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Whoopi Goldberg on Cramps, Cannabis, and Getting into the Industry

Things started getting bad for Whoopi Goldberg when she stopped smoking weed.

A cigarette smoker as well as a regular cannabis user throughout her stellar career in entertainment, the every-award-winning actress, comedienne, and television talk show host managed to kick the tobacco habit (while pulling the almost-unheard-of trick of winning a Grammy, a Tony, an Emmy, and an Oscar award).

When she did, she found she couldn’t smoke cannabis anymore, either.

“My lungs just wouldn’t take it,” she told SF Evergreen recently. A while after she’d kicked both habits, her daughter asked her how she was faring.

“I said, ‘Actually, I’m getting headaches again,’ “ she recalled. “I was taking a lot of Advil. I had issues with glaucoma and sight, but it wasn’t bothering me until I stopped smoking. Then my head started bothering me again.”

That was when Goldberg discovered her cannabis vaporizer pen, which cleared her head, allowed her to control her pain, and became a constant companion — so beloved that she penned an ode to it in Denver-based pot publication The Cannabist.

Her experience with the vape pen started her thinking about other pain: menstrual pain, for example.

Familiar with the story of British Queen Victoria, whose seeking of relief from cramps via cannabis has been documented by her physician-in-ordinary, Goldberg was curious if there wasn’t something similar for women on the modern-day market.

“I’m seeing 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. Predictably and problematically, she asked a man.

“And he was like, ‘No, that’s a niche market,’ “ she recalled, still incredulous. “That was when it hit me. I said, ‘I don’t mean to be an asshole, but half of the population on the planet is that ‘niche.’ ”

She asked him to “hook her up” — with someone who could create a cannabis-based product designed to solve pain from cramps, without any psychoactive effect.

“I wanted to create this, if it’s not in existence,” she said. Turns out it wasn’t, but someone had something close. That someone was Maya Elisabeth, the founder of Om Edibles, a High Times Cannabis Cup-winning all-women’s cannabis collective based in Northern California.

Om already produced non-psychoactive products like 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 the melding of personalities “was like nirvana,” Goldberg said. “I said, ‘Listen — I think we need the kind of rub you have in your pocketbook.’ When the cramps begin, I need to be able to rub this on, not get high, but get relief. And that’s what she did.”

That is the genesis story of “Whoopi & Maya,” the new line of women-friendly cannabis products the pair launched earlier this year. The products work for men, too — we all have muscles, we all have pain, and we all have an endocannabinoid system — but there is special attention paid to relieve the struggle only women feel.

And getting that struggle recognized is itself a struggle. As moderator of The View, Goldberg based on the East Coast, where medical marijuana is under some of the strictest regulations in the country. When lawmakers in New Jersey realized that cannabis can relieve menstrual cramps and tried to add them to the list of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis products, they were rebuffed.

“They put it up it to the governor [early Donald Trump supporter Chris Christie], and he said, ‘No, no no, we only do medical marijuana for real problems,’ ” she said. “And that to me is the crux of everything. People don’t think the cramps are real? The idea that your quality of life shouldn’t be better, with something that doesn’t get you high but is going to relieve your pain?”

This turn toward cannabis business completes a circle of sort for Goldberg (who has discussed cannabis on The View). She’s been a cannabis user for years, and never once hid it from anyone she worked with — not on Ghost, which won her an Academy Award, not on Star Trek: The Next Generation, where she scored a supporting role, decades after seeing Nichelle Nichols play Lt. Uhura in the original series and being inspired by a black actress “not playing a maid” – and not anywhere else she’s worked over the past 30-plus years.

“No one I’ve ever worked for didn’t know,” she said. “Now, I don’t go to work high, ever, and I’m not in the street high, ever, because it makes me uncomfortable … But I’ve always been up front.”

Christie’s intransigence means Whoopi & Maya products aren’t available in Goldberg’s own market. That could change: she hopes President Barack Obama “will at least take a look” at relaxing cannabis laws on his way out of office. Maybe that could change things in New Jersey — or help the “niche market” of women, more than 50 percent of all humans, consider cannabis.

“All I do is advocate for an open mind,” she said. “I don’t say everybody should do it — I don’t think Maya and Whoopi’s rubs are good for everybody. Nothing is good for everyone, but that don’t stop things.”

“It’s dumb not to take another look. [Cannabis] is another leap forward in medicine.”