In 2012, the legalization of cannabis in nine U.S states led to a newfound receptivity in the court of public opinion. Athletes who had been consuming cannabis as part of their training and rehabilitation began to come out of the woodwork.
With cannabis legalization approaching in October, the question is ‘will Canadian athletes follow suit?’
It has been suggested that we may see some changes to the current cannabis consumer demographic (in fact seniors are tipped to be the fastest growing group of cannabis consumers). Those who work in the cannabis industry are preparing for a potential shift in the market in the new legal landscape.
Staff at Vancouver cannabis store, Aura, undergo training to equip them to handle the myriad of questions new and curious consumers are likely to have.
For professional athletes, pain is part of the game, and intensive, high-volume, high-stress workouts take a toll on the body – particularly when contact sports are involved. There’s an endless array of anecdotal stories from athletes, from microdosing marathon runners to pro NFL players who consume for pain management, cannabis is a central theme to a wide range of sports-related therapies.
Last year, an event called “Cannabis is professional sports”, which was held during Super Bowl Week by former NFL defensive, Eben Britton, highlighted a demand to include cannabis in the medical conversation for pain management and recovery among elite athletes. Opiates are no longer providing a sufficient solution and athletes such as Britton are praising the plants properties as a natural alternative.
A whopping 77% of respondents reported cannabis to have a positive effect on their athletic performance and that different cannabis strains were consumed for different outcomes
Eitan, Assistant Store Manager at Aura says they are also seeing an increase in members consuming cannabis to compliment physically active lifestyles.
“The research, and especially the anecdotal evidence, is showing the many connections that exist,” says Eitan. “A few of our members use certain sativas when working out – as they find it gives endurance and helps them get ‘in the zone’”.
Early this year, a study on cannabis consumption and physical activity highlighted various products (primarily inhalation of flower, edibles and concentrates) Americans consume before, during and after exercise.
A whopping 77% of respondents reported cannabis to have a positive effect on their athletic performance and that different cannabis strains were consumed for different outcomes. Sativas and certain hybrids were favored before exercise, while indica and some other hybrid strains afterwards (I admit, not altogether surprising).
Yet it’s the recovery stage that may be the more popular route for most.
“After exercising, we have many members who use CBD or THC topicals as well as CBD ingestibles. The products [can] help with reducing muscle soreness and inflammation,” Eitan says.
“We have products to help with a lack of energy – which pick you up, products to help wind down and relax, products to help with sleep, with anxiety and stress, and products to promote the healing and rehabilitation of the body,” says Eitan.
What About The Competition Rules?
Consuming cannabis is still frowned upon in many sports, however, there has been some pushback. As of 2018, use of the cannabinoid CBD is no longer banned in the olympics. On the other hand, THC is currently banned by the Canadian Centre for ethics in sports, marked as a prohibited substance on the anti-doping list.
Changes to competition rules have yet to be defined and its unclear on how the legalization of cannabis for adult use will affect these governing bodies. Undoubtably, this will be integral to whether athletes will consider cannabis therapies.
“Individuals – fitness enthusiasts, athletes, really anyone conscious about their health and wellbeing – are already able to find a variety of useful products to add to their quality of life,” explains Eitan.
Although there is plenty of room for continued research on the subject, legalization creates a space where individuals are allowed to explore what options are available to them. Savvy, health-conscious consumers are already using cannabis as a tool to enhance their well being, combining cannabis with fitness simply opens up a whole new market and an opportunity for candid discussions.
“We are eager to witness and support this change,” confirms Eitan.
As the conversations around cannabis and fitness start to normalize in Canada, it will be interesting to see which sports-people take the podium and open up about their own consumption.
By Amber Gibson