Marijuana has long been a part pop culture through movies and music, but now celebrities are speaking out about their real world experiences with marijuana and advocating for legalization. The once taboo drug has found its way into acceptance throughout the United States, despite its continually federally illegal status, with majority of voting age americans in favor of legalization. Marijuana was once represented in the media by stoner characters or drug lords, but now marijuana is being represented as commonly as alcohol. Actors, musicians, and other celebrities have now taken the conversation of cannabis off of the big screen and into the real world.
Danny Glover spoke out in favor of Prop 19 in California, a marijuana legalization bill, and believed that the criminalization of marijuana was a draconian law. Celebrities from Snoop Dog to Susan Sarandon have talked about their varied experiences with marijuana. Miley Cyrus lit a joint on stage at the MTV Europe Music Awards and Alanis Morissette smokes marijuana to help her write her songs. What we must realize is that celebrities, though wealthy and in the spot light, are normal people who each use cannabis for a personal reason. These major stars are able to be a voice for the marijuana industry, allowing for a mainstream outlet for advocacy. There are five celebrities who have lead the charge for marijuana legalization, both medically and recreationally: Bill Maher, Whoopi Goldberg, Melissa Etheridge, the Dalai Lama, and Oliver Stone.
Bill Maher has advocated for the legalization of marijuana periodically throughout his career, though he made his biggest gesture in support of marijuana when he lit up a joint on live television. On HBO’s Real Time, Bill Maher followed up a conversation about marijuana by smoking a joint to drive his point home that marijuana is not shocking or taboo anymore. Maher, who sits on the board of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, believes that legalization has been blocked out by the financial sector, along with alcohol and pharmaceutical companies. He believes that the war on drugs is perpetuated by those who profit on it, and that the world would be a lot better off if marijuana was legal. Maher is still skeptical about the pace of change, however, because of all of the components working against legalization.
Whoopi Goldberg got her introduction into the marijuana community while seeking relief for glaucoma induced headaches. She began smoking marijuana, but after she stopped smoking cigarettes, she switched her delivery method to a vape pen. Goldberg has not been shy to share her opinion on cannabis and what it has done to help her, even writing a column in The Cannabist in 2014 describing her relationship with her vape pen. In her column, Goldberg describes the gentle relief she receives while using her vaporizer and how its discretion allows her to travel with her medication. Goldberg is now breaking into the cannabis industry in a new way by becoming a producer of medical marijuana products. She has teamed up with Maya Elisabeth, the decorated founder of Om Edibles out of California, to create Whoopi & Maya, a medical cannabis company which specializes in products to ease menstrual related symptoms. The line includes topical products, as well as relaxing bath mixes. The idea behind the product line is for women to be able to apply the topical cannabis product to their abdomen throughout the day to ease cramping and be able to medicate their bath at night to relieve tension. The products in the Whoopi & Maya line will include both THC and CBD heavy products, creating a range of relief for different symptoms and preferences. Goldberg is hoping to help many women find relief during a time of the month that is often painful and can keep them away from their daily lives.
Melissa Etheridge may be on of the most outspoken celebrities on the subject of marijuana. At the 2016 Women Grow Leadership Summit, a gathering of 1,400 cannabis industry professionals, Etheridge was the keynote speaker. She is passionate about the marijuana industry because she believed it was crucial in helping her through breast cancer treatment. During her bout with breast cancer, Etheridge used cannabis to help her with chemo related symptoms. Now she is on the march to make sure that others have access to medical marijuana and that it gains legitimacy. She believes cannabis needs to be viewed as a choice made by a responsible adult, not a criminal action. Etheridge believes that women like her are leading the charge to legalization because they are self aware, understand their bodies, and may not be viewed as a “typical marijuana user”. Etheridge believes in legalization across the board, so cannabis can be widely accessed. Etheridge plans on staying in the industry and continuing her advocacy. This year, the short film When Bright Lights Fade, in which Melissa Etheridge was the narrator, was released. It depicts the journey of five former NFL players, Jake Plummer, Nate Jackson, Charlie Adams, Tatum Bell and Reuben Droughns, using CBD to help ease their chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which effects 96% of former NFL players. The Realm of Caring Foundation has launched this short film and project as a whole to fundraise for a series of studies exploring how CBD could help players with CTE. Etheridge has also broken into the production side of the marijuana industry, launching her own line of cannabis infused wine tincture in 2015.
The current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, advocates for the use of medical marijuana. Though the Dalai Lama has never used marijuana himself, he thinks that there are clear pharmaceutical advantages to using the plant. The Dalai Lama, however, is strongly against the use of recreational marijuana because he sees it as something that could cloud the mind or judgement. He supports letting the medical community, both doctors and scientists, determine how marijuana can be best prescribed to help with particular ailments.
Director Oliver Stone claims that marijuana saved his life and his sanity while he was a solider in Vietnam. His personal experience with marijuana has made him a large advocate for the benefits of marijuana, “When I was in Vietnam, pot made the difference between being a human and being a beast,” he said in an interview on CBS This Morning, “there were a lot of guys who were drinking and doing a lot of the killing that was so unnecessary…the guys who did dope were so much more conscious of the value of life.” He also praises the high quality of California cannabis, comparing it to California wine. He used his movie Savages to show the corruption and money that comes from marijuana being illegal, and how the system in place does not achieve what it hopes to. Stone hopes that the United States will soon wake up to the fact that keeping cannabis illegal no longer makes fiscal or moral sense.
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