Athletes are openly using marijuana for recovery and pain relief without a performance boost so why isn’t legal in sports? A growing number of long-distance runners have started using cannabis in their pursuit of mental stamina, increased focus and pain relief. These kinds of athletes are decimating the stereotype of cannabis users as lazy, chip-chomping stoners. The phenomenon is more advanced in the US where 28 states have adopted laws making marijuana medically or recreationally legal, and 60% of American support pot legalisation (compared to 32% in Australia). An increasing number of elite athletes there are stepping forward to proclaim their cannabis advocacy in ways that would have been unthinkable a few years ago.

Who Is Doing it

Overturning decades of stigmatisation, this new wave of sports-world acceptance puts cannabis forward as a biohack. It’s a plant-based alternative to opioid pain-relief drugs that can also unlock your mind’s potential to boost physical output. Weed workouts and cannabis-enhanced recovery products have come into vogue among American pro football players, bodybuilders, Major League Baseball players, mixed martial artists and endurance athletes. There’s this perception over-the-counter drugs are fine and pot is bad. Of course, change is unlikely in Australia where the major sporting codes enforce a no tolerance policy towards marijuana. In 2010, Gold Coast Vikings rugby league player William Morunga was banned for life for testing positive to cannabis. Yep, it’s that strict.

Be Blunt 

Sports pot proselytisers say cannabis isn’t a performance-enhancing drug. Unlike steroids, testosterone or EPO, marijuana has never been shown to give users an unfair competitive advantage. But, users say, its benefits — physical and mental, pre- and post-workout —abound. Users experience mild, short-term euphoria but also, at times, anxiety and introspection. This is thanks to a cannabinoid called tetrahydrocannabinol, aka THC. Cannabis can help your mind get into a flow state by unlocking your mind’s potential to focus. Meanwhile, another cannabinoid in weed – CBD – which doesn’t get users stoned is now recognised for its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. Plus, it can lessen anxiety, insomnia and the symptoms of multiple sclerosis. Though outlawed by the UFC, CBD is increasingly popular among fighters looking for alternatives to prescription pain pills. 

The Authorities Spark Up

Though anecdotal evidence points to a biological basis for the benefits of marijuana, the substance cannot be designated a true medicine.  This means that the FDA has not found any such product to be safe or effective for the treatment of any disease or condition. Perhaps it because research shows cannabis consumption can impair short-term memory and decrease alertness, limit lung capacity and pose increased heart-attack incidence, especially for users with pre-existing heart conditions. One study published in the American Heart Association’s journal found pot use can cause transient ventricular regional ballooning of the heart. This is a form of cardio myopathy that can weaken the heart muscle and mimic symptoms of a heart attack. So, in terms of maintaining an athlete’s lung health eating weed beats smoking it, hands down. Edibles, vaping, patches or mouth strips are highly encouraged versus smoking. The laws in Australia aren’t on your side yet, so take the risk if you want to but be aware of all the risks. There sure are enough of them from a physical and legal perspective.