Updated: Jan 18
Marijuana has been front and center in the world of sports recently with Sha’Carri Richardson being suspended from the US olympic team after failing a drug test because of marijuana use. This suspension meant that team USA lost the number one favorite in the women's 100 meters as Sha’Carri was gearing up to compete in her first olympics after smashing multiple collegiate records. She also placed first in her first US olympic trials just before this incident occurred. Although further explanation regarding her marijuana use shouldn't be needed, she said that she had used marijuana to help cope with the tragic death of her biological mother just days before her olympic trial run. This tragedy of a disqualification should act as even more of a reason to change these long antiquated rules and let athletes benefit from the various ways marijuana can help athletes in non performance enhancing ways.
From NBA player Al Harington using the anti-inflammatory effects of marijuana to boost recovery to UFC fighter Sean ‘Suga’ O’Malley celebrating a victory by smoking a joint with Snoop Dogg, cannabis has become a crucial part of many athletes' success stories. The undeniable support that cannabis has with both athletes and fans has shifted the rules and regulations about the plant towards acceptance in the past decade with all major sport leagues in the US (NBA, NHL, MLB, NFL) no longer punishing for a positive marijuana test. The NBA has a particularly high percentage of cannabis users with anecdotal estimations in between 50% and 85% of total players. Marijuana use in the NBA isn't just postgame joints either, many players admit to cannabis use before games too. For example, Stephan Jackson who played small forward for the Golden State Warriors says that he would smoke cannabis before games to calm his nerves. Athletes who use cannabis while performing at a professional level show how ignorant common stereotypes about marijuana users truly are.
The pure flow state that is achieved for athletes with the help of marijuana is why there are so many different sports that have developed a cannabis subculture. Basketball is a sport that not only demands the highest levels of athleticism but also extreme accuracy and precision. It is this area of the game where many players state that they are able to dial in with laser focus and gain access to a deeper intuition that comes with playing under the influence of marijuana. Many other sports requiring intense focus and calculated precision also have a large number of athletes who benefit from the use of cannabis. One prominent example is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, where cannabis has become such an integral part of the culture that weed-only tournaments are being held on a regular basis. The “high rollerz” tournament in California for example is a weed only tournament that awards the winner of the competition a huge bag of bud. People who practice BJJ tout the positive effect marijuana has on their problem solving ability for why they find it to be so beneficial for this martial art and combat sport. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is the equivalent of high level chess for both the mind and body as there are thousands of different scenarios that people doing BJJ find themselves in, requiring critical problem solving and creative thinking. Many other athletes in precision sports have had the same experience with marijuana helping them lock in focus to the task at hand, including MLB baseball player Tim Lincecum and F1 race car driver James Hunt.
In addition to precision sports that require a great amount of focus, endurance sports are another great example of where you can see marijuana’s positive impact on athletes. Runners and swimmers alike rave about how cannabis helps them block out pain, helping them get through grueling races. Ultra marathon runner Avery Collins gets high before his races saying that it helps reinforce the gritty mentality he needs to complete an ultra marathon. There is also scientific evidence to backup the interest endurance athletes have with marijuana. Marijuana allows the blood to become more oxygenated and decreases muscle spasms making it extraordinarily useful for endurance athletes.
The benefits that cannabis gives to such a wide variety of athletes is why it is so important for the World Anti-Doping Agency to change its stance on the plant so that olympic athletes are able to enhance their lives just as much as all the other athletes previously mentioned.