Should women be allowed to use medical marijuana for period cramps?
Period cramps are never fun, and for some — your humble writer included — they can be downright unbearable, leaving the sufferer doubled up on the bathroom floor in pain. That’s exactly why actress Whoopi Goldberg has partnered with leading “canna-businesswoman” Maya Elisabeth to launch Whoopi & Maya. The new line, available to California cannabis retailers, will offer edibles, tinctures, topical rubs, and bath soaks infused with cannabis to provide relief for period cramps.
“For me, I feel like if you don’t want to get high-high, this is a product specifically just to get rid of discomfort,” Whoopi Goldberg told Vanity Fair on Wednesday about her line, which will be available for purchase in April. “Smoking a joint is fine, but most people can’t smoke a joint and go to work. This, you can put it in your purse. You can put the rub on your lower stomach and lower back at work. . . and it allows you to continue to work throughout the day. . . I have grown granddaughters who have severe cramps, so I said this is what I want to work on.” Goldberg also had her own experiences with terrible cramps, she explained in a statement released by Whoopi & Maya: “This was all inspired by my own experience from a lifetime of difficult periods and the fact that cannabis was literally the only thing that gave me relief.”
Using recreational and medicinal marijuana is legal in four states (Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington); 12 states have both medical marijuana and decriminalization laws, while 10 (as well as Guam and Puerto Rico) only have legalized medical marijuana. As pot becomes decriminalized across the nation, the market for legal marijuana products is booming. In fact, the New York Times reports that the Arcview Group and New Frontier — both marijuana investment firms — estimated that $4.6 billion legal marijuana products were sold in 2014, and $5.4 billion in 2015. That number is only expected to rise. . . to a whopping $6.7 billion.
Still, not everyone is sold on using medical marijuana for menstrual cramps, even going so far as to liken it to “snake oil.” Whoopi & Maya is capitalizing and profiteering off women, according to Scott Chipman, the co-chair of Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana (CALM), which fights marijuana legalization. He is concerned about the potential negative side effects of the products, writing in a statement to HelloGiggles:
Additionally, some in the medical community are skeptical about using pot for periods. “With exception of a study in the 1800s, I see no evidence in the medical literature that supports that use,” Ranit Mishori, professor of family medicine at Georgetown University School of Medicine , told Fox News Live Science, referring to the treatment of menstrual cramps with marijuana. Added Dr. Scott Krakower, assistant unit chief of psychiatry at Zucker Hillside Hospital, to Live Science, “You don’t know what these [marijuana-based] products contain. It’s a mistake to market this, until these agents are studied further. . . [it’s] still a drug.”
Whoopi Goldberg is adamant, though, that women know what’s best for them. “How can you have a male expert tell any woman what works for HER period? Just because they haven’t done the studies does not mean women haven’t been finding relief wherever they can,” she told The Daily Beast. “I can’t say that EVERY woman will find relief from our product, BUT the ones that do will be better for it.”
Morgan Fox, senior communications manager of the Marijuana Policy Project, which aims to reform marijuana laws, blamed a “negative and inaccurate stigma” against for the lack of support over medical marijuana. “That stigma has eroded significantly in the last few years, as more people are realizing that marijuana is objectively safer than alcohol and that prohibition has failed,” Fox wrote in a statement. “As the laws have changed, more people have revealed their own marijuana consumption and an increasing number no longer view it as a criminal vice but rather more similar to having a glass or two of wine.”
Fox begs to differ about the potential “health consequences” and said that marijuana is safer than most over-the-counter drugs such as Advil or Aleve that many women use to alleviate their cramps. “This is a medical product designed to treat pain. Saying that making this product available to adults and qualified patients is encouraging drug use is like saying that making Midol is encouraging drug use,” Fox told HelloGiggles in an email. “The fact is that marijuana is far safer than many prescription and over-the-counter painkillers. Every year, hundreds of people die from overdosing on acetaminophen, but no one has ever died from a marijuana overdose.”
It’s important to note that considerably more studies have been conducted on alcohol than on marijuana, but this is arguably due to the stigma surrounding marijuana, according to Alex Milligan, co-founder and CMO of Get Nugg (“GrubHub for cannabis”) in California. What makes conducting research difficult is marijuana’s status as a Schedule I drug, he wrote in an email to HelloGiggles. “[It] makes it nearly impossible to perform any legitimate, in-depth studies on the medical implications of cannabis,” he explained.
The lack of studies means professionals have to rely on anecdotal evidence — which according to Milligan, support Maya & Whoopi’s mission. “[T]here’s already significant anecdotal evidence that women are in fact experimenting with cannabis [products] and finding it does control menstrual cramps by activating cannabinoid receptors in the pelvis (the pelvic region contains more of these receptors than anywhere else in the body, besides the brain), which causes nerves to block out pain and suppress inflammation,” Milligan told us in an email.
It remains to be seen how Whoopi & Maya’s medical marijuana products help women with their period cramps. But at the very least, a Medical Cannabis Lavender Bath Soak does sound relaxing.