April 4, 2016

Why Marijuana Reform In Professional Sports Is Important For Larger Reform Efforts

April 4, 2016
uncle spliffy cliff robinson

uncle spliffy cliff robinsonI have been writing more and more about cannabis and sports lately. It seems like every time I am on social media or turn on the television that another athlete is in the news talking about cannabis reform in professional sports. Most of the time it’s retired athletes, but even current NFL player Eugene Monroe has come out in support of cannabis reform in professional football, and even donated a big chunk of money towards cannabis research.

I think that it’s understandable why athletes are calling for cannabis reform in professional sports, especially in the NFL and NBA. Professional athletes take a pounding during their careers. Imagine taking elbows from power forwards or getting tackled by a human truck. Over and over, game after game. I am getting older and I feel some aches and pains from when I was a gym rat at the local YMCA, and I was going up against other has-beens and never-weres. I can’t imagine what some ex-professional athletes have to deal with, especially when it comes to brain injuries. That’s scary stuff, and athletes read the headlines like everyone else. If there was something out there that could help and was safe, like cannabis, I’d be calling for it too.

Opioid addiction is also a major issue in professional sports, and athletes are seeing that there’s a better way. Hearing people like former NFL player Kyle Turley talk about their battles with issues related to painkiller usage, including the fact that the pharmaceuticals didn’t fix anything, is heart wrenching. No one should be forced to live like that. Not when there’s a better way. Fortunately more and more people in that situation are discovering that cannabis is not only safer than pharmaceuticals, but it’s often more effective. Anyone and everyone, athlete or otherwise, should be able to experience relief.

I am ecstatic every time I hear another athlete come out in support of reform. It often has a ‘butterfly effect’ on sports media, generating conversations on sports talk radio (shout out to 1080 the Fan, my favorite local station!) and on television. A lot of people that are often hard to reach via other means are getting sprinkled with the truth about cannabis, and from an angle that they are more open minded to. That’s powerful stuff, especially considering how large that audience is. Putting my sports fan hat aside, as an activist I welcome it, and encourage more of it. I think athletes getting vocal, and starting organizations, is helping overall reform in ways that are beyond measure.

I get that not everyone likes sports, but I think that objective people can recognize that there are a lot of people that do. I don’t know what the exact figure is, but if you took everyone in America that likes a professional sport, whether they play it or not, that’s a very significant amount of people. Only a very small percentage of them play in professional sports leagues that subject them to cannabis testing, but professional sports leagues set the tone from the top down, so reform would go down the line. Reform in professional sports would normalize marijuana in a way that it would lead to reform in semi-professional leagues, college sports, and would lead to greater tolerance at all levels of sports. I’m not saying dab rigs would be allowed at stadiums, but at least someone wouldn’t be labeled an outcast if they decided to make the safer choice prior to the game and had that ‘legalization aroma’ on their person.

Think of how many people play sports at all levels. Add to that people that don’t play, but are fans of sports because they go and watch with their friends and/or go watch people that they know play sports. Now add to that everyone they know, including all their family members, coworkers, and others that they interact with on a frequent basis. Now imagine if all of those people were all on the right side of history. Obviously some already are, but many are not. Even if you don’t like sports yourself, I think that you can still see the value in pursuing reform efforts in professional sports leagues. It’s absolutely part of the greater fight, and in my opinion, a very significant part of the greater fight.

It’s not just that there are so many people that could be potentially swayed to get on the right side of history. It’s also the fact that the cannabis sports movement message is so powerful. I have seen this occur in my own life. It’s a story that I’ve told many times and I’ll continue to tell it because I think it’s a great example of just how powerful the cannabis sports reform movement is at changing minds. My grandma’s friends do not support cannabis reform. They are elderly and retired, and they have lived long lives during which they were fed a lot of reefer madness. When my grandma voted yes on Oregon Measure 91, she was given quite a bit of flack from her friends. They weren’t too harsh, but they directly expressed to her that they had voted no, and couldn’t understand why she would support such a policy change.

That all changed when former NBA All Star Cliff Robinson announced his cannabis company and sports cannabis advocacy organization Uncle Spliffy. Cliff is popular in Oregon. I mean VERY popular. I haven’t lived anywhere else, and I’m sure he is loved in many other areas too because he’s a talented person, but I can say first hand that Cliff’s popularity in Oregon, home to the Portland Trailblazers who Cliff played for, is HUGE. So when he announced his support for reform, it instantly changed countless minds. Some of those minds were my grandma’s friends.

My grandma’s friends saw Uncle Spliffy on the news, and very quickly reached out to my grandma to let them know that they ‘saw that Uncle Cliffy was on her team, and now they are too,’ as my grandma tells me. They apologized to her for not understanding earlier, and that after they saw Uncle Spliffy on the news that they started researching things. And as seems to always be the case, once they learned the truth, supporting reform was a no-brainer. It would have been nice for that to have happened sooner, but regardless, that’s the power of the message of the cannabis sports reform movement. Literally because of Cliff Robinson’s message and advocacy, what I do as a cannabis activist and consumer is now more accepted and normalized, 100% because of Cliff Robinson ‘coming out green.’

Professional athletes’ cannabis messages have the ability to cross political lines. Professional athletes’ cannabis messages carry weight in regions of America where a large part of the population are often close minded when it comes to cannabis. Professional athletes command attention and have voices that spread very far. The greater reform movement should be all over helping to reform marijuana laws in professional sports. Organizations and campaigns should be doing everything that they can to network with organizations like the Gridiron Cannabis Coalition and Uncle Spliffy.

It’s all intertwined in the the greater battle to right the wrongs of the war on cannabis. No one should be forced to treat their conditions with medicines that are harmful when there is a safer alternative. No one should be penalized for consuming a substance that has been proven to be 114 times safer than alcohol. Whether they are a professional athlete or a couch potato or anything in between, it shouldn’t matter. Cannabis is not harmful. Cannabis prohibition is harmful. That is true in sports leagues, and in all of society Reform is long overdue, and reform in professional sports leagues should be embraced by cannabis activists everywhere, whether they are a sports fan or not.


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