We have the priviledge to publish here an interview to Cheryl Shuman by Laura Rueda. But we need to poit out that we do not agree with the idea that Marijuana can cure cancer. That has not been proved and several research are stil ongoing to understand which is the real potential of this plant. Her Cheryl share with us her personal experience and view.
We talked with Cheryl Shuman, the Cannabis Queen of Beverly Hills
“Build your business success around something that you love, something that is inherently and endlessly interesting to you”. That’s a quote from Martha Stewart, a successful American business woman with whom everybody compares ours protagonist today: Cheryl Shuman. In her case, this sentence is totally true. The Cannabis Queen of Beverly Hills discovered how to build her empire around marijuana.
It took me six months to have a Skype call with Cheryl Shuman. I contacted her for the very first time in April last year, but a series of unfortunate events in her life was delaying our encounter. Not only her busy business life, but two incidents that left her out of action for a few months: the death of her mother and being hit by a car. Finally, in September we could talk about her fascinating life. Cheryl is a platonic lover of our country and, although she has never visited, during the interview she confessed that she has it in her future plans. She was in Buena Vista, Ohio, when we spoke, the place where she was born, although she currently lives in Beverly Hills.
Cherlyl Shuman: I'm not made-up, I was chilling out at home. I hope you don't mind or you don't need an image for your interview.
Laura Rueda: Don't worry, it’s an informal meeting. I only need your story by voice, we don't need any make up.
I had prepared a huge questionnaire with curiosities that I have about her life, but she uses a simple question to start her story and almost talked non-stop until the end.
Cherlyl Shuman: Have you seen what’s been going on my life? What a crazy year! I travelled over 2.000 miles this past year, literally from all over the world. And then my mom fell ill and they said she had a small tumor and then literally she died. And I thought, why is that? Why I saved thousands of people from all around the world, and I can’t save my mom? The number one thing it does make me feel like we can’t ever stop. In the medical marijuana community we’ve got to make sure that the people get the medicine that they need to save their lives and we’ve proved that it works. That was completely devastating, but at the same time, once you heal, it just empowers you to work that much harder to live some kind of an imprint that her life matters. So it’s been really weird.
And then I got a hit by a car after that and, not a lot of people noticed, because I didn’t really share the news, but when they did the tests to see if I had any fractures they found a huge mass on my liver. I have a mass that is eleven centimetres that covers my liver and they were afraid that it was leaking, so I came back to Ohio for a routine colonoscopy, and they found tumours. The good thing is that I don’t need chemo but it just showed me we’ve got to be constant. It’s my own body, because you don’t even realize what’s going on. And now I feel good, I feel brave. So, obviously there is nothing wrong with me, there was.
Laura Rueda: Why did you become a marijuana activist? Is the reason related to the cancer that you suffered?
Cherlyl Shuman: What was really, really interesting to me is that it’s almost exactly ten years ago today when I was diagnosed ovarian cancer. And it was ten years ago when I made the decision to use medical cannabis instead of traditional treatment. And when I mentioned it to my doctor ten years ago, they reported me to my insurance company, and I lost my insurance. So I had to go for ten years without insurance, because of the federal scheduling issue. But yesterday it was very interesting to me that it was a new doctor, he’s just graduated. He is like a number one liver surgeon expert, particularly for my disease. And what I loved was that he was so kind when he asked me which was my treatment when I had cancer before. And I told him medical cannabis and he said, you know, medical marijuana works. And I was impressed because I was so afraid to come back to my home state for so long. I didn’t get a see my parents in my home state for 8 years, because I was too afraid.
The other thing when you are a cannabis consumer and especially when you’re high profile is that cannabis stays in your body for 30 days and you can test positive on THC. So if you are driving a rental car or you’re passing through TSA you can go to jail. And one of my biggest concerns has been what if I’m in a foreign country somewhere and they just decide to take a sample. Because not everybody is friendly. I mean, thank God, it’s changing and I think a lot of the work that I’ve done has been instrumental to that change. So it’s been interesting for me really evaluating my mom’s life. And I think also when someone very close to you dies and especially with having liver cancer, me having liver issues, it makes you think like dying all the time. And then ironically less than a week ago medical marijuana finally passed in my home state so I can be here now and not have so much fear.
For years and years and years I was afraid to take a plane and come here because in my home town where I was born and raised this is the poorest county in the entire country- there are more people on welfare and government assistance than anywhere else in the country. Even myself, I was born and raised with no running water or electricity until I was 14. Most of the people here live in third grade poverty conditions. No-one realizes that that happens in America. One of the things I’m really excited about is, because the market is legal here now, we can help build. And it’s my hope and my dream and my plan to rebuild my home town and to bring commerce to make my own home town like a destination resort for cannabis here in Ohio. I don’t know if I can do it, but that’s my plan.
Laura Rueda: How do you remember your childhood in Ohio?
Cherlyl Shuman: I remember starting school and the one thing from private school is that no one knows that you are poor because everyone wears a uniform. I remember one of the first days of the school, it was when I really first learnt the difference between rich and poor. I was the new girl so everyone was kind of curious to see what’s your story, where you come from, blablabla… And I remember telling them that I lived down in Buena Vista which is a little tiny village on the river. And they said, where did you get your uniform and I answered in a second hand store. And they were like wow! And I was so proud I made all this money to pay my education at age 12. And then I noticed those mean girls didn’t allow me to sit on their table and I asked why not and they said “because you are poor”. And at that time it was interesting because I had really never heard the word ‘poor’ used before. Because where we were if you have family and if you have food you are rich. That was our value system. When I heard the word poor I thought what’s that supposed to mean? I remember going with Sister Daphne to the library looking at the word ‘poor’ and one of the explanations or definitions was “one who lacks material possessions”. And I thought, wow, that’s no so bad. (Laughs) One of the excluded girls from the mean and rich girls class was a friend of mine who is still my friend today and she was the only African American girl at the school. And we are still friends today. I work for the cannabis industry and she ended up becoming a condecorated like a hero. It’s funny, we talk about it a lot.
Laura Rueda: Talk me through the process of using cannabis during your treatment of ovarian cancer**
Cherlyl Shuman: In 2006 I was diagnosed by the doctors and they told me that I would be dead by my birthday in March and I remember that I had made all arrangements for my funeral, memorial and cremation. And, in fact, my quality of life become so poor that I held a position of substance suicide, which is legal in Oregon because my kidney and my colon stopped functioning and I hadn’t be able to eat in months. I used to take 27 chemicals, but I remember when I woke up that day and decided “I’m still alive, maybe there’s still a chance”. They said I’ll be dead for my birthday, it’s my birthday and I’m still here.” And I just got super motivated that day and I had my daughter bring my laptop and I’d forgotten that I’d signed up to Match.com, an online dating site that guarantees you to find love. I reconnected with a friend of mine from high school and he started visiting me at the hospital and he said “you know that my sister is growing medical marijuana in California?”
He said that were two strains that were working without fear and they’re claiming that they’re curing some cancers, and if you want you come on and visit my family. I’ll try to get a smuggler on board but she could go to prison for a long time. She brought some for me and when I took it I don’t know what happened to my body, but something was working. I went from being dead in 30 days to working and going to the bathroom by myself. It was literally like being reborn. So for me it’s a miracle! But it’s not really a miracle, it’s science, it’s medicine that really does work. I said to my kids “I wanna be public with this, people need to know, they need to understand”.
Laura Rueda: I guess that in the mid 2000s not many would believe in the power of marijuana for medicinal use or even they thought that it use was dangerous?
Cherlyl Shuman: Back in 2007 no one was talking about cannabis, no-one. And certainly not in the mainstream. And I didn’t know how long it was, but at one point I thought that it was marijuana making me feel things, but you know, I’m better, I’m feeling better. My kids were really scared saying “mom, people, they’re gonna try to hurt you, they’re gonna try to slander you, they’re gonna try to blame you and damage you. Don’t say anything about it”. I started doing the research and they realised that there were a lot of patients using cannabis and on Youtube channels saying “I don’t know what happens, but this seems to be working”. And don’t get me wrong, I love all the celebrities I meet and the red carpet. But at the end of the day I ask myself, what does my life really stand for, what are the most memorable moments in my life, what will I be remembered for my work… And I can’t see myself just being remembered for being the guest of some celebrity. That works for a while. It’s fun and everything, but it’s not living a legacy or something behind when you go. I do believe in a spiritual being, and the work that we do in that spiritual being does have values. I did a lot of research and there was this woman of high society back in the 1930’s and she was credited with lifting alcohol prohibition with some friends from the high society. I have high society friends, I have media friends, I have celebrity friends… Why can’t I lift marijuana prohibition? It’s like, “Ok, Cheryl, you’re one woman” (laughs) “How do you do it?”
When I start researching cannabis has been legal in pharmacies for thousands of years. Egyptians, Latino-Americans, even in North American pharmacies in 1937. In those days, cannabis was like a miracle cure. And it was when the government came in basically to demonize people of color: latinos, black, etc, because it was people of color using cannabis. This is a poor issue and it’s the empowerment of the people has done this. So I was thinking ok, my work is working with celebrities and media, creating strategies and plans. And I thought first of all I’m gonna start calling it cannabis, because marijuana was the slang term giving by the government to demonize: “marijuana, you’re black men, you raped our women”. And I said, that’s not true. And to come out of the closet, I think it’s very similar to the LGTBQ community and I’m a firm believer in equal rights for all human beings. I think we should all be free to do what we want with our bodies,: whether we wanna have children or not, I’m definitely pro choice, pro gay marriage.. As human beings we should all have rights.
Laura Rueda: How did you become a cannabis business woman?
Cherlyl Shuman: I also wanted to show that cannabis could become a legitimate business. Back then, there was no cannabis industry. It didn’t exist. There was only one state at that time that even had any kind of law on the books and it was California. So I thought, instead of being ashamed, instead of being condemned, why don’t we stand up and stand tall and be proud? Because the truth is that if marijuana were discovered in the amazon jungle today it would be used all around the world for all doctors: “it’s a miracle food, it’s a miracle cure”. So why can’t we just rebrand it, we can change it and that’s my area...
So, when I started talking, I remember my first time doing videos to share with people, “hi, my name is Cheryl Shuman and I’m using cannabis today”. I would openly smoke pot and it was so scandalous. And I remember a journalist, Nicolaus Medina, from CBS News that one day called me and I said, how can I help you? And she said, “I heard you are a woman that smokes pot”. And I said, “yeah, ok, so what?” And she answered “I heard that you’re willing to do it on camera”. And I said, “sure, I can do that”. And she answered that most educated women these days, they don’t really smoke cannabis. I explained to her that most educated women today are juicing it or eating it, doing cannabis infused milk or they’re vaporizing. I said, there are so many others ways… And she said, “what?” And I said, “Oh, yeah, sister! I have a meeting on Thursday, so if you want, why don’t you join with a couple of my other mums coming over because I have mums for marijuana, a support group with other women who feels like marijuana makes them better mums.” She said, “what did you just say?” I said, “Cannabis makes them better mums”. And she said, “OMG, that’s delicious!” She was just mezmorized, she had never seen anything similar. She said, “Explain what it is what you do again” and I said, “Well, I started the first cannabis magazine for the legal industry. I’ve got a couple of DVD series and a movie that are in development. I have my own line of products. I have a Beverly Hill’s cannabis club which is a private club for High Society.”
And she said “With all the things you do, you’re kind of like the Martha Stuart of marijuana. Would that be fair to say?” And I was like, “Yeah! yeah! Kind of the Martha Stuart of marijuana, yeah!” (Laughs). And she asked me “What does marijuana do for you?” And I answered, “It’s really pretty simple, marijuana makes me a better woman, a better human being”. And the show was national and many people discovered that I was a plant lady in Beverlly Hills, California, with this marijuana mum’s club and they’re smoking pot and they’re kids were playing and they’re acting like so normal. Well, it is normal, so we normalize, we mainstream. And the funny thing was back in those days, you know, I got crap from all kinds of people saying, “that woman, she is the evil, she’s trying to turn these women into zombies”. No, that’s not true.
Laura Rueda: Thanks to people like you we’ve achieved a lot, but still there’s a stigma in society about marijuana in the USA and the black market.
Cherlyl Shuman: Yes, then you have the illegal trade and people that want to keep it illegal to make thousands of dollars doing illegal commerce. And also they say, who the fuck is this Beverlly Hills bitch? You know, like gangster. I remember when I first started doing public appearances I was shut up, I got slander on the Internet. Some people called me a skunk murderer because cannabis can possibly work. So I was making cannabis successful before it was cool. So it’s been interesting because in the begining I got the good stuff, but I got an equal amount of hate and danger and I took it all because I know what the truth is. I’m gonna stand tall and I’m gonna be there when the truth comes out because I am the strongest woman and there’s nothing that’s gonna stop me from this mission because you guys are just uneducated, you just don’t understand.
Cannabis can’t understand the traditional companies. We are not allowed to advertise like L.A Times or Vanity Fair, so when I started my own magazine I went from my zero to 6.8 million dollars within 18 months and there were a couple of things that I found out very, very quickly, which is very important to to the growth of cannabis. Number one, most of the people who were using cannabis openly were people that had been personally ill themselves, some of them seriously ill, or they had a friend or a mum or a sister or a wife or a daughter or a child that was suffering form these illnesses and when you have that, I don’t care if you are republican, if you are a prohibitionist. When this happens to you and you are family, you do anything to try to save their lives. I went from speaking to a crowd of 10 people to 350.000 people and you could see, look around and I saw most of them had been touched by this plant and we have been to afraid to talk about it. And I was telling them this is just the gay movement, you’re coming out of the closet because today LGTBQ people can be your sister, your brother, can be anyone, but there is too much fear. And my attitude is stand tall, be proud, be a warrior. We are leaders, we are warriors and we will get to the promise land, I promise you. If we stay strong and we stick together and through that you will be mum’s for marijuana and we have over millions users over the largest, most successful cannabis activism for males or females in the world. We have more followers than all the audiences combined. The secret is, when someone who is a mother, when someone has a personal experience you get engaged. When you speak to these people probably you look around the room and you can see tears in their eyes. It’s like being a warrior in many ways.
Laura Rueda: How did you start the Beverly Hills Cannabis Club?
Cherlyl Shuman: The other thing too what I was noticing is for me to buy cannabis was thousands of dollars a month to make the kind of oil that we need and at that time I was dying. I lost almost everything: my insurance, my savings… So I was in a pickle. I was in the poorest situation. When I started talking to the others patients it was interesting because back then the richest experience is saving someone’s life and then watching and to be able to stay alive. I became addicted to helping people and to help them to get better. I found that was a safe alternative to alcohol or pharmaceuticals, so when my friends used cannabis at the end of a long day instead of a glass of wine I felt that I was be able to do this too. And one day I found a friend from high school and she said, “I thought you were dead”. And I said, “no, I’m alive and I’ve been using marijuana. And I have a potcard now” and she said, “What?”.
So, my friends and I are we all in the entertainment industry, so we all started gardening together. We went to the farm and I taught them how to grow cannabis and do everything and we started the Beverly Hills Cannabis Club. I have like 6 or 7 celebrity friends like Drew Barrimore or Cameron Diaz and it was funny because we would just be hanging out like every night renting movies and smoking pot. And then they started growing and growing and we started doing cannabis tastings because every single time we had new strains or flavours. Because there’s too many kind of strains and we know sativas, indicas but you have a grape flavour or a smoky flavour… It’s just like wine, they have different things. So we started doing parties because we all live in very nice homes and we bring new strains from the farm to the table. And then we started doing oil extractions. Without that awareness people didn’t know that cannabis existed. So I’m very honored and privileged to be able to be that person that started that movement and changed the course of history. We wouldn’t be what we are today if I hadn’t discovered that. I think to be a Beverly Hill’s woman, a woman of society, a woman who wears designer suits and goes to the red carpet events… It’s been a very interesting journey.
Laura Rueda: Do you think that marijuana is still a male field?
Cherlyl Shuman: Well, the industry is still male dominated and that was one of the main reasons that I wanted to start mentoring. The cannabis industry is not something that you can go to college and get a degree for. Not yet. So back then my vision was to build this Charlies Angels kind of kick ass group of women that can be independent in their life. A female team, like my growers are. For me women are the secret for everything: advertising, politics or marketing. If you got the women voting in politics you win elections. If you have a woman in advertising, marketing or branding, 87% of decisions in health care, food, etc. are made by the women of the house.
So I knew I could convince women and moms to stand up and not be so secretive. You would not believe the women that came out of the closet. I still get around 2700 emails a day because I knew that I could inspire them to get involved and that’s exactly what happened. Sometimes I said on TV, “ladies, you don’t have to go to the bathroom: snacking, toking”. You know, stand up, stay strong because using cannabis is part of safer alternative to pharmaceuticals instead of taking valium, drinking or whatever. Using cannabis is a holistic natural herb, it grows wild, it’s natural, it’s an organic material. I can tell you that women talk to me because they watched me on TV smoking and they said to me that they wanna be a part of this. “I wanna work on this, my mum is sick, my sister is sick, teach me how to build my own company…” Literally the growers started coming out of the mountains and the people started coming out the closet. “Ok, how do we go legitimate?”.
And my strategy was like we’ll overthrow the government, they can’t fight all of us and the bigger and stronger we are the more we can do. Some people accuse me of glamourising cannabis. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Glamourous women, wealthy women, society women, celebrity women… we all use cannabis, so why can’t we glamourise? Why can’t we make using cannabis as acceptable as having a glass of wine? Why not? And then I go like this! So I have really enjoyed using science, I’m working with the best scientists in the world, from Israel, Puerto Rico, Australia, Toronto, Vancouver, Mexico… every single place on the world. That’s why I wanna come to Spain.
Laura Rueda: So, what’s the secret of your success?
Cherlyl Shuman: To me the whole secret is being a woman and mainstreaming cannabis. I absolutely love what I do, I can’t imagine ever in my life doing anything else. It’s been the greatest because what it does is allow me to use all my skills: my media skills, my PR marketing skills, my business skills, to literally build this industry. I hope to build 170 companies so far, from dispensaries to big growing operations in multiple countries and we’ve generated millions of millions of millions of dollars in a company where you recover every billion dollar devaluation so I’ve been very pleased with the work I’ve done The Beverly Hillis cannabis club is getting ready to go international, so you can buy Beverly Hillis cannabis club products in any country in the world.
We’re doing 420 resorts in Puerto Rico. So imagine being able to go to a resort hotel and use cannabis at your dinner table, at the pool or wherever without being worried. And you have paper and stuffs in every room. And also we’re coming up with new products and technology. I’m working with another group out of Israel that uses a new technology to do early detection like skin cancer. You can take a picture that is diagnosed 4000% faster than any other technology out there. So it’s very very interesting. Just working with investors it’s really interesting to me because the Rockefeller level or the Kennedy level of the world, who are the same people that demonized cannabis back in the 30’s are now the people that are coming to say “hey, the cannabis industry is a 47 billion dollar industry, I want in. I don’t know anything about it, but we know that you know, and I wanna invest in the best pot”. So we have invested over 600 millions dollars in marijuana related businesses and it keeps growing and growing and growing and growing and growing and growing… so I’m super excited and I keep traveling all around the world… I sleep about three hours a night.
Laura Rueda: You haven’t had the best years of your life lately. What encourages you to continue?
Cherlyl Shuman: Losing my mum has been a very sad thing, you know, losing my mum, getting hit by a car, having an emergency surgery… Ok, God, I’m here, I’m strong and you beat me down, but you’re not gonna stop me, because I still have a mission. When I leave this world I wanna be known for being the woman who changed the course of history by having cannabis legalized and ending prohibition. I want to be seen as someone who has empowered and helped women to be a dominant force in this space and I really want my kids to be proud of me and I think that’s the thing that really keeps me going and to be an inspiration.
You cannot get lower than I had been in my life and still succeed. I believe that I am the living proof that the American dream is still possible and I think that many people can have their American dream. I think this plant can beat not only a multitude of illnesses, I believe this plant can safe lives, and I believe that cannabis can save the world, I really do and that’s what I fight for every day and I love the communities that are being built. I love the brother and the sisterhood. It’s like when you go to an event or a party and someone is talking about marijuana and has a vaporizer. It’s like you feel this instant connection with. We, as a community are saying “hey brother, hey sister we are in this together”. And it’s the only product that I know literally brings people together instead of tearing them apart. Alcohol makes people angry. I’ve never seen a marijuana consumer get angry and lose control. Usually they’re laughing so hard. Cannabis is the best thing that ever happened to me and I find it incredibly ironic that I grew up on a tobacco farm, like a poor little farmer and now I’m running the most successful cannabis industry in the world. It makes me kind of giggle sometimes, but I love it. I have to tell you something, being back in my home town, I think is really important to all people, especially when you get to a level of success to give back in general. I feel so fortunate to be able to come to my home town and when I look at a lot of the people I grow up with waiting to die and I say we can fix it.
At this point of the conversation I thank Cheryl because besides being a survivor she is still a big activist not only in America but also in all over the world.
Cherlyl Shuman: I’ve being very open about sharing my life and so people ask me “Why do you share so much. You shouldn’t show yourself working like that”. “You shouldn’t show yourself being weak”. And I said exactly the opposite because they see a certain part of me and yes, that part of my life as a businesswoman or celebrity is only a part of my life, but when I share with people I always say “I’m not perfect, I’m human, just like you, I face challenges, just like you, I’m still a patient, I have a mass on my liver, I have still plasmosis, there are days that I cannot walk or sometimes I have to use a wheelchair”. But what I wanna show is that yes, I’m doing ok right now. I’m scared, I’m not sure what’s gonna happen.
And then, when they can see that, when they are able to overcome that and then when I can turn that negative into a positive. I miss my mom terribly but I feel that the timing of everything, losing her, getting medical marijuana in legislation just a short period after and being put in the position to really help people who need it and again to be in the position to change history, that means something. I wanna be able to help people, no matter how bad you’re being put down, no matter if you lose your house or your job, look at me, I just did it again, I keep moving, nothing’s going to stop me for my mission and if you have that focus, determination, drive, that passion that makes you wake up every morning, makes you wanna have another great thing on this planet and change someone’s life, you can do it too, because I’m just like the poor little girl that grew on a farm with no water or electricity. If I could do it, you can do it too. I want to empower them, you don’t have to be rich. The path is there, take the path!
It's June and it's been 8 months since Cheryl and I spoke. Right after I had an accident skating and I broke my radius. It seems that our paths have been based on a series of catastrophic misfortunes. However, the worst thing is that now Cheryl is not going through her prime. As always, she uses the videos to tell her followers her life: her travels, shootings, interviews ... For a few weeks she has changed her photographs and videos throughout the world to include activists and artists such as Jackie Sponseller, Jodie Emery or Elijah Wood for a more daunting scenario, the James Cancer Hospital. She keeps telling us bad news. She has returned to her hometown in Ohio and within days has been told she has skin cancer, breast cancer, liver and lung problems and has to face a double mastectomy, a liver transplant and a lung biopsy.
If I’ve learned anything from my talk with her is that Cherlyl Shuman is a born fighter. That is why she faces this personal struggle with great force and a smile when she still draws the courage to tell some jokes. It moves something stronger than herself, the conviction that a plant like cannabis could change the world for the better. "I've worked really hard to help build the cannabis industry and hope that you can help me with as many prayers and good thoughts as possible during this time. I believe in the power of prayers and positive energy. It would mean the world to me to have your support!". We send you all our support and admiration from Spain, Cheryl.