Melissa Etheridge Enters Marijuana Business With Etheridge Farms Line of Products

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Melissa Etheridge photographed in New York City.

Melissa Etheridge is diving headlong into the marijuana business. Her company, Etheridge Farms, will soon be making cannabis products available for California medical patients.

"I'm right in the process of branding," she tells Billboard. "There's a balm that's so good for muscles and arthritis. I have my own smoke, some edibles and some [oil] cartridges. I'm really just entering the market with what I've learned in the last 10 years about cannabis in wanting to bring a product to America that is focused on health and on wellness and how important this plant is and used to be in our medicinal system. Seventy years ago it was on pharmacy shelves, now it's time to get back to that; to understand plant medicine. That's really where I want to enter this market in -- is for the person who is looking to unwind at night and not have a couple of drinks and feel like crap in the morning. Maybe this is an alternative, maybe I can wind down this way. And wow, maybe this topical actually helps with this inflammation. I just feel really strongly about the medicinal aspects of cannabis."

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Which is completely understandable. The singer/songwriter was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004. Twelve years later, she's cancer-free, in large part due to her use of marijuana.

"I believe anybody who smokes cannabis is using it medicinally, whether they consider it so or not," she says. "If it's my means of relaxing and unplugging and de-stressing at the end of the day, who's to say that's not good medicine? Isn't that what you do when you take your Ambiens and your Valiums and stuff? It's the same thing. My stress level and all the things I felt contributed to my cancer 12 years ago, I absolutely treat them everyday by smoking cannabis and keeping a balance in my life."

In addition to her canna-business, which she hopes to launch by the end of the year in dispensaries in Oakland, San Jose and Santa Cruz, Etheridge is readying for the Oct. 7 release of her 14th studio album, MEmphis Rock and Soul, which is a tribute to the now defunct Stax Records (and it's actually being released on the Stax label). 

"It's a reimagining of some great Otis Redding tunes," Etheridge explains enthusiastically. "I went down to Memphis and recorded it. I loved that so much. I'm looking forward to doing some shows."

The songs include versions of Redding's "I've Been Loving Too Long (To Stop Now)," B.B. King's "Any Other Way," Johnnie Taylor's "Who's Making Love," Sam & Dave's "Hold On, I'm Coming" and the Staple Singers' "Respect Yourself (People Stand Up)." She'll be promoting the album with an eight-show tour from Oct. 19–29, including a stop at New York's legendary Apollo Theater.

Etheridge is on a mission to broaden her appeal. She recently freestyled with rapper Action Bronson on his Viceland show, Action Bronson Watches Ancient Aliens

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"I had such a good time," she says. "I did that with him. I did a web thing with B-Real [of Cypress Hill]. I wanted to go into that community. The hip-hop community has always been a large cannabis community. I really want to cross all of the cultural boundaries and reach and connect all the people for whom cannabis is a part of their life."

Etheridge came to the marijuana party relatively late in her life. "I didn't become a regular smoker until I was 43," she laughs. "It wasn't until the '80s when I would do it socially, only if someone else had it. I did not seek it out for myself until I was actually diagnosed in 2004. That was when I really started looking at it. The first time I started doing it every day was for medicinal purposes."

Born on May 29, 1961, in Leavenworth, Kansas, Etheridge grew up watching football with her father. "He was very athletic and was a huge Kansas City Chiefs fan," she says. "My first memories are of watching football on TV. It was a big part of my life, it's always been. I'm a huge fan. My wife [Linda Wallem] and I both watch it. Football is No. 1 in my life. Beyond that, I do appreciate all the sports. I think they're just a wonderful part of our society."

Her fascination with football explains why she is moderating the sports panel ("CTE, Concussion and CBD") on Sept. 8 at the Cannabis World Congress & Business Exposition in Los Angeles.

"Cannabis is such a viable alternative," Etheridge states. "Players are asking for it. They're doing it illegally because they don't want to be addicted to opioids, but the NFL won't even have a conversation about it. They just close the door and say no, it's illegal on the federal level, so we're not going to do it. They can make such a change here. I know we're talking about one of the most conservative organizations in America. But it's so important today, so we just keep speaking and bringing it to the table."

She strongly believes her Etheridge Farms products can help. "I want it to be more than just a name," the singer says. "These are sun-grown California products. I want to really focus my products on wellness and on the medicinal part. Some people may not want to go into a dispensary for a Snoop Dogg [strain] -- nothing against Wiz Khalifa and all those beautiful people -- that's not what they're looking for. They're looking for medicinal relief. I want them to know this is the brand that they can trust, that there's scientific research behind it and really bring this to the medical community."