briones, owner of Minerva, passed out 5 mg THC cookies to the crowd before the first set. It’s safe to say everyone in attendance and the comedians themselves were feeling somewhat adjusted. What transpired was a real mixed bag of jokes between one set and the next. The jokes in the first round made sense and were clearly executed by the majority of the comedians, although one guy went on stage and couldn’t stop smiling. He did manage to get a few jokes out, but there were lots of elongated pauses. From there things turned a little strange. The subject matter got real creative and the jokes got longer. Some jokes got so long, it wasn’t clear where the punch line went. A guy in the front row had been an active participant throughout the first set and halfway through the second set. One could call him a friendly heckler. At one point a comedian looked at him and asked, “Have we lost you pal?” It was unclear if the guy had nodded off, or was just too high to speak. The more stoned some of the comedians got, the more they ditched their planned jokes and just went for it. Some of them made it work, some of them were hilarious and some got a little too into their heads. At one point a comedian asked the audience a yes or no question and instructed us to clap if the answer was yes. The room was silent but every audience member’s hand was in the air. Clearly those pre-show cookies were kicking in. He laughed. The audience laughed. It was a night of giggles, lengthy pauses and a real good time.

Texans fuel New Mexico’s cannabis industry

With no hope for legalization in their own state, Texans continue to flock to New Mexico, especially the city of Sunland Park, for all of their cannabis needs. Sunland Park has a population of roughly 18,000 people and since legalization in April of 2022, the dispensaries in the city have grossed $71 million in cannabis sales. Santa Fe has a population of approximately 90,000 people and since legalization has grossed $79 million in cannabis sales. Rick Martinez, manager of the Sunland Park R. Greenleaf location, told the Texas Standard that, “it’s no secret that most of Sunland Park cannabis shoppers have made the short drive from Texas. While that’s good for his bottom line, he said it also shows Texas is missing out on millions of dollars-or more- in revenue by not allowing recreational cannabis sales.” Texas state Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, tried to get the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis lowered to a Class C misdemeanor back in 2019. The legislation never made it through the House and since then the idea of lowering the penalties for possession of marijuana doesn’t appear to be on the table. The very idea of cannabis legalization in the state of Texas appears to be a very distant pipe dream. Good thing cannabis seeking Texans have found what they’re looking for in our cannabis friendly state.

Letters to the Editor

Mail letters to PO Box 4910 Santa Fe, NM 87502 or email them to editor[at]sfreporter.com. Letters (no more than 200 words) should refer to specific articles in the Reporter. Letters will be edited for space and clarity.

We also welcome you to follow SFR on social media (on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) and comment there. You can also email specific staff members from our contact page.