Whoopi Goldberg wants to talk about dysmenorrhea.
Dysmenorrhea isn’t a popular word; according to Mirriam-Webster, it’s in the bottom 30 percent of words, popularity-wise. Chances are you don’t even know what dysmenorrhea means — especially if you’re a man. (I’ll own it: I learned this word’s meaning, and its pronunciation, this morning.)
Medical dictionaries utilize only two words in their succinct dysmenorrhea definitions: painful menstruation. The pain can be debilitating, from “cramping or labor-like pain” to having “upset stomach, sometimes with vomiting.” And as Goldberg is now peddling THC- and CBD-infused products meant to help with this condition and others, she’s noticing certain men downplaying (or even ignoring) the legitimate pains associated with menstrual cramps.
“If men’s balls hurt like women’s menstrual cramps hurt,” Goldberg told The Cannabist recently, “this would never be a conversation.”
After Goldberg announced her entry into the ganjapreneur space earlier this year — her cannabis company Whoopi & Maya makes products specifically for women enduring pains that are often unique to their biological makeup — she received an unlikely call from members of the New Jersey state legislature.
“They wanted to include menstrual cramps in the list of things you can prescribe medical marijuana for,” Goldberg said, “but the governor said that will never happen in New Jersey because our doctors only prescribe marijuana for ‘real’ pain.
“The fact that people think of (women’s health) as a niche market — that he didn’t think of menstrual cramps as ‘real’ pain — tells me that there’s a lot of education to do on this subject.”
Technically, these were New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s words when he spoke to reporters in April about refusing to add dysmenorrhea and post-traumatic stress disorder to the state’s list of medical marijuana qualifying conditions, as reported by Bloomberg:
“The reason why (New Jersey’s medical marijuana program) hasn’t gotten the response it’s gotten in other states is because ours is a truly medical-based program for only people who have true illnesses that require medicinal marijuana. Other states have programs that are faux medical-marijuana programs that allow for recreational use.”
Those kinds of changes to New Jersey’s list of MMJ qualifying conditions won’t happen during his term, which ends in January 2018, Christie said.
Goldberg, a sometimes-columnist for The Cannabist and weed aficionado, once wrote a direct plea to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo asking him to consider adding glaucoma, migraines and severe menstrual disorders to that state’s list of MMJ qualifying conditions. That she finds herself making another plea to the governor of a neighboring state — a state she lives in, and a governor who is one of the most outspoken legalization opponents in the United States — doesn’t surprise Goldberg.
But it does frustrate her.
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“Why can’t I get this product to the people who actually need it?” Goldberg said of her Whoopi & Maya line, which is currently sold only in California medical cannabis dispensaries. “Because some people don’t think it’s real pain. But productivity among women goes down once a month because there are women out there who can’t get out of the bed because the menstrual pain is so severe.
“This is really important for productivity, but it’s also important for how you feel about yourself and your life.”
In a recent cover story on period shaming, Newsweek referenced menstruation as “one of the most ignored human rights issues around the globe” even though the “process is as natural as eating, drinking and sleeping, and it’s beautiful too: There’s no human race without it.”
The cramps and pains that often accompany periods are ubiquitous — but they’re also misunderstood. In terms of cannabis as a possible treatment, there is little scientific research on the subject — but like marijuana’s controversial medical applications in treating epilepsy, PTSD and other conditions, the anecdotal canon suggests that many women find a respite from the monthly suffering by using cannabis and pot products such as topicals and edibles.
For Goldberg, dysmenorrhea education is a continuing mission that she hopes will lead to legitimate scientific research on the subject.
“The idea that we have to work this hard to explain that women around the world have these horrible cramps and we’re finding a way to make them better, it drives me crazy,” Goldberg said. “And for the men who believe that women are so evil when we get our periods that we could blow up the world — did they ever think it’s because it hurts a lot?”