For more than five decades, women dealing with agonizing menstrual cramps would turn to over-the-counter medications for pain relief. But Whoopi Goldberg found out that another substance worked just as well, if not better, than the OTC drugs: Medical cannabis.
There are medical marijuana products for anxiety, muscle spasms, glaucoma and migraines, among other ailments. But in an industry where women are becoming a dominating force, there was still this untapped market for cannabis use – menstrual cramps. Little advancement had been made in the way period pains are treated since Midol was invented in the early 1900s. What if, then, someone were to develop medical marijuana products just for women?
Whoopi Goldberg noticed this, so the comedian, actress and TV host decided to add cannabis entrepreneur to her resume. "The fact that this is a women-dominated industry," Goldberg tells Rolling Stone. "I can't believe no one has thought of this."
Last year, Goldberg and cannabis industry leader Maya Elisabeth launched Whoopi & Maya, a brand of medical cannabis products targeting menstrual pain relief. The nascent line includes a cannabis bath soak, a THC herbal tincture, CBD and beeswax body balm, and raw, organic cacao with either THC or CBD, which is also rich in magnesium and iron – another thing that can help ease some pain for women.
None of Whoopi & Maya's products have psychoactive properties, according to Goldberg. "This is not about getting women high," she says.
Right now, Whoopi & Maya products are only available for sale in California dispensaries, but Goldberg says there are plans to expand.
In particular, advocates are focusing on states that allow medical marijuana, but don't count dysmenorrhea, the medical term for severe menstrual cramps, among the qualifying conditions.
Bills have been introduced in the New York and New Jersey legislatures to extend medical marijuana eligibility, but it may be a long fight in Goldberg's home state of New Jersey. In April 2016, Governor Chris Christie, who has been sluggish on implementing the Garden State's program, implied that dysmenorrhea isn't a real medical condition. "The reason why it hasn't gotten the response it's gotten in other states is because ours is a truly medical-based program for only people who have true illnesses that require medical marijuana," Christie said, according to Bloomberg.
"Obviously he's never experienced the pain and symptoms that come with menstrual cramps," the bill's sponsor, Democratic Assemblyman Tim Eustace, told Rolling Stone. "The only thing he suffers from is bombast. He should be empathetic to the citizens of the state." The bill has been referred to the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee and is currently waiting for a committee hearing.
Whether or not dysmenorrhea will become an approved ailment under medical marijuana programs across the country is up in the air. But with Whoopi & Maya, Goldberg and Elisabeth have at least given women a new option – and begun a new conversation.
"Periods affect your life, affect your productivity," Goldberg said. "We need to talk about this."