‘Mama’s medicine’: Melissa Etheridge speaks out as a passionate advocate for marijuana

Melissa Etheridge at the Uptown Theater in 2015
Melissa Etheridge at the Uptown Theater in 2015

She had smoked occasionally since she was 21. She’s not a drinker, so smoking pot helped her wind down after a long day.

Then in 2004, doctors told Melissa Etheridge she had breast cancer. That’s when she learned that the plant she’d been smoking for fun had medicinal value as well.

She began campaigning on behalf of the cannabis industry, and now the mother of four is a passionate advocate. Later this year her marijuana company, Etheridge Farms, will begin selling cannabis products to California medical patients.

“There’s a balm that’s so good for muscles and arthritis. I have my own smoke, some edibles and some (oil) cartridges,” she told Billboard last year. “I’m really just entering the market with what I’ve learned in the last 10 years about cannabis ...

“Seventy years ago it was on pharmacy shelves, now it’s time to get back to that, to understand plant medicine.”

That first round of chemotherapy 13 years ago for the Leavenworth, Kan., native changed everything she ever knew or thought about pot.

“It was a wake-up call for me,” Etheridge, 55, recently told Yahoo as part of its “Weed & the American Family” report.

“When I used it as medicine, it became so clear to me that it has been maligned and misunderstood, and I really wanted to help people who are suffering. I mean, going through chemotherapy is suffering … and cannabis helps so many parts of just that. That’s just the beginning of what it does medicinally.

“I smoked to be normal. I smoked to be out of pain. I smoked to lighten myself because you’re poisoning yourself with chemo. It wasn’t about being high; it wasn’t at all anything like that. It was just being to a place where I could communicate with my children, to where I could get up, to where I could eat, where I didn’t have to go to the hospital. It was great medicine.”

Her close friend singer David Crosby turned her on to medicinal marijuana. Chemotherapy is “too hard otherwise,” he told her.

She told Yahoo that she declined the “five, six pharmaceuticals,” including a pain reliever, doctors prescribed. She told them she was going the “natural way.”

“I’m gonna go with this one plant that (the) side effect is euphoria. I think I’m OK with that when I’m on chemo!” she told them.

She made it clear to her children what marijuana was: “Mama’s medicine.”

She told Yahoo she has worked to take the “naughtiness” out of the drug for them so it wouldn’t become something they would gravitate toward. She does not smoke in front of her 11-year-old twins, though they have caught her on occasion.

“I treat it just as any other medicine in the house, just as a bottle of vodka would be, you know, ‘This is for Mom; you don’t (try) this,” she said. “When you’re grownups you can deal with that.’”

She said she has smoked with her two older children, Bailey, 20, and Beckett, 18.

“It was funny at first, and then they realized, it’s a very natural, end-of-the-day (thing),” she told Yahoo. “And it brings you much closer. I’d much rather have a smoke with my grown kids than a drink.”