Medical marijuana is no laughing matter for award-winning actress and comedian Whoopi Goldberg. Recently, she spoke about her cannabis brand, Whoopi and Maya, and her passion to offer cannabis as an alternative to prescriptions pills in an interview with renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson on his late-night talk show.
The science talk show, StarTalk, airs on the National Geographic Channel. He kicked off his third season with the multi-talented cannabis businesswoman.
“I’ve been a believer in medicinal marijuana for forty years,” she said.
“When I was younger, I had horrific menstrual cramps to the point where I had to take really hard drugs to quell the pain,” she recalled.
That’s why she and a friend created the cannabis brand, Whoopi and Maya, focused on medical cannabis products designed for relief from menstrual discomfort.
An alternative to pills
If you are having issues with your muscles, the cannabis in it is good for you, she explained to Tyson as she handed over one of her infused topicals.
“You can’t smoke it, you can’t get high off from this, but you can catch relief,” stated Goldberg.
Goldberg is interested in marijuana as medicine.
“I think, if I don’t have to take Oxycodone, I don’t want to. If I don’t have to take Valium, I don’t want to,” she said, “If I can rub something (referring to a topical), and get relief – I’m all for that.”
Dr. Staci Gruber, Director of the Marijuana Investigations for Neuroscientific Discovery (MIND) Program, was in-studio to answer Tyson’s cannabis questions as he intermittently played highlights from his interview with Whoopi throughout the show.
The tandem story, said the expert, is the consequences of people taking pills for relief – then becoming addicted to the prescription drugs.
Dr. Gruber said people get used to the feeling of ‘good’, and the reward circuitry is very powerful in the body.
“It’s not about will, you cannot stop yourself…you have no choice, you are fighting biology,” she said bluntly. Dr. Gruber is also an associate professor of physiatry at the Harvard medical School.
It’s not about the high
The film star and queen of daytime talk also spoke about how she uses cannabis to treat her terrible headaches.
“I use marijuana for two reasons, headaches from Glaucoma, and I quit smoking with papers a few years ago,” she said. Once smoking the herb was no longer an option, Goldberg thought her cannabis days were numbered.
That was, until her daughter introduced her to vape pens. Goldberg affectionately called it her ‘sippy pen’.
“I can sip it to the place where I need to be, so it doesn’t hurt anymore,” Goldberg told Tyson.
Scientifically baseless policy
Tyson asked the expert in-studio why the federal government classifies cannabis as a drug akin to heroin; both are Schedule I substances.
“I wish I knew,” said Dr. Gruber.
“Then why did I bring you on this show?!” the host said in jest.
Back in his interview with Goldberg, Tyson asked her about laboratory evidence for the plant.
“There would have been,” said Whoopi, but it’s almost impossible to get laboratory evidence with a Schedule I drug.
The problem results in families being forced to give up their homes, their lives, their everything, to get products to treat their children. They are known as medical marijuana refugees.
If parents are that desperate, Goldberg suggested government officials listen, not denigrate them.
“They are your trials…they aren’t trying to get high, because all you need is an app,” she said, “There are weed apps, you can find it anywhere.”
According to Dr. Gruber, the problem is policy has outpaced science. We have laws that have been passed without much science to back it up.
The new era of medical marijuana
What would the perfect future of reform look like, Tyson asked Dr. Gruber.
“I think the laws would be formed by science,” said the expert.
To that point, Tyson followed-up with the logical question: So, why are we passing laws without the science behind it when, in fact, they are based on things that science can solve?
Dr. Gruber expressed the frustration of many, with the resounding non-answer of: “I’m not a legislator or policy maker, I can’t answer that.”
Both scientists were clearly perplexed, as they tried to wrap their heads around the lack of data and research in marijuana medicine.
Tyson isn’t known as an advocate for cannabis by any means, but he sure sounded like one with his conclusion: “So somebody needs to be out there saying, here is the science – here is what we know and here is what we don’t know,” Tyson said. “Let’s make laws based on the science that we do know.”
Dr. Gruber agreed with his epiphany, “There are people backfilling that need.”
One small step for womankind
Whoopi has been a steadfast supporter of women and people of color throughout her long career. First, as Guinan in Star Trek, now as a cannabis business woman specializing in female care.
In their interview, Tyson revisited her role as one of the very few characters of color in the Star Trek series. A huge sci-fi fan, Goldberg said she wasn’t even aware that people of color could be in that future world of science fiction until Lieutenant Uhura.
‘Gene Roddenberry didn’t realize the social impact of the lack of minorities in Star Trek,’ Goldberg pointed out.
She also said she’d like to see a “Men and Women in Black.”
Over her lifetime, Goldberg has become a role model not only for women and people of color, but also the medical marijuana community.
“There’s a lot of ill people and this is really a way for them to get through their day,” said Goldberg. “I just want people to feel better.”
Her casual attitude and comedic flare serve her well as she topples stereotypes.
“I’m not looking to get high-high, because at this age I don’t need to be,” she shared candidly, “but I would like to be pain-free, and this works.”