Things started to go bad for Whoopi Goldberg when she quit smoking weed.
Both a cigarette smoker and a regular cannabis user throughout her stellar career in entertainment, the award-winning actress, comedian, and TV talk show host managed to break free from tobacco addiction (while pulling off the almost unheard of trick to win a Grammy, a Tony, an Emmy and an Oscar).
When she did, she discovered that she could no longer smoke cannabis either.
“My lungs just wouldn’t take it,” she said SF Evergreen recently. A while after she got rid of both habits, her daughter asked her how she was doing.
“I said, ‘Actually, I’m getting a headache again,'” she recalls. “I took a lot of Advil. I had problems with glaucoma and vision, but it didn’t bother me until I quit smoking. Then my head started to hurt again.”
That was when Goldberg discovered her cannabis vaporizer pen, which cleared her head, enabled her to control her pain and became a constant companion — so beloved she wrote an ode to it in a Denver-based pot publication The Cannabis.
Her experience with the vape pen got her thinking about other pains: menstrual pain, for example.
Familiar with the story of Britain’s Queen Victoria, whose quest for cannabis cramp relief has been documented by her doctor-in-ordinary, Goldberg was curious if there wasn’t something similar for women on the modern market.
“I see Willie [Nelson] has a line, and Snoop has a line, and this one has a line,” she said. “So I’m like, ‘Is anyone talking about menstrual cramps?’ ”
To find out, Goldberg asked a friend who works at High Times. Predictable and problematic, she asked a man.
“And he said, ‘No, that’s a niche market,'” she recalls, still incredulous. “That was when it hit me. I said, ‘I don’t mean to be an asshole, but half the world’s population is that niche. ”
She asked him to “put her in touch” – with someone who could make a cannabis-based product designed to relieve pain from cramps, without any psychoactive effect.
“I wanted to create this, if it doesn’t exist,” she said. It turned out not to be, but someone had something nearby. That someone was Maya Elisabeth, the founder of Om Edibles, a High Times Cannabis Cup-winning women’s cannabis collective based in Northern California.
Om already produced non-psychoactive products such as cannabis bath salts, oils and tinctures (as well as edibles). When the two first connected in early 2015, Maya had some of her award-winning topical products on hand. The meeting and merging of personalities “was like nirvana,” Goldberg said. “I said, ‘Listen — I think we need the kind of friction you have in your wallet.’ When the cramps start, I need to be able to put this on, not get high, but get relief, and that’s what she did.”
That’s the genesis of “Whoopi & Maya”, the new line of female-friendly cannabis products the couple launched earlier this year. The products also work for men – we all have muscles, we all have pain and we all have an endocannabinoid system – but special attention is paid to easing the struggles that only women feel.
And to get that struggle recognized is a struggle in itself. As a moderator of The view, Goldberg, on the east coast, where medical marijuana is subject to the strictest regulations in the country. When New Jersey lawmakers realized that cannabis can relieve menstrual cramps and tried to add them to the list of qualifying conditions for medicinal cannabis products, they were rejected.
“They presented it to the governor” [early Donald Trump supporter Chris Christie], and he said, ‘No, no no, we only use medical marijuana for real problems,’ she said. “And that is the crux of everything for me. Do people think the cramps are not real? The idea that your quality of life shouldn’t be better, with something that won’t get you high, but will relieve your pain?”
This turn towards cannabis business completes a sort of circle for Goldberg (who has discussed cannabis on The view). She’s been a cannabis user for years and has never hidden it from anyone she’s worked with – not on Ghost, which won her an Academy Award, not on Star Trek: The Next Generation, where she landed a supporting role decades after she landed Nichelle Nichols Lt. Uhura had been seen playing in the original series and was inspired by a black actress who “didn’t play a maid” — and nowhere else she’s worked for the past 30 years.
“Nobody I’ve ever worked for didn’t know,” she said. “Now I never go high to work, and I never go high on the street, because that makes me uncomfortable… But I’ve always been up front.”
Christie’s intransigence means Whoopi & Maya products are not available on Goldberg’s own market. That could change: She hopes President Barack Obama will “at least take a look” at the relaxation of cannabis laws on his way to office. Perhaps that could change things in New Jersey — or help women’s “niche market,” more than 50 percent of all people, consider cannabis.
“All I do is advocate an open mind,” she said. “I’m not saying everyone should do it – I don’t think Maya and Whoopi’s rubs are good for everyone. Nothing is good for everyone, but that doesn’t stop things.”
“It’s stupid not to look again. [Cannabis] is another leap forward in medicine.”