In 2004 Grammy Award-winning singer Melissa Etheridge was diagnosed with breast cancer and was given the option of treating the nausea and pain from the chemotherapy with pills or marijuana. She chose the latter and saw the benefits of marijuana use first hand — just as an estimated 1.4 million other Californians have found the medicine effective in treating their respective serious illnesses.
Now, the rocker has partnered with the owners of Greenway Compassion Relief, a Santa Cruz-based medical marijuana dispensary, to cultivate and market a line of marijuana-infused wines.
Etheridge hails the benefits of using marijuana for medical reasons and believes that marijuana played a vital role in her treatment and recovery.
“Once I considered it medicine, I became much more interested and have taken it into my lifestyle to keep stress down and keep my GI system level – it’s been messed up since chemo,” she said.
According to reports, when Etheridge was asked how her doctors reacted to her habitual use of marijuana, she said, “Every single one was, ‘Oh, yeah. That’s the best help for the effects of chemotherapy.’”
She highly recommends cannabis for anyone who is suffering from the negative effects of a terminal illness and hopes to expand her canna-business to other medical marijuana states.
“I really look forward to bringing this to the world in a not scary way,” she said. “Not a drug outlaw way. It’s not that anymore. This is an American business that really needs a lot of help.”
Due to legal restrictions Etheridge must refer to her product as a “wine tincture.” While most other edibles are made from heating the cannabis, Etheridge’s wine tincture uses “cold extraction.” The cold extraction that occurs during fermentation creates a compound that the singer says produces far less psychoactive effects than the compounds found in cannabis smoke or baked edibles. This means that the wine won’t make people feel high.
While Etheridge’s mission is to bring marijuana into the mainstream, reducing its societal negative association, she has become an activist for change in the realm of marijuana and wants to make people more comfortable with consuming cannabis. She believes the wine tincture could be used therapeutically and recreationally.
Regardless of controversy surrounding the health benefits of alcohol, Etheridge is optimistic about her involvement in the booming cannabis industry.
“I believe this is a huge opportunity,” Etheridge said, in a recent interview with Bloomberg’s Pimm Fox. “A huge business and a huge market. You’re going to see my name with a lot of these things.”
The singer is deeming her wine collection as a “passion project,” as she recently released an album and is currently on tour. She and her partners presently have 90 cases of the wine tinctures available for sale to Californians who have medical marijuana prescriptions.
This is not the first time the singer is making a stand for marijuana to be destigmatized in society. Etheridge expressed her keen support for medical marijuana in an open letter to New Hampshire legislators in 2009, when they were considering legalizing medical marijuana.
In addition, Etheridge took the stage at Albany’s Egg theater earlier this year, where she openly spoke up about the importance of having access to medical marijuana in New York.
“As a cancer survivor, I know the ravages of a serious illness, and patients who are suffering deserve access to a medication that can provide them relief,” Etheridge said. “Tonight, I stand with those patients, with their caregivers, and with the vast majority of New Yorkers who support medical marijuana.”
Etheridge is just one of the many women who are pivoting into the cannabis industry. Organizations such as Women Grow, a group in Denver that offers support and guidance to female entrepreneurs who want to break into the cannabis business are inspiring women to lead and shape the industry.
Jane West, (her real name is Amy Dannemiller), is one of the co-founders of Women Grow. She is also the founder of Edible Event Co., where she organizes elegant cannabis-infused dinner parties for pot lovers.
Cheryl Shuman is a 54-year-old mother and the co-founder of Beverly Hills Cannabis Club. Like Etheridge, Cheryl turned to cannabis treatment after being diagnosed with cancer in 2006. This led to her appointment as the Executive Director of Beverly Hills NORML. Nicknamed the “Martha Stewart of Marijuana”, Shuman now manages a $100 million funding facility to invest in the cannabis sector.
Dr. Lakisha Jenkins is a contemporary Renaissance woman. Jenkins is the Founder and CEO of Kiona’s Farm’acy, the retail component of the Kiona T Jenkins Foundation for Natural Health, which is a non-profit organization that provides holistic health care to the Central Valley. Moreover, she was a dominant voice and one of the few women present at the June 2014 Cannabis Business Summit. Jenkins is also the president of the California Cannabis Industry Association, holds a doctorate in naturopathy and is a registered herbalist with the American Herbalist Guild.
Olivia Mannix and Jennifer DeFalco recently jumped on the cannabis bandwagon when they co-founded the cannabis marketing company Cannabrand. They launched their online “canna-culture” store earlier this year which features artsy pipes and punchy wallets and clutches for women to buy.
The budding role of women in the cannabis industry is explored through a recent paper published by the Global Drug Policy Observatory. The paper titled, Selling Cannabis Regulation, observed the 2012 ballot initiatives and exit polls and found that currently middle-aged women played a significant role in America’s marijuana legalization.
While at the moment the recreational marijuana industry is limited to Colorado, Alaska, Washington and Oregon, advocates remain hopeful that other states will follow suit. Still, businesses that wish to bring marijuana into the mainstream are approaching this delicately.
Taylor West, deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, told Huffington Post, “Our businesses and our people are committed to building an industry we can be proud of. That means no shortcuts and none of the leeway that plenty of other industries out there get.”
Are you a woman who smokes cannabis? Are you interested in getting into the marijuana industry? Talk to us in the comments.