Medical cannabis in the world of sports has been a hot topic for decades, as those who advocate medical cannabis as a safe and effective therapy option have been fighting to get it approved across the board. It has been a slow-moving process, with most professional sports agencies considering it to be a “performance-enhancing drug” rather than an alternative solution to the dangerous pharmaceutical medication on the market.

It makes you wonder: Whose side are these organizations really on? When cannabis is known to help people who suffer from chronic pain, cancer, HIV/AIDS, and other traumatic ailments, without harsh side effects or toxicity, how is this plant still being withheld from doctors and patients and reviled as a danger rivaling heroin and LSD?

If the goal is to provide athletes with the best possible resources available, then cannabis should not be overlooked. This is especially true for those needing rehabilitation or who have been injured. There is a molecule in cannabis called cannabidiol (CBD) which is approved in half the states and the District of Columbia for relief of pain and inflammation. Considering the wear and tear most athletes endure on a regular basis, they should have access to CBD, which could get the job done without psychoactive effects—if that’s what officials are truly worried about.

Many options exist to make CBD available for athletes. In fact, some growers and dispensaries are providing high-CBD, low-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) plants designed to help people with various, usually inflammatory conditions. Athletes can also vaporize CBD oil to avoid smoking dried herb. (A product on the market in the UK called the MediPen fits this description.) Alternatively, they can ingest it in food. This eradicates any perceived “stoner” stigma, as patients take inhalation out of the picture entirely. Topical cannabis preparations are also an option for athletes who need to stay active. No risk of addiction, no harmful side effects, the list of benefits goes on and on.

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Get your head in the game

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Looking at the NFL, which hosts what has become America’s national pastime, there have been some developments. They recently doubled the allowable amount of THC in the bloodstream for athletes who partake. The NFL has also made it permissible for athletes living in states in which medical cannabis is legal for them to partake as prescribed by a physician. This leaves a huge hole in the safety net for athletes who need treatment but don’t live in a state where it’s legal.

We need a united home front where our citizens and athletes can get the best treatment for their injuries and illnesses, and cannabis continues to check the boxes time after time. This could be a huge win for players in the NFL suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is roughly 96 percent of players during their careers. That’s a virtual guarantee of a sports-related brain disease from stepping on the playing field. And cannabis could be a way to help fix that problem. Antidepressants and painkillers like opioids and NSAIDs are a Hail-Mary pass when it comes to giving players what they need to beat the pain, inflammation, stress, depression, and suicidal thoughts that accompany a condition like CTE.

Two lovely new faces on the frontier

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Recently, a cannabis-savvy power couple in Colorado began to predict some big changes coming for the NFL regarding its cannabis policy. Wanda James and Scott Durrah are the owners of Simply Pure, the first African-American-owned cannabis dispensary in the state of Colorado.

Before the “Green Rush”, Durrah was a very successful chef known for preparing injury-soothing meals—with and without cannabis—for NFL and NBA athletes. His passion lies in teaching people how to enhance their health through food, nutrition, and consciously adding herbs into the routine. Wanda is an enthusiastic political activist who in 2008 served on President Obama’s National Finance Committee. She now applies that same energy to her own cannabusiness.

Scott Durrah said in an interview with NY Daily News:

“The NFL does not have a choice. They can say what they want, but the battle is over. It is time for a change. I have seen what it can do. The No. 1 concern in the NFL right now is pain, whether it is from concussions or joint injuries. Look at the number of players who have gotten hooked on painkillers simply because they want to hold on to their jobs. Pot is a great alternative. They know it is better than the pharmaceutical drugs being passed around in locker rooms. What would the NFL do if 25 of its top 50 players came out and said they used marijuana? Would they suspend them? If they did that, nobody would watch.”

In the same interview Wanda James said, “It is time to get real about cannabis. Colorado has already done that. You can’t talk about racism in America without talking about the war on drugs. It is time for a change.”

Hopefully what this is leading up to is a big gust of change in our nation as well as our sports organizations. With so many people pushing this topic in the right direction, it’s hard to imagine cannabis legalization going down without a fight.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Garyn Angel

Garyn Angel is an inventor, award-winning financial consultant, and CEO of MagicalButter.com, maker of the botanical extractor he invented for infusing cannabis into foods. Firmly committed to necessary law reform, Angel was named to the exclusive CNBC NEXT List of visionary global business leaders for his work on legal marijuana. He is also founder of the Cheers to Goodness Foundation, a charity that helps “medical refugees”—mainly veterans and children—who need herbal therapy when traditional treatment options have failed.