Kiki Murasaki arrives to the kitchen Friday afternoon-- energies are fading from a long week, but her summery smile perks up the room. Always dressed to impress, she sets up in the kitchen-- today she is cooking Kush Nuts, the star of her one-woman show. She spreads a layer of almonds over a sheet pan and places them in the oven to roast. Without batting an eye, Kiki rolls the biggest joint that has ever been rolled in a Blackbird Session and sets it aside. We have a hard time not smoking it.
Preparing the cashews, Kiki recounts her initial encounter with cannabis-- she got into smoking weed with her American “stoner” classmates during high school in the Philippines, but moving back to her native Japan at sixteen imposed a break from cannabis. Her exposure was limited-- to this day, Japanese law enforcement and strong cultural stigmas do not look favorably upon cannabis.
At twenty-one, Kiki moved to the US, to Virginia Beach, then San Diego.. In Boston, she produced a Japanese arts and culture publication, J Magazine, and learned how to build small businesses. She hasn’t worked for anyone but herself since. Landing in the Bay Area, she was introduced to a cannabis-infused lollipop-- “I could make that,” she said.
Kiki takes the almonds from the oven and tosses them with the cashews, butter, and seasonings. As she spreads the nuts over the tray and places it back in the oven, she tells us about her humble beginnings in the cannabis business-- still unknown to her family in Japan. “Did I know I was going to be the lady making savory nuts?” Smiling, Kiki nods, “I did.”
A self-taught and enthusiastic cook, Kiki first experimented with chocolate truffles, but the market was already flooded with sweets. A local dispensary buyer suggested she try again with a savory edible. The first thing she thought of was one of her favorite “all-purpose” snacks-- nuts.
It took her a week to refine the recipe, but guaranteeing her supplies proved more difficult. Her network was small-- she was getting trim from strangers, but that wasn’t sustainable, she needed consistent, high-quality product. With access to some garage space, she convinced her friends to teach her how to grow-- starting with a modest 10 lights of OG Kush, inspiring the edible Kush Nuts. Turns out she had a green thumb too-- expanding to both indoor and outdoor setups in Santa Cruz, Kiki started selling her flowers to a couple of the Bay’s top dispensaries. As the pressure of growing flowers mounted, she transitioned her operation to a cannabis clone business and refocused her energy on growing her own edible company.
As she removes the nuts from the oven, roasted rosemary, garlic, and rich salty butter waft through the kitchen. The nuts need to cool before they’re ready. We eat some anyway. Kiki lights her joint and puffs on it thoughtfully. She wants to instigate the legalization of cannabis in Japan. She wants to educate others about the applied therapies and remedies cannabis can offer. She wants to provide the same freedoms cannabis provides for her. And she’s on her way.