Every week seems to bring some crafty new deployment of legal weed: cannabis-enhanced Keurig cups, marijuana lip balm. But this one caught my eye: Fairwinds' Feminine Relief—cannabis-infused vaginal suppositories "designed to provide daily and monthly relief." The product's claims were cryptic ("monthly relief"?), but understandably so, since the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board forbids cannabis producers from hyping any concrete medical benefits, leaving weed PR teams to dance around with words like "relieve" and "enhance" and "support."
"Feminine Relief utilizes only all-natural ingredients including organic cocoa butter, palm oil, cannabis oil extracted from flower, and natural herbs chosen for their synergistic relationship with cannabis," reads the press release. "The CBD, THCA, and THC cannabinoid ratio and terpene profile are optimized to support relaxation and comfort." The Feminine Relief suppositories are also very fast-acting, with effects landing within 15 minutes and lasting for four hours, and these effects are designed to be primarily physical and relegated to the user's lower half, with a minimum of psychoactive effects. (That means users won't feel stoned.)
I don't menstruate, but I know many people who do, and over the course of my life, a not-insignificant number of these people have reported experiences I never imagined and will never forget: periods that necessitate hospital visits and stupefying levels of narcotics, adolescents put on birth control to diminish crippling menstrual cycles, all the "regular" pain and annoyance endured by those with less dramatic periods. That there might be a new product to improve the lives of my menstruating friends was cause for celebration. That this new product involved cannabis meant I had the opportunity if not the duty to investigate its potential firsthand.
I needed weed-friendly menstruators, so I put out a call on Facebook and soon found myself with a quintet of women who were not only willing to come to my house, insert weed suppositories, and converse with me while they dissolved, but who also happened to be artists I admire.
Alycia Delmore, film actor, eternally beloved by me (EBBM) for her brilliant performance in Lynn Shelton's Humpday.
Ijeoma Oluo, writer, EBBM for her brain-expanding essays on race and gender and shitty movies.
Kristen Kosmas, playwright and performance artist, EBBM for her two decades of sui generis work, and whose new play will premiere this year at On the Boards.
Amelia Ross-Gilson, aka Seattle burlesque star Indigo Blue, EBBM for her life's work and her striptease set to Led Zeppelin's "The Lemon Song."
Nicole Hardy, writer, EBBM for fearlessly telling the truth about all the ways the Mormon Church fucked up her pussy power in her memoir Confessions of a Latter-day Virgin.
On a recent rainy Monday, the subjects gather at my house around a table laden with Trader Joe's snacks (hunk of cheese with Savory Thins crackers, sugar snap peas and sriracha hummus, sea salt and turbinado sugar chocolate almonds) and a small bowl containing the Feminine Relief suppositories, which look like chubby bullets wrapped in plastic and sell for $10 a pop. Ijeoma is the only one who's actively menstruating, but these suppositories also promise daily feminine relief, and one by one my guests slip away to the bathroom to take their medicine. (The subjects also encourage me to put a dose in my butt, and it seems rude to say no. More on that later—and watch out, Woodward and Bernstein.)
Removed from their plastic casing, the suppositories are orange, oily, and smell distinctly of cannabis. They are also, the women note, rather small. Among the comments: "It's kind of swimming in there." "You really have to shove it up there—like, beyond the introitus." "Don't go jogging!"
Within 15 minutes, the effects start to make themselves known, as one after the other, the women's eyes brighten and they begin to describe their sensations. Alycia—the first to dose—is first to report. "It's like a bloom in my womb," she says, with the feeling quickly confirmed by Kristen ("The sun is rising in my uterus!") and Nicole ("Tingles go down and sunshine comes up!"). None of the women report feelings of stonedness in their brains but a light giddiness takes over the room. Is it relief or just pleasure?
Amelia, who recently came out of a hellish menstrual period due to an "every-other-month angry ovary," reports feelings of deep relaxation: "I've got a lower heart rate, a heavier body... I'm feeling chill." The actually menstruating Ijeoma, meanwhile, notes how the period-related backache she's been carrying around all day has disappeared. (As for me and my butt, I got a little tingle and a tiny ripple of nausea. I'm clearly not the target audience.)
Over the next hour, against an audio backdrop of Erik Blood's Lost in Slow Motion and Tom Tom Club, we chat and eat. When "Genius of Love" comes on, we're almost sparked to a kitchen dance party but are so relaxed, we settle for wiggling in our chairs. As the initial "womb blooms" settle in, the women report a "light pulsing warmth" and kindly agree to answer all my menstruation questions.
My first question concerns the heightened emotional state that I've heard accompanies menstruation. The closest thing I know to a prolonged heightened emotional state came during those times I (stupidly) ramped down off antidepressants, and there was always a day when a new level of emotionalism appeared and suddenly I was crying to songs on the radio. This was always a pleasurable experience, and I wondered if there was a pleasurable angle to the heightened emotions of menstruation. "No," says Alycia definitively. "It's like, you'll find yourself at the tail end of an emotional fit and only then do you realize it's because of hormones and you feel stupid." Kristen concurs about the life-warping power of period anger, sharing her theory that the feelings that flare up aren't new but the same feelings we're experiencing and constantly suppressing. "But when we're busy shedding our uterine wall, we don't have energy to repress and things fly."
My follow-up question is thornier: "Do women shame each other about their periods?" The question is met with bemused looks, so I rephrase: "Is it still a point of pride to limit complaints about one's period?" This clicks and inspires some bracing statements: "At work, you can't talk about it, can't complain, even around other women." "You just pretend you're not in pain, because you don't want to give someone a way to dismiss you."
The mention of work inspires a new line of questions, with Amelia asked about the facts of performing burlesque while menstruating. "How do you act sexy when you're bloated?" asks Nicole. Amelia responds by citing the tools she's developed over her career to "summon sexiness" at will. "I'm better at it some times than others," she says.
Other facts I glean during this freewheeling menstrual discussion: Plane flights make periods weird and IUDs prevent pregnancy not through any physical blockage but through their use of copper, which creates an environment inhospitable to conception. (DID YOU KNOW THIS? I DID NOT.)
The night winds down with a discussion of how wonderful a Feminine Relief–enabled glowing womb would be for yoga and maybe sex, and closes with worshipful praise for the polished boobs of Beyoncé, showcased the night before at the Grammys.
The next day, I check in, asking how everyone's day after is going.
"Is anyone else emitting a steady stream of yellow?" "I've been oozing bright yellow all day." "SO MUCH YELLOW."
It's a theme that will repeat throughout the week. Responses on Thursday: "For the record, still yellow. Also, I was told it changes the flavor pretty dramatically down there. More than 48 hours later. Let this be a warning." "Went to get my IUD replaced just now. Warned my doctor beforehand, and still she was like, 'OH MY GOD, IT'S ATOMIC YELLOW.'" Another from Friday: "It's eternal! Eternity is yellow! Who knew?"
When I e-mail my Fairwinds contact to ask if anyone there had noted lingering yellow, I get an info-packed response: "The yellow discharge is from berberine, and the fact that it is still there four days later is a good thing (healthwise). It should not stain clothing, as berberine washes away with soap and water. In the Feminine Relief product, berberine is there for balancing the microbial flora and will be useful in treating chronic, recurring infections, yet it is gentle and nonirritating." As for the lingering yellow: "We have found a very solid solution—an additional ingredient that improves the uptake of the berberine which will eliminate any surplus discharge. This is a perfect example why feedback is so important in early product launch phase."
My final question to the subjects: Would you pay ten bucks to relive this experience?
"I don't think I'd use it while ON my period again," replied Ijeoma. "You know how sometimes if your vag gets irritated when you're ending your period, it will extend it? Well, I'm on day seven now and I'm pretty sure that my body is like: 'WTF IS THIS SHIT YOU PUT IN ME? WE'RE JUST GONNA KEEP SLOUGHING.'"
Others found plenty to love. "The most valuable aspect of the experience was how strangely perfect it was to just have a stoned vagina and not actually BE stoned," said Nicole, with the final judgment on Feminine Relief coming from Kristen: "The best use of this product is as an icebreaker for a group of women (or others with vaginas) who've never met before. I don't know about y'all, but I found it really pleasing to be so aware of, and in conversation about, my down-theres as a way of getting to know you."
Throw your own down-there meet-and-greet with Fairwinds suppositories, available at numerous Seattle retailers listed at fairwindscannabis.com. And if you want to get high and talk, e-mail me at schmader@ thestranger.com.