Melissa Etheridge is in the midst of a North American tour, and in the middle of the debate on legalizing medicinal and recreational cannabis. We reached her in Los Angeles for our first Civilized Conversation: a series in which Civilized founder and publisher Derek Riedle chats with entrepreneurs, politicians, and entertainers. We're publishing three edited and condensed excerpts of that conversation with Etheridge. In the first one, she discussed her experience with medicinal cannabis. In the following segment, she discusses her cannabis-infused wine, No Label, and the legalization debate as a social movement like LGBT equality rights.You can listen to their entire chat on our first podcast, below.
You've embraced the benefits [of consuming cannabis]. Now you've taken it all the way and jumped into business. Tell us about No Label.
I really fell in love with Greenway Compassionate Relief, these women up in Santa Cruz, the heart of Cannabis Country - just wonderful people that understand the plant and appreciate it. If you go back to Biblical times, you can find cannabis in wine. [At Greenway] they've been making Cannabis wines, on the side, sort of for fun.
It's a very relaxed wine that you have to experience to really understand: the sort of product that can bridge that world between, 'Okay, I understand a glass of wine at the end of the day, but I can't understand a joint.' Well, maybe can you understand a wine that has some of the benefits of CBD, of cannabinoids, in the wine? And we now have a product that's called No Label.
We just found out that the THC levels are undetectable, so we can actually sell it as a wine now [as opposed to a] tincture. So legally, everything was just lifted from us. So I'm proud to say you will be able to see No Label wine as soon as we get our distribution together. And this is going to be a product similar to Charlotte's Web - CBD cannabis that doesn't have high THC levels, and can be sold. This wine is the same thing.
It seems like strategically you're taking baby steps towards the normalization and socialization of cannabis.
You know what? I saw it work for 20 years in the LGBT movement and I see it's very similar in the cannabis movement.
How do you feel about the pace of change, given that you've seen the LGBT movement come to a head in recent years, and now we seem to be seeing cannabis really gather steam. Talk to me about the differences in pace on those two social issues.
Well, one thing in the cannabis movement, you don't quite have the religious fervor against it, as you did in the LGBT movement. You do have the stereotype. You do have the shame on the family that we're fighting. But what's really leading this movement is the medical community. You cannot deny - when you see children having hundreds of seizures a day down to one a month - you cannot deny the medical value. And once you open that door, you start to understand that we have cannabinoid receptors in our bodies...Plant medicine was here 100 years ago, and we pushed away for 100 years. It's time to modernize and bring it back and use it for the great benefits.
Do you support legalizing marijuana for recreational use?
Absolutely. I think that is where we're headed, and with that, we can't lose sight of how medicinal it can be. Who's to say that the guy wanting to enjoy his cannabis on the weekend isn't also using [it as] some sort of medicine. It changes his physiology, it relaxes him - to me, that's good medicine. So, we call it recreational. I think that's wonderful. And I also never want to lose sight of the medicinal benefits.