At this point in time, society has become more open to the casual use of marijuana for medical and/or recreational use, but that doesn’t mean everyone is becoming more open to the casual use of the drug.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) still prohibits the use of marijuana and cannabinoids, lumping it in with harder drugs such as cocaine and heroin and traces of the drug being found in an athlete’s system during a drug test can lead to an anti-doping rule violation and sanction unless an athlete has a doctor-approved exemption for therapeutic use.
As was evident when public outcry erupted after Olympic sprinter, Sha’Carri Richardson was barred from competing in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics after marijuana was found in her system during a drug test at the US Olympic Trials.
When it comes to athletes at the domestic level, the US Anti-Doping Agency follows a similar policy to WADA despite facing public outcry about it. While the CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, Travis Tygart said at the time that he was sympathetic to what happened, though he clearly was not sympathetic enough to overrule the decision and simply said, that “rules are rules”.
A more recent example of professional athletes getting in trouble for possible marijuana usage is the Iowa State Lacrosse team being punished for their van just being photographed outside a marijuana dispensary in Colorado with no concrete evidence of the players even smoking the drug.
As a result of these photographs and the vehicle’s driver receiving an unrelated speeding ticket, the team lost the privilege to rent vehicles that are owned and maintained by the University’s Transportation Services and the University gave them a one-game suspension for the spring season.
The student rights group, FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression) has written a letter to the school claiming the students were never given the chance to defend themselves and asked the school to restore their access to ISU vehicles.
The school’s general counsel and chief risk officer attempted to deny the accusation until a leaked email by Nathan Pick, the Senior Assistant Director of Sports Programs at ISU stated otherwise. The reasoning for why the team was being punished for the photograph as stated in Pick’s leaked email to Iowa State Lacrosse President, Max Gula was that the image presented a negative image of the school.
FIRE has rebutted this accusation by stating that this reasoning is a violation of the first amendment and neither ISU’s student handbook nor sports club manual makes mention of teams having to be punished for such a circumstance. At the time of writing, the University has made no recent mention of restoring the team’s privilege of using school transportation vehicles.
The idea of athletes being punished for using marijuana is nothing new, but this is a policy that could face change in the future, especially with all of the research being done on the medical benefits of marijuana. Despite cannabis being banned by the NFL, retired running back Jamal Anderson told Bleacher Report back in 2015 that at least 60 percent of football currently players use weed as a painkiller and recent studies have that it may reduce the effects of a concussion.
The NFL itself is starting to see the medical benefits of marijuana and awarded researchers at the UC San Diego and the University of Regina $1 million to study the effects of cannabinoids on pain management and neuroprotection from concussion.
These studies are being done as part of the research proposals by the NFL-NFLPA Joint Pain Management Committee to research pain management alternatives, though current NFL players are still not permitted to participate in any of the studies. Whether or not these studies lead to policy changes has yet to be seen but many advocates are optimistic about the future.
And when it comes to former professional athletes, marijuana-related businesses are far from a foreign subject. The day before the Super Bowl this year, Former Cardinals and ASU Quarterback Jake Plummer, Former Dolphins running back Ricky Williams, and dozens of other former athletes hosted a Health and Wellness Festival in Chandler Park, AZ near the big game in partnership with The Marijuana Industry Trade Association (MITA).
The event, titled Remembrance: A Health and Wellness Festival featured opportunities for attendees to learn from the professional athletes about the benefits of naturopathic medicine, cannabis, plant-based remedies, functional mushrooms, and more.
Plummer specifically is very invested in advocating for natural health remedies and even has his own line of all-natural functional mushroom supplements called UMBO which is used to improve focus, endurance, and sleep.
There are also plenty of other former athletes that have gotten involved in the business of recreational drugs in recent years. Running back Marshawn Lynch has a blunt line called Dodi Blunts that serves dispensaries in the Bay Area, Tight end Rob Gronkowski had a line of a line of CBD health products called Abacus in 2019, hall-of-fame wide receiver Calvin Johnson operates a medical dispensary and research company in Michigan known as Primitiv, and running back Tiki Barber owns an investment firm that serves small and minority-owned budding cannabis businesses. And all six of the mentioned former athletes have also advocated for the removal of marijuana from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s list of banned substances.
AJ Favorito is a freelance writer, photographer, and filmmaker specializing in comedy and animation.
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