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Cannabis and sport don’t immediately come off as a therapeutic match, but more research is suggesting that the plant and its cannabinoids can have a significant impact on the recovery of athletes. For years, cannabis has been classified as a performance-enhancing drug and, while activists may argue against that classification, there is certainly some evidence to suggest that cannabis can help athletes in a number of ways.

In the context of recovery from an exasperating athletic outing, cannabis has been shown to help significantly with inflammation and chronic pain. The use of CBD, which doesn’t have the psychoactive properties, has become particularly popular among athletes. Because CBD is now available in whole flower, as concentrate or an edible, the ability to consume it for recovery can prove a healthy option for athletes open to alternative therapy options.1 

While there is ample anecdotal evidence, namely reports from former players, that cannabis can have a significant positive impact on performance. There have been a number of former NBA players that claim to have smoked cannabis during the entirety of their careers. As cannabis has come out of the shadows and into the mainstream, more players than ever have started to voice vocal support for cannabis in professional sport.2

A star-studded lineup of advocates

The relationship between professional athletes and medical cannabis has only recently come to light. For decades, reports have suggested that athletes of all stripes have used cannabis and its extract, both during games and for recovery after events, but most of those stories have been muffled by seasoned PR professionals, and chalked up to folklore. In recent years, however, a number of former players have come out in support of the plant they say helped them through their careers.

These days, the roster of retired star players that now inhabit the cannabis space is extensive. That list includes former NFL greats Ricky Williams, Jake Plummer and Eugene Munroe. Other former NFL players, turned cannabis activists, include Nate Jackson and Kyle Turley, the latter of whom is a part of the Gridiron Cannabis Coalition, a group that advocates for the allowance of medical cannabis in the National Football League.3

Other celebrity athletes who support cannabis include MMA stars Nate Diaz and Ronda Rousey, and the NHL’s Riley Cote. Likely the biggest cannabis sports celebrity, former NBA all-star Cliff Robinson was notorious for violating the league’s drug policy for his cannabis use. In recent years, Robinson has been spotted pitching his Uncle Spliffy brand, a cannabis sports label that features athletic-based cannabis products.

Athletes greet cannabis policy reforms

In states and countries where cannabis is now medically and recreationally legal, some athletes have moved from the sports spotlight to the cannabis industry. Canada’s Ross Rebagliati, who was stripped of his Olympic snowboarding medal for testing positive for cannabis metabolites, has since become a cannabis celebrity of sorts in the country. An entrepreneur in the space, Rebagliati now runs Ross’ Gold, a company that produces and sells cannabis products.4

As drug laws shift, the connection between cannabis and sport becomes more established, and more athletes come out in support of the herbal remedy, it stands to reason that professional sports leagues will have to look at the realities of cannabis as a prospective option for athletes. Even if psychoactive cannabinoids like THC were omitted from the equation, athletes of all stripes could still assuredly benefit from access to CBD-based flowers, oils and topicals.

  1. Marijuana can relieve pain and improve athletic recovery. So why isn't it legal in sports? https://www.mensjournal.com/health-fitness/marijuana-can-relieve-pain-and-improve-
  2. The green team: 18 of the biggest cannabis advocates in sports. https://www.mensjournal.com/health-fitness/18-of-the-biggest-marijuana-advocates-in-pro-sports-w429975/
  3. Gridiron Cannabis Coalition. http://gridironcannabis.com/
  4. Ross Rebagliati's wild ride from Olympic podium to pot merchant. http://www.cbc.ca/news/thenational/ross-rebagliati-olympics-snowboard-cannabis-marijuana-1.4519928

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