Whoopi Goldberg on the Challenges of Launching a Female-Focused Cannabis Brand

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Whoopi Goldberg and Maya Elisabeth. (Photo: Michael Osborne)

By:Jihan Forbes

Whoopi Goldberg is one of the latest celebrities to launch her own cannabis brand. But unlike other marijuana-focused celebrity brands (like Leafs by Snoop and Wiz Khalifa’s collaboration with River Rock) that peddle chocolates, extracts, gummies, and more, Goldberg’s project is about more than getting high.

It’s about relieving menstrual cramps.

Called Whoopi & Maya — named in part after Goldberg’s business partner, Maya Elisabeth, who owns the cannabis company Om Edibles — the line offers a tincture, a soothing body balm, a bath soak, and a chocolate spread, all aimed at making period cramps more comfortable.

For many women, products that naturally ease cramps seem like no-brainers. Foria, another cannabis brand, offers suppositories aimed at doing just that. But when we spoke to Goldberg on the phone about her new venture, she mentioned that people dismissed the idea as something for a “niche” audience.

“If you look at the world, half of the people on the planet are women. And of that half, a whole bunch of them are coming into their periods or getting ready to go out of them,” she explained. “For years I’ve smoked marijuana, and if I was having cramps, it was a great way to calm it all down.”

The Whoopi & Maya brand has already launched, but they still have a long way to go. Our chat with Whoopi revealed the challenges her women-run and -focused business faces in a market that is still trying to figure itself out.

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Yahoo Style: What is most interesting is how your idea was immediately assumed to be for a “niche” market. Really, what makes this product niche and something like Midol, which you can find in any drugstore, not niche? It’s essentially addressing the same issue.

Whoopi Goldberg: Because some folks don’t have to think about Midol. When you look at it, Midol isn’t something most guys know anything about. It’s not in their brains. But I tell ya, if guys got cramps, you can bet this product would have come out a long time ago.

For sure!

The governor of New Jersey — and this is what makes me so angry — pretty much said, “We only give these prescriptions for real pain.” And he has a wife, he has a daughter, I don’t know if they have cramps, but how dare he? And that’s what people do, they dismiss cramps because sometimes they don’t believe they’re real.

And I was thinking to myself, you think women are desperately trying to go buy marijuana to quell their cramps — all you gotta do is get a weed map app and that will tell you where to find the weed! That’s not what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to offer an alternate comfort zone for young women who are having these kinds of cramps and kinds of problems.

I want moms to know, none of these things are meant to get you high. The rub doesn’t get you high, the soak, when you have it and you’re sitting in the hot water, you’re not getting high, you’re getting comfort. Now, if you need something stronger, we have THC products for that. I don’t recommend that for young ones. The CBD has the extract, but not the high, but the THC does give you a high.

There is a storied history of women using marijuana to treat period cramps as well, which is a tradition you guys are carrying on.

Queen Victoria, she used tincture. People have used cannabis tinctures for a lot of different things. Doctors used to use cannabis for all kinds of things here in the United States. It became a Schedule I drug [ed. note: which the DEA classifies as “drugs, substances, or chemicals … with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Schedule I drugs are the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence.”] which makes no sense to anybody, because Schedule I means there’s no purpose for this to be here, except to mess you up — that’s what crack is.

But that’s not was cannabis is, or has ever been. Whether you’re a burn patient whose bones are itching, whether you are a family member of someone who has severe seizures, we know that cannabis products work for pain. Why? Because we’re watching and listening to all these parents who have changed their whole lives to make the quality of their children’s lives better.

My granddaughters, who are grown women now, they have cramps, and I said, “Try this rub, see what it does, does it need to be stronger? Does it need to be weaker?” I don’t say this is going to help every woman, because everybody is different, but it might help a whole bunch of people, and why wouldn’t you want to do that? Why wouldn’t we create something specifically for this? Now, if a guy wants to use it because he has muscle cramps, it might work very well for him too. But right now, I’m focusing on women and their cramps.

So, how did you and Maya come up with the concepts for the products?

We wanted to keep it simple. Particularly in a medicinal space. What do people need? They need something they can carry in their bag, and something they can have at home that they can rub on. One lady I asked said, “I want to soak when I get home. When I have cramps, I want to sit in hot water.” We said, “OK, we need that. That’s a good thing that makes people comfortable.” It just brings the groove back. We said, “What else do we need?” Well, Queen Victoria used to use tinctures, can we make one? Maya makes this chocolate that’s, like, off the hook! Everybody eats it, everybody loves it. Guys love it, women love it. If you get the non-THC version, you’re dipping crackers in it. We wanted to keep it simple, so people would be able to say, “Yes, I can get all of these products because they’re affordable, and I can pass them on to my friends.” We’re hoping that we can get people to recognize that this isn’t just a dopey thing and women are just desperate to go buy marijuana. We’re just saying, “Hey, we’re in states where it’s legal, so why not have this as part of it?”

It’s great that not all your products get you high, so you don’t run into the situation where you took a cannabis product and now you’re too stoned to work.

When you’re spending two or three days a month away from work because of cramps, female productivity goes down. Our rub allows you to carry it in the bag, so if your period comes on and you suddenly start cramping, you can rub it on and you can get through the rest of the day. I just don’t understand why none of the places that talk about medicinal marijuana have ever included period cramps. None of the states have period cramps on their list [of marijuana uses].

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I guess it goes back to what you were saying — some people may not think it’s a problem.

That, and there are not many female growers or female dispensary owners who say, “Hey, this is missing!” You have the “Let’s get high, let’s get higher” crowd, but you don’t have the “Oh my god, I’m in such pain” crowd.

What are some of the challenges you’ve come across getting this business off the ground?

Right now, we can only sell in California, because we need to find a local manufacturer for each state we want to sell in. We’re a little company. We started with friends and family money. It would be wonderful if somebody said, “Hey, we need you in Nevada.” When you talk about some of the male names that are thrown out, there’s a thing recognizing Snoop Dogg. He’s got his own products, but no money has come to us! It’s kind of dopey because people are looking to make a lot of dough on marijuana. We would like to make some dough too, but we want to make sure that our product actually does something that is good for people. We want to correct those cramps and, yeah, it would be great if someone said, “We’d like to open up a facility for you so you can continue this.” Maybe that will happen. I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

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