Following early entries I've written for MUNCHIES, like Melissa Etheridge and her weed-infused wine, and James Beard award-winning pastry chef Mindy Segal and her cannabis-infused confections, Whoopi Goldberg is now the most high-profile celebrity to ever dive headfirst into the world of marijuana edibles. But before I get to my interview with Ms. Goldberg, or describe my experiences ingesting, soaking in, and rubbing on the entire, brand new line of Whoopi & Maya medical marijuana products—all of which are being marketed specifically for women experiencing menstrual discomfort—I need to make clear three things in the name of full disclosure.
1. Through my work as a longtime marijuana journalist, I'm personal friends with several people now employed at the small start up company (co-owned by Goldberg), which plans to have products available at dispensaries throughout California starting this April.
3. I've never menstruated in my life (because I'm a dude).
So perhaps I'm not the most objective/anatomically equipped reporter for this assignment, but given the chance to interview the EGOT winning actress behind this groundbreaking new venture, followed by taking an exclusive early test-drive of their offerings, how could I refuse? After all, whatever the sales pitch, all of these products will provide relief for discomfort of all kinds, and for all genders. Also, I brought my wife along for the ride.
We started, per Whoopi Goldberg's suggestion (see below), with a cannabis-infused soak, and then proceeded to try the rest of the product line in short order. We both found the bath to be a relaxing and relieving experience, and my better half subsequently assured me that sipping from a cup of CBD-rich hot chocolate while submerged in hot water infused with weed is indeed, what women want, and not just during a menstrual cycle. For while CBD is a non-psychoactive component of the marijuana plant, its proven anti-pain, anti-inflammatory, and anti-spasmotic properties make it a great fit for those looking to subdue cramps and period pain without getting goofy. Plus, the high-quality cacao in the drink tastes great and offers its own medicinal properties. (For those looking to get goofy, try spiking the chocolate with a few drops of the high THC version of Whoopi & Maya's tincture). The roll-on topical pain-relief salve, meanwhile, meant to be applied directly to a woman's affected area, also works wonders for a stiff neck.
All of the products are manufactured and packaged to stand on the shelf proudly next to the fanciest holistic wellness products found at Whole Foods (at least someday), only with the addition of glorious artisanal quality cannabis supplied by Maya's all-female Northern California medical marijuana cultivation team.
"We believe that the ingredients used to make our products are the basis for their quality and effectiveness," Maya told me. "So we're proud to use only full sun, full spectrum, ecologically grown cannabis flowers." Maya says the soak is not only a relaxing way to unwind, it allows the medicine to reach a woman's lady parts directly. "Your colon is like a sponge which pulls cannabinoids directly into your endocannabinoid system," She explained. "Women have CB1 and CB2 receptors all over their reproductive systems, so when the water goes inside, the cannabinoids can make contact directly with those cannabinoid receptors and provide targeted relief."
According to Maya, marijuana's not only physically therapeutic, it's also ideal for mood elevation. And pot's not the only plant-based medicine in the mix, as she's blended each product with complimentary herbs and super foods like amber, neroli, marjoram lavender, ginger, willow bark, St. John's wort, elderberry, mother wort, passionflower, red raspberry leaf, and cramp bark, "which is been used for thousands of years to relieve women of menstrual cramps, hence the name."
Anyway, given my clear personal bias in this case, I think it's best to just say that Maya's reputation as a top-flight maker of cannabis-infused products is well deserved and infrequently matched, an assessment shared enthusiastically by my testing partner, who also happens to be the edibles editor at High Times magazine.
Most importantly, the idea that cannabis can safely, effectively treat menstrual discomfort all-naturally makes perfect sense given everything we know about how the plant's cannabinoids affect the human body. I even have a friend who only smokes weed when she's menstruating. So the question isn't: Does marijuana alleviate menstrual discomfort?, but rather: Why hasn't anybody jumped on this huge untapped market before Whoopi Goldberg? I caught up with her by phone to find out.
MUNCHIES: Why did you decide to start your own company instead of signing on as a celebrity endorser? Whoopi Goldberg: Because I'm not a celebrity endorser, I'm actually interested in helping to create products that will work. I have a daughter and three granddaughters and, once upon a time, I too suffered from horrible cramps. In talking with different people about the medicinal aspects of marijuana, however, I would tell them that smoking a joint (before I stopped smoking) used to help dramatically, but I've never found a cannabis product specifically designed to treat menstrual discomfort. And their response was always, "Well, it's such a niche market." But how can half the population be a niche market? Anyway, after having this conversation several times, a friend of mine connected me with a wonderful woman named Maya Elisabeth. I explained what I'd been hearing and she said, "You will never hear that from me. What kind of medicine do you want to make?" And thus began "Whoopi and Maya." From the beginning, I told her I feel very strongly that if our names are on something, we both have to stand behind it. This is not me leasing my name out. We're making this shit. She's an extraordinary grower and she's been creating medicinal marijuana-infused products through her company, Om Edibles, for years. So it's kind of fabulous.
How do you personally recommend women use these products? You can start by relaxing in a healing cannabis bath soak. Then you can try sipping a little raw drinking chocolate, which we offer infused with either THC or CBD, the two primary medicinal compounds found in pot—one that's psychoactive, and one that's not, so you can figure out which works best for you. And we also offer a topical cannabis rub for localized pain and an herbal tincture, an application that goes back to the days of Queen Victoria, who was prescribed something similar to alleviate her cramps. Now, is this going to work for 100 percent of women? Nothing does, but it's going to work for a lot of them if they're willing to try something new.
Do you feel that the cannabis industry has been male dominated up until this point? And if so do you see legalization possibly changing that? I don't know what legalization is going to do. But I feel that it might be a male dominated industry right now, only because I've talked to so many people about this idea who used that same word, "niche." What I'm really hoping is that if enough women find relief through cannabis, they will become more empathetic to other medical marijuana users, including families who are moving their children to places where it's legal so they can get what they need to feel better.
You said you used to smoke marijuana to treat menstrual pain. When and how did you come to the realization that it works for that? You know, if you're cramping and you smoke a joint and you're not cramping anymore, it's like "Oh!" I can't give you a date like January 6, 1964, but I can tell you that it wasn't absolutely clear to me exactly how well marijuana works as a medicine until I couldn't smoke it anymore.
In addition to medicinal use, would you say cannabis has ever been a part of your creative process as an artist? I wouldn't point to anything and say I created it because of marijuana, but it's probably been helpful as it has been for so many. That's not my reason for it these days, however. I'm not advocating getting anybody high. I'm advocating a better quality of life. I've gotten older and I want to help people feel better—that's my groove.
Marijuana's legal in an increasing number of states medicinally and even recreationally, but it's still illegal federally. Do you worry that after this election there could be a rollback against legalization, or have we reached a tipping point? I sort of feel like we've reached the tipping point. We know that each state has done better fiscally after legalizing, so I don't see how it can be pushed back. But with all this talk of building walls, throwing people out, and doing all kinds of stuff, who can say? What we do know is that there's no way to discount the medicinal benefits of marijuana. There's far too much proof of it now.
Thanks for speaking to me!
David Bienenstock is the author of How to Smoke Pot (Properly): A Highbrow Guide to Getting High (April 2016). Follow him on Twitter @pot_handbook.