By John Schroyer
Comedian and TV personality Whoopi Goldberg announced in March she was teaming up with California edibles producer Maya Elisabeth to tackle a new medical cannabis demographic: women who suffer from menstrual cramps.
The business – Whoopi & Maya Medical Cannabis – launched in the spring.
It now has four products in at least 25 medical marijuana dispensaries across California, with most of the dispensaries around the Los Angeles and San Francisco metro areas, according to the company’s website.
Goldberg – a host on ABC’s “The View” – is among a number of celebrities who’ve decided to capitalize on their fame and try to translate that into business success in the cannabis industry. Marijuana Business Daily caught up with Goldberg to get her thoughts on why she chose the business model she did, whether she’d like to see more African Americans get into the legal marijuana trade, and more.
Why are you tapping this particular demographic, women, with this particular product line?
When I talked to my friend who used to run High Times, he was telling me all about Snoop Dogg and Willie (Nelson) and everybody who has their own marijuana line and their strains, as well as these millionaires and businessmen who are giving them money to do their thing. And I was like, ‘Has anyone put anything out for menstrual cramps?’ And he said, ‘Menstrual cramps? No, nobody’s going to do that. That’s like a niche market.’ And I said, ‘Really? A niche market? Because half the population are women, and a whole bunch of them around the world would probably really benefit from this.’
And he said, ‘Say that again.’ I said, ‘Half the population are women, and a lot of those women have menstrual cramps. And you would think someone would put something out for them.’ And he’s now part of our company.
If I was a dude, and we were doing recreational, or doing a different kind of medicine, we’d probably have billionaires and millionaires lining up to give us money, too. But we’re not a sexy product. We’re a product that’s specifically about relieving menstrual cramps and muscle issues. But I kind of feel like there was nothing out there for women having to do with marijuana. But I guarantee you, 10 of the women you know, three or four of them have cramps.
Do you feel like women are underserved by the legal marijuana industry?
It sort of feels like that. But I don’t know if it’s just women. Is it old people also? I don’t know yet if that’s true. But it feels like that.
People don’t feel like cramps are real. We were lucky enough to hear from some legislators in New Jersey who wanted to include our product in what doctors can (recommend) medical marijuana for in New Jersey. And the governor said, ‘That’s never going to happen, because our doctors only (recommend) medical marijuana for real pain.’ Now, (laughs) it’s a terrible thing to say, but I know if dudes had ball ache like women have menstrual cramps, there would absolutely be something on the market. It would have been there. We have a product that works for a lot of women, and it’s thrilling.
Any plans to bolster the line or come out with new products aside from the four you have currently? For example, you’ve written about how much you enjoy your vape pen. Any plans to debut a vape pen of your own?
I don’t know. We’ve started with the four because we’re a teeny weeny company, and Maya does everything. She makes the batches. She does everything. But maybe somebody will come along and say, ‘Hey, we want to help you guys.’ It is our dream that we would be able to put this in so many states. And women are like, ‘We really want this.’ But we can only get out as much as we can get out, because we’re a little tiny company.
What’s the grand plan for the company’s future? You mentioned wanting to expand into more states aside from just California.
Absolutely. First and foremost Nevada, because Nevada’s like the crossroads. So we would love to. We’re trying to do it in a way that doesn’t go so fast that we can’t keep up, because the quality of what we’re creating is important. But of course we’d love to expand and create new products. But we have to deal with what we have right now. We’re going to keep trying to move forward and make this all over the country, because women do need it – desperately.
More and more celebrities have been getting into the cannabis business. Do you expect we’ll see even more as time goes on?
I’m sure they will. I hope that they get their homework done. Because when you discover that in effect you can’t sell across state lines, and that if you want to start your own company you have to go to Nevada and take out a license there, you have to get a grow license, it becomes a little daunting.
What are your thoughts on the role or lack thereof of African Americans in the cannabis industry?
We’ve paid a big price in the marijuana industry. We’ve gone to jail a lot more than anybody else for marijuana. So it might not be something that is first and foremost in people’s minds. And, quite frankly, if you’re not a famous person, it’s hard to get money. It’s hard to do start-ups. If you’re not someone who knows how to get this done, it can be very difficult and daunting. I was lucky.
Any plans to get into the adult-use industry if California legalizes in November?
I’m sure the company probably would. But because I work in the corporate world I have to make sure I’m focused on the medicinal aspect.
What’s been your biggest hurdle in the cannabis business so far?
When you talk about expanding, it’s like: ‘How much is it going to cost us to find another space, get what we need to get, get the licenses we need to go to Colorado or to go to Nevada?’ It’s a financial question, and you have to have money to do it. And we’re just not sexy. We’re helpful.
Are you and Maya actively looking for financial partners, or trying to raise capital to expand?
We’re thinking about it. We’re trying to just get what we have right now to where it’s moving along. But yeah, of course. She doesn’t have any money. She’s a small business owner, and I’m the same. I’ve got family I support. But that’s not to say that if someone said, ‘I gave my wife your product – or I gave my husband your product for his lower back – and it’s great, and he wants to help you.’ We’re not immune to that. We would love that.
But when you read the stories about all the people who are helping to maintain the Marleys or Snoop or Willie or this one or that one, it’s like, ‘Hey, why not us?’ But you don’t want to beg. But if we are correct, and I believe we are, this is a worldwide product. All we can say is, ‘We can help your old lady want to have more sex with you.’
That sounds like a pretty good sales pitch.
See, I think so, too.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
John Schroyer can be reached at [email protected]