Athletes who love weed, like Olympian Gold medalist, Michael Phelps, practically told the world, “you can smoke weed and still be the greatest swimmer of all time” when a bong rip went viral in 2009. His sponsors immediately dropped him.
Phelps is one of dozens of athletes who love weed but has had a complicated relationship with weed and the sport’s community. Despite the number of athletes supporting, advocating and publicly embracing cannabis the sports world continues to terminate sponsorships amid athlete cannabis consumption backlashes.
Here Are 10 Athletes Who Love Weed Who Also Support & Advocate
Michael Phelps is one of the most decorated Olympians and one of the many athletes who love weed. Phelps has faced controversy for his use of cannabis. Even if you smoke weed, you can still be the greatest swimmer of all time. That’s the message Olympic Gold medalist Michael Phelps sent the world when a bong rip went viral in 2009. His sponsors immediately dropped him.
Despite the backlash, Phelps has continued to dominate in the pool by winning multiple gold medals at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics. Since the bong rip that the world saw, Phelps has become an advocate for mental health awareness and has spoken openly on his struggles with depression and anxiety.
“My depression isn’t just going to disappear,” he said in 2014, after Phelps checked himself into an in-patient treatment center and spent 45 days there.
Eugene Monroe’s job for 18 years consisted of violently crashing into other players on the football field for the Jacksonville Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens. The usual NFL prescription for the injury pain and aches was opioids. Monroe is the first football players and athletes who love weed to come out in support of cannabis use for chronic pain and injuries sustained during sport.
“We now know that [opioids] are not as safe as doctors thought, causing higher rates of addiction, causing death all around our country,” Monroe said in a New York Times interview, “and we have cannabis, which is far healthier, far less addictive and, quite frankly, can be better in managing pain.”
Monroe has a website that calls on the NFL to lift its ban on marijuana use by players and to fund research into the positive effects of cannabis. He also has various links to organizations that promote therapeutic uses of weed and pre-written tweets with hashtags like #cannabis4pain that can be retweeted.
Sha’Carri Richardson was set to run in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games in 2021, but got suspended for one-month due to a failed drug test. She had cannabis in her system. Ricardson, one of the athletes who love weed, said she consumed cannabis to cope with her mother’s birthday.
“It sent me into a state of emotional panic,” she said, adding, “I didn’t know how to control my emotions or deal with my emotions during that time.”
The suspension lasted through the Olympic trials which made it impossible to participate in the games even though her time out would be over by then.
The US Olympic and Paralympic Committees and US Anti-Doping Agency endorse the World Anti-Doping Agency code, which has weed on its list of banned substances and looks down on athletes who love weed.
“Use of illicit drugs that are harmful to health and that may have performance-enhancing properties is not consistent with the athlete as a role model for young people around the world,” The US Anti-Doping Agency website read.
Road racing cyclist Floyd Landis won the 2006 Tour De France but tested positive for marijuana. Landis then made it his mission to provide alternatives to opiate painkillers and other addictive prescription drugs.
“The therapeutic uses for cannabis can’t be ignored,” he says. “For years I relied on opioid pain relievers to treat my hip pain. With cannabis, I find that I can manage my pain and have a better quality of life. We need to give people a safer alternative.”
He launched his own line of cannabis products and is based in Denver and considered one of the firsts athletes who love weed.
Nate Jackson’s NFL career with the Broncos came to a halt in 2007 when he suffered a terrible injury. He rejected all prescription drugs but secretly embraced cannabis.
“By the time I tore my groin off the bone, in 2007, I was medicating only with cannabis,” he said. “The team doctors cheered the speed at which I was healing, but I couldn’t disclose to them all that I was experiencing — no pain, no inflammation, restful sleep, vigorous appetite, a clear head.” Jackson said that despite these results, he — and others — “had to remain generally mum about cannabis.”
Today, Jackson is a vocal supporter of weed’s positive effects for athletes and veterans and is a member of Athletes for CARE, a nonprofit that helps athletes’ lives after careers in sport. He is also among one of the first athletes who love weed.
In the NHL, Riley Cote spent eight years in the Philadelphia Flyers as a left-winger and earned the nickname “the Enforcer.” Cote regularly used cannabis to recover from one of the most physically demanding sports after every game. It also helped with pregame anxiety. Reflecting on his cannabis use, he said it was one of those things that just resonated with him and soon became joined the roster of athletes who love weed
“It was one of those things, it resonated well with me. It was a positive experience, it helped calm my nerves. There is a reason why you go back to something—some would argue it is addictive, but it is not. It is a subtle healing energy. We are trying to keep things in balance, and keep things intact, and I think cannabis does a good job at a spiritual level, and a mental clarity level to bring calmness to oneself.”
The NHL did not test for marijuana, but Cote still kept his consumption a secret since it was really taboo.
“The idea of me talking about it, and talking about my experiences—positive ones—seemed threatening for my career and things that I loved,” he said. “So, I quietly did it regularly. That is how I managed it all, when I was at home where I resided, that is what I did.”
In 2010, he founded the HempHeals Foundation and co-founded Athletes for CARE.
Cannabis and yoga have long coexisted but Dee Dussalt is known as the first yoga instructor to publicly offer weed yoga classes in North America.
In Emerald Magazine, she says that yoga and cannabis separately aid in anti-inflammation and pain management.
“Combining the two enhances the effects of each,” she said. “It also helps people “explore what their body can do – allowing for creative and expressive movement.”
Dussault can be found instructing yoga classes in NYC and LA.
Retired from the NFL in 2007, Kyle Turley spent eight years playing for the St. Louis Rams and the New Orlean Saints as an offensive lineman. Physical and mental deterioration followed and he even contemplated suicide.
Turley has turned to being a country musician to spread awareness of concussions in football.
“Concussions are a reality of the game and education is the key to defeating many of the long-term consequences. My music is my story, football is America’s pastime and I intend to defend her and the great men who have graced her fields past, present and future.”
He wants to donate his brain to research for others to see if he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, the brain illness that imitates dementia.
Fly-fishing and extreme snowboarding great Greta Gaines became the first female champion snowboarder in 1992 and said cannabis is simply part of the snowboarding culture. She’s proud of using weed recreationally and admits that it also helped with the anxiety before jumping out of a helicopter to reach otherwise inaccessible slopes.
“I remember I was terrified of the helicopter. There were bongs up there with weed and people were smoking. I remember smoking weed before one of those first days going up in the helicopter just to kind of calm me down.”
“I think at the time we were consuming cannabis because we’re partying. We thought of that as recreational, but looking back, now that I know a lot more about cannabis and its effect on the body and the brain, I’m sure that we were using weed to compensate for our stress.”
Gaines founded a hemp-based skincare line and participates in Women Grow, an organization that empowers women to take their place in the cannabis industry.
Ultramarathoner Avery Collins attributes his 24 hour nonstop runs to cannabis. On his enjoyment of running high, Collins says:
“Ultra-running for me is that 50 to 200-mile distance in mountain environments and mountain terrain. Lots of vertical gain, and technical, rocky, really gnarly trails—it has to be the ultimate challenge. I don’t really see the point in running 50 miles across a flat road.”
According to SB Nation, he is the only endurance runner with a cannabis sponsorship, The Farm, in Boulder, CO.
NBA all-star Cliff Robinson played for 18 seasons with the Portland Trailblazers and the Phoenix Suns. He’s witnessed the effects of the war on drugs in his home state of Connecticut and how it disproportionately harmed people of color in his community.
“I have seen the failures of cannabis prohibition in Connecticut firsthand,” Robinson said. “Cannabis prohibition disproportionately harms minority communities wherever prohibition exists, and Connecticut is no exception.”
Robinson dedicated his final years raising Drug War racial injustices and was a member of the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana in Connecticut. He died on August 29, 2020.
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