I get that sports aren't for everyone, but I have always loved the game of basketball. I wasn't by any means an elite basketball player, but I always loved the competition, exercise, lessons about teamwork, etc. that came with playing basketball. Since I played basketball, I also always enjoyed watching basketball, as did most of my family. And when it came to watching basketball in my family, it was all about the Portland Trailblazers, especially in the early 90's. Some of my favorite family memories involved my entire family gathering at my grandma's house and watching the Blazers play.
That same grandma has always entertained my stories about life as an activist and the rise of the cannabis industry, but she has always seen that interest as more of a small hobby than anything. For the record, she voted yes on Oregon Measure 91, so she is very supportive of reform, but she always thought that any aspirations involving the marijuana industry should have some seriously tempered expectations. She was the only one of her friends that voted yes for Measure 91, and she thinks that there is still a lot of stigma surrounding cannabis even though it's legal in the state her and her friends live in now.
But that is starting to change fairly rapidly in recent weeks. That is due entirely to the emergence of Portland Trailblazer Cliff Robinson as a cannabis entrepreneur and activist. If you were around in the 1990's in the Portland, Oregon area, then you know that Cliff Robinson is a VERY big deal around here. As a kid growing up in Oregon, I had all of the Cliff Robinson gear I could get my hands on - the Dairy Queen cup, the posters, the basketball cards, and even different colored headbands. I wasn't the only one around my state that was obsessed with Cliff Robinson, not by a long shot, proven by the overwhelmingly positive reaction to Cliff Robinson's brand 'Uncle Spliffy.'
My grandma has told me over and over about some of her most conservative friends coming up to her and telling her how fantastic it is that Cliff Robinson is doing what he is doing. Literally overnight some of them went from skeptical about medical marijuana and marijuana reform, to being full supporters, all because of Cliff Robinson. I have read about 'Uncle Spliffy' in media outlets all over the world, and seeing it initiate conversations about the medical benefits of medical marijuana on media outlets that I would have never guessed would have ever, ever covered the topic. That's truly powerful stuff. I can't fathom how many minds were changed.
I absolutely love the concept of 'Uncle Spliffy' and I think that it's going to be tremendously successful. However, Cliff Robinson is doing things so much bigger than rolling out a brand, and that's what I get really excited about. It appears that Cliff Robinson is going to be a type of ambassador of sorts for sports and medical marijuana. I don't know how many athletes there are in America, but I have to assume there are tens of millions. Almost all of them will get aches and pains and injuries at some point during their lives, and chances are the first 'solution' they are presented with will be harmful pharmaceutical painkillers. For a sadly large percentage of those athletes, that will be the start of a lifelong battle against painkiller addiction. It's a story that is all to common.
Cliff Robinson himself had to battle with this scenario, and wanted a safer alternative, as he described in a recent article on the Blazer's Edge:
"For me, it was helpful because pharmaceutical drugs... they didn't do well. My stomach was always sensitive to that kind of stuff, so I pretty much stayed away from it. I used [cannabis] as a tool to calm my stomach; also as a way to just kind of calm my nerves from the mental stress over the course of an NBA season. Everything that they gave us, you had to make sure you ate before you took it, so I was always a little leery of that kind of stuff."
Beyond short term discomfort, certain pharmaceutical drugs can be addictive, causing long term problems for the athletes who rely on them to treat ailments that cannabis could also be used to address, including not only nerve pain, but mental stress and the general pain experienced in a physically taxing NBA season. Cannabis use as a potentially safer treatment for chronic pain has become increasingly available to the general public, but not to professional athletes, who are left with limited options.
"There's a lot of narcotics that are very addictive, and if you look at any pharmaceutical drug that's being marketed on television, on the radio, or anything like that, they all come with multiple side effects." Robinson noted. "I think from that standpoint alone, we need to look into alternative means of treating different illnesses."
Cliff Robinson is in a rare position in that he has an enormous platform to tell his story from, yet has a story that a lot of people can relate to, which has the potential to do very big things for the marijuana reform movement. There are a lot of people out there that don't want to get hooked on painkillers. I would hope that virtually all people would feel that way. Cliff Robinson is one of a growing group of former athletes that are coming out in favor of medical marijuana instead of pharmaceutical drugs. Former NFL Player Kyle Turley and his organization the Gridiron Cannabis Coalition have a similar message, and I'm hopeful that they link up and do big things.
Cliff Robinson will be speaking at the Cannabis Collaborative Conference in Portland, Oregon this week. The event takes place at the Portland Expo Center on February 3-4. There is also a Job Fair/Career Readiness Seminar going on the day prior to the event. You can find out more about the Cannabis Collaborative Conference, and get tickets to hear Cliff Robinson speak, at this link here. You can also check out the event on Facebook and Twitter.
I will say this many, many times going forward - I absolutely love Cliff Robinson, his project Uncle Spliffy, and the message that goes with it. I'm very excited to see where he goes from here and what he does, and if there's any way that I can help, by all means, contact me!