Former Athletes Endorse Cannabis and New Opportunities
We know all the stereotypes associated with cannabis use. Whether it’s being called lazy, unmotivated, or unhealthy, rarely is cannabis use viewed as complementary to physical activity, exercise, or feats of physical achievement. But that’s changing.
More athletes are using cannabis to help recover from intense workouts or reduce pre-competition anxiety, not to mention using it as a substitute to opioids and painkillers that would otherwise be prescribed in high, unsustainable numbers. These are world-class athletes who would laugh at the notion of losing ambition, becoming lazy, or unfocused. Yet, despite a growing body of scientific evidence, prohibitionists continue to push the same outdated agenda. Luckily, there are mainstream athletes that are courageous enough to publicly endorse cannabis and its health effects.
Heisman trophy winner Ricky Williams has a long history of cannabis advocacy. In the NFL, Williams rushed for over 10,000 career yards, scoring 66 touchdowns, despite temporarily retiring in 2004 and being suspended for the 2006 season. Now, as a medical patient, Williams uses cannabis to help with social anxiety disorder and pain from a lifetime of football that would otherwise be dealt with using prescription painkillers. As an activist, Williams travels around the country speaking at events and sharing his story. His personal goal has been quoted as, “to elevate the legitimacy of cannabis as a medicine and the respect of medical professionals for cannabis users.”
Cliff Robinson spent 18 seasons in the NBA, during which he was suspended twice for cannabis use. When asked if cannabis use contributed to his lengthy NBA career, Robinson stated, “as far as how my body recovered, and was able to stay away from injury, I would like to think so.” Now in his retirement, “Uncle Cliffy” is using his cannabis brand, Uncle Spliffy, as a conduit to promote a healthy, active, and fit lifestyle. Robinson’s cannabis advocacy extends beyond his business; he is also active in industry groups as well as recently providing testimony to support legislation allowing for social cannabis consumption in Oregon.
In 1998, Ross Rebagliati became famous for winning the first Men’s Snowboarding Gold medal ever awarded. The next day he became infamous when his medal was stripped and he was placed in a Japanese jail for a drug test that detected minuscule traces of THC. Ross received the support of the Canadian government and ultimately had his medal returned because, as it turned out, cannabis wasn’t actually a banned substance. Now, almost 20 years later, Rebagliati is one of Canada’s foremost cannabis activists and business owners. “The stereotype of the pot smoker was pretty much thrown aside when I came along in 1998,” Rebagliati says. “I had short hair. I was an Olympic gold medalist. I was in the best shape of my life…and for me, whether you are skiing, or snowboarding, or riding a road bike, or working out at the gym, (cannabis use) puts you in the moment.” His dispensary and brand, Ross’ Gold, were designed to inspire trust, confidence, and expertise; “This is what the cannabis industry is going to look like in Canada, America, and the rest of the world. We want to get behind a message of health and wellness, and being the best you can be.”
Smith is part of a group of former Cleveland area athletes hoping to land a coveted dispensary license in Ohio’s newly formed market. Joining former Brown Eric Metcalf and high school coach Ted Ginn Sr, the organization is vying for one of the 60 licenses to dispense cannabis with their sights set on locations throughout northeast Ohio. For Smith, entering a space that will help fellow athletes was an easy choice; “The head trauma that I have been suffering since the age of 7 and not understanding back then what a migraine was, and understanding now the differences between the daily life and being a regular person and having that type of trauma being a part of your life – it’s black and white, you know. It makes sense.”
Nate, and his older brother Nick, are regulars when it comes to controversy. As prominent faces of MMA (mixed martial arts), they are subject to periodic drug tests and have both failed more than once. But that hasn’t stopped the Diaz brothers from continuing to promote cannabis use, as evidenced by Nate’s blatant vaporizer use after his August fight against Conor McGregor. For Nate, cannabis combats the rigors of fighting; “it helps with the healing process and inflammation, stuff like that. So you want to get these for before and after the fights, training. It’ll make your life a better place.” Despite overwhelming popularity, Diaz has yet to book another contest since the August incident.
After winning a Super Bowl with the Denver Bronco’s in 1999, Marvin Washington found a second calling as an advocate for medical cannabis as treatment for traumatic brain injuries. In addition to partnering on a line of hemp infused products geared towards athletes, Washington also spends a significant amount of time traveling around the country speaking about the benefits of cannabis. During a recent panel at the Southeast Cannabis Conference, Washington revealed that the NFL Players Association is seeking to all cannabis for therapeutic use with stipulations regarding proximity to game time, method of ingestion, and potency.
While no longer an athlete, Dallas Cowboys owner, Jerry Jones, recently proposed in an NFL owners meeting that the League, “drop its prohibition on marijuana use.” Although Jones is advocating for his team rather than his own medical benefit, this is one of the most significant advocates to speak up for cannabis use. With a voice in League owner meetings and pull with League officials, Jones is able to speak directly to those who have the power to affect change.
Cannabis acceptance is at an all-time high, and while it’s still unclear what its place in athletics will be, it seems likely that cannabis use by athletes will continue, even if league policy is slow to adapt. The question will be if league authorities want to continue pursuing heavy handed punishments for athletes that simply want an alternative to opiates.
Note: While researching this post we had a difficult time finding a reliable (and outspoken) resource for a professional female athlete that publicly advocates cannabis use. Have you heard of any? Please let us know and we’ll update the post!
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