What if instead of reaching for your over the counter pain medication post your gruelling exercise or training regime, you instead turned on your vaporizer or grabbed one of your edibles?

In Summer 2018, Canada will be transformed and a multi-billion dollar industry will literally rise from the ground. As this change takes root, consider the question: what impact will this legislation have in the fitness & athletics realm?

What we do know is that cannabis has been popular in the athletics world for a very long time with notable users in virtually every facet of professional and Olympic level sports; Winter Olympian and snowboard bronze medalist Ross Rebagliati, Heisman Trophy winner and NFL Pro-Bowler Ricky Williams, the NBA’s all-time leading scorer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Cy Young award winning pitcher Tim Lincecum, Ronda Rousey who virtually launched women’s MMA, and of course, the most decorated Olympic athlete ever, swimmer Michael Phelps.

We can certainly make the argument, many of those listed above primarily use the plant recreationally, but the medical and training benefits of marijuana are only now beginning to come to the forefront of many conversations in athletics. But for many, the buzzy effect of being “high” is a deterrent from utilizing cannabis. However, with the recent rise in popularity of the marijuana extract Cannibadiol (commonly referred to as CBD) giving users all the benefits of the calm, relaxing, anti-oxidizing features without the buzzy or fuzzy high experience, there may be more options for exploration.

From anti-inflammatory properties and pain management in relation to performance and recovery to anti-anxiety control, sleep aid and carb loading appetite assistance, the user generated therapeutic benefits of cannabis are well documented and research continues to pour in. And now, with legalization, access to these medicinal properties will be more in reach of the everyday gym goer and recreational sportsman.

Of course it is important to note these benefits only occur in their entirety via vaporizers or edibles avoiding the toxic substances involved with burning of the plant matter itself. And, let’s also still be very clear here, abuse via overuse and misuse, as with any medically ingested substance, can pose potential health risks, so always consult your physician before use.

However, when faced with the alternatives to pain management and recovery through synthetic drugs like prescription painkillers or even over the counter options like acetaminophen and ibuprofen, a natural, non-addictive approach certainly must be preferable to athletes. A recent High Times article by Mark Miller documented the “Top 10 Reasons Pot is a Better Choice Than Prescription Drugs,” and another article by Corinne Keating tackling this same issue in FIX last year on the 2017 holy day for cannabis users, April 20th, entitled “Is Medical Marijuana More Effective Than Painkillers?” In the realm of opinion, public and professional opinions seem to be merging.

In light of the recent recreational legalization of marijuana in Alaska, Oregon, Colorado and Washington, and many more U.S. states following suit, Canada has access to working models just across the border as we figure out our province by province approach. So with all this change, maybe it is also time to revisit why marijuana is currently listed as a banned substance in most every competitive sporting regime. The largest obstacle to doing so may be changing perception of cannabis after it has been grouped with some of the world’s most addictive and harmful chemical drugs for so long. The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) recently relaxed its rules on cannabis use, perhaps out of necessity, but with federal legalization in Canada and the state legalization in the USA, perhaps it’s time to start having the conversation about lifting it as a banned substance in many other sports as well?

The bottom line here is change is coming, and as with all change, we have new opportunities to form new habits and thoughts about this misunderstood plant. Edmontonians are already experiencing industry growth and job generation with Aurora Cannabis setting up shop just outside of the city proper near Leduc, not to mention the dozens of small to medium size cannabis business models coming to life around our fair city.

Now, I am not saying we are going to see Connor McDavid on the cover of High Times magazine anytime soon, but with the leap in knowledge this change will bring, maybe we should all start shifting our view of the role of cannabis in the athletic world from scary substance to supportive substance.

Just remember…puff puff pass, Connor, puff puff pass.


Neall Alden