A number of sports leagues and organizations prohibit cannabis use by athletes, and have for many years. Cannabis use is prohibited in leagues like the National Basketball Association (NBA), National Football League (NFL), and Major League Baseball (MLB), even when the use occurs in a legal state, and even when the use is medical in nature. The Uncle Cliffy team, led by 18 year NBA veteran Clifford Robinson, wholeheartedly opposes cannabis prohibition in professional sports.
Cannabis prohibition does not work, but for some reason many league officials and athletic competition regulators cling to the failed policy anyways. Various reasons are offered up by sports cannabis prohibitionists as justification for keeping prohibition in place. The reasons offered up are not valid and the claims prohibitionists make are often based on personal opinions rather than on facts. Anyone who has conducted sufficient research can easily debunk the reasons offered up by officials who try to justify prohibiting cannabis in professional sports.
One of the most common reasons offered up by sports cannabis prohibitionists is that ‘there needs to be more research’ conducted before leagues and regulatory entities can make an educated decision on a policy change. As the Uncle Cliffy team has previously pointed out, cannabis is one of the most studied substances on the planet. Cannabis has been the subject of more peer reviewed studies than Toradol, Hydrocodone, and Tylenol – combined. All three of those substances are widely embraced by professional sports leagues. If there has been enough studies of those substances to warrant allowing their use by athletes in the NBA, NFL, and MLB, why isn’t the same true for cannabis?
Another common reason offered up by sports cannabis prohibitionists is that cannabis is harmful to players, with no exceptions. That claim completely ignores the undeniable, growing body of evidence that proves that cannabis can be very beneficial for athletes. We list several studies on our website which have found that cannabis can be effective at treating pain and brain injuries. Cannabis is also effective at treating many other conditions and ailments. Cannabis can also help athletes reduce their reliance on opioids and other pharmaceutical drugs, which is something that every league should be on board with. Cannabis has been found to be 114 times safer than alcohol, yet cannabis is banned and alcohol is widely embraced by professional sports leagues. How does that make sense? It doesn’t.
A third reason offered up by some sports cannabis prohibitionists, which is ironic given the previous paragraph, is that cannabis is a performance enhancing drug. The Uncle Cliffy team does not believe that cannabis is an athletic performance enhancer, at least not to the point that it warrants being prohibited for that reason. Some research has found that cannabis consumption can increase blood flow and oxygen uptake. However, the same could be said for water and a number of foods. Cannabis can help with inflammation and pain, but so too can various over-the-counter medications that are not prohibited by professional sports leagues.
Just because a substance provides a slight difference in biological functions such as oxygen uptake does not mean that it should be categorized as a performance enhancing drug. A difference needs to be made between substances that slightly increase a biological function and those that clearly provide an advantage to athletes that use them. A substance needs to provide a significant physical advantage to an athlete in order to warrant being classified as a performance enhancing drug, and therefore be banned in professional sports leagues. What the exact threshold should be is something that the Uncle Cliffy team will leave to the scientific community, but we feel very confident in saying that cannabis is not a performance enhancing drug and should not be in the same category as anabolic steroids.
From a scientific standpoint, cannabis can help athletes via wellness benefits, and is safer than other substances that athletes are allowed to use. From a rules standpoint, any concerns that prohibitionists have do not outweigh the need for compassion for athletes and the need to eliminate the perpetuation of institutional racism in professional sports. Cannabis prohibition has a disproportionate impact on minority athletes, and that is something that professional sports leagues should want to avoid. League cannabis policies should be based on science and logic, not the personal political beliefs of a small group of league officials and sports competition regulators. If the National Hockey League can operate successfully without including cannabis on its list of banned substances, other leagues can certainly do the same. Free the plant!