Can Athletes Change the Perception of Cannabis?

So many professional athletes admitting to using cannabis while performing at the highest level, you might wonder what the big deal is.

Jun 8, 2016

Illegal, dangerous, addictive, unhealthy: These are some of the words you might expect to hear coming from the lips of cannabis’ biggest critics. Critics whose arguments are antiquated and in many cases unfounded. Today’s culture is influenced more by athletes and celebrities, than by politicians and religious leaders. As a result, the people are demanding change in the laws surrounding cannabis use. Names like Ricky Williams, Eugene Monroe, Nate Jackson, Michael Phelps, and Tim Lincecum are leading the charge as athletes attempt to influence cannabis law and perception in America.

Hypocritical irony

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According to a recent Gallop poll, roughly 59% of Americans are sports fans – that means about 6 out of every 10 cannabis critics enjoys watching some sporting event during the year. If by chance that sporting event is NFL football, then it is likely that some of these critics’ favorite players are cannabis users.

Former NFL tight end and medicinal cannabis activist, Nate Jackson, suggested last year that 50-60% of current NFL players use cannabis during the season.

Jackson did suggest that a mere majority of NFL players are cannabis users, but he didn’t suggest that these guys are your typical stoners. Instead, it would seem that players are beginning to understand the negative effects of addictive painkillers and are self-medicating with cannabis.

Do the critics care about opiate addiction and the destruction of minds and bodies? Probably not as much as they care about a little doobie.

Athletic advocacy

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Adding to the efficacy of the athletes’ argument for safe and regulated cannabis use in their respective leagues is the growing popularity of the non-psychoactive cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD).

Cannabidiol is patented by the United States Government as a neuroprotectant and has a particular application in the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Diseases like these are often encouraged by repetitive head trauma like the concussions experienced by football players and boxers on a frequent basis.

Rather than taking painkillers or smoking a blunt, athletes like Baltimore Raven Eugene Monroe are turning to the non-psychoactive and non-toxic healing qualities found in CBD products like Charlotte’s Web hemp extracts.

In fact, Monroe is so convinced about CBD’s role as an alternative to painkillers that he recently pledged $80,000 to When the Bright Lights Fade, a campaign designed to raised funding to support research into how cannabinoids can prevent concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

Change before it’s too late

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Recently, boxing great Muhammad Ali passed away at the age of 74, after a three-decade bout with Parkinson’s. Ali is revered as one of the greatest athletes in history. He transcended race barriers and religious discrimination to lead sports fans toward an era excitement and greater social acceptance.

During his career, Ali was not a reported cannabis user, but in his last years on earth, his family had been investigating the possibility for CBD to treat and maybe even cure his Parkinson’s.

The science surrounding cannabis and its healing properties was not as comprehensive in Ali’s heyday as it is today, so we cannot say “what if” in regard to the possibility that cannabinoids could have helped him. What we can say is “don’t repeat the mistakes of history”, as we move into a new era of professional athletics.

These athletes perform on the highest level day in and day out. They have habits, routines, beliefs, and support systems in place that have helped them get to where they are today. If cannabis is a part of their routine, if it is helping them to manage pain and recovery (especially in lieu of addictive medications), then who are we to punish and judge them?

Do you think cannabis belongs in professional sports? How far will athletes go to change the minds of politicians and team owners? Let us know on social media or in the comments section below.

Jun 8, 2016