Last year’s decision by NSAS may change the situation where marijuana is effectively banned in boxing, and athletes will be able to decide for themselves whether weed is compatible with their sports career.
The current situation with cannabis can only be described as schizophrenic. While 16 US states and D.C. have legalized the recreational use of cannabis and 37 states plus D.C. allow its consumption for therapeutic purposes, the substance and the plant it’s derived from are still illegal on the federal level. Even cannabis seeds are forbidden in the US under the current law.
Canada was the first Western nation to fully legalize the drug, but this decision runs afoul of UN’s international agreements (they only allow the use of cannabis for medical and research purposes). Germany will face the same legal conundrum when it makes good on the commitment of its new government to create a regulated cannabis market within the next four years.
When we turn to marijuana and sports, the state of affairs is hardly less ambivalent. A year ago, we wrote about two situations in boxing unfolding almost simultaneously: Deontay Wilder getting a suspended jail sentence on a marijuana-related offense in Alabama and Mike Tyson opening a 40-acre weed farm in California. A crazy patchwork of conflicting cannabis laws in action.
NEVADA STATE ATHLETIC COMMISSION LIFTS THE BAN ON MARIJUANA
Since Las Vegas is such an important venue for boxing and mixed martial arts, the state’s decision last summer to stop considering cannabis as a performance-enhancing drug may have far-reaching repercussions for the sports.
Prior to this ruling, the Commission maintained a hardline stance on marijuana use in sports. Now it doesn’t interfere with fighters using the substance in and out of competition. The only requirement is that a fighter isn’t impaired when he steps on the ring. This sets a precedent for a major policy shift in boxing in general, at least in jurisdictions where marijuana use has been legalized as in Nevada.
WADA’S REASONS TO PROHIBIT MARIJUANA
The World Anti-Doping Agency that sets an example for other sports organizations has three reasons to prohibit a recreational drug for athletes: when its use endangers the athlete or other participants of the competition, when it enhances performance, and when its use is incompatible with the image of an athlete as a role model.
While marijuana can hardly be considered a performance-enhancing substance for most sports, including boxing, it may indeed lead to slower reaction time and disorientation, as well as poor decision-making on the ring. And while most Americans are now in favor of marijuana legalization, it’s not because they want to see more weed smokers or send the youth the message that it is okay.
On the other hand, sports organizations recognize the fact that marijuana may have numerous therapeutic benefits, so WADA allows its use out of competition. The in-competition intoxication remains prohibited. The difficulty lies in the fact that positive tests for cannabis don’t reveal much information about the time of use. Weed’s active constituents are fat-soluble and so can remain in the system for extended periods of time, especially in regular or heavy users.
WHAT HEALTH BENEFITS MAKE WEED POPULAR AMONG BOXERS
Many professional athletes cite weed’s ability to reduce anxiety before an important event. It also seems an efficient way to wind down afterwards. Other benefits may include:
Anti-inflammatory. Cannabis contains a whole class of chemicals unique to this plant. They are called cannabinoids, with THC and CBD being the most well-known. These two substances activate two different types of receptors — CB1 and CB2. Research has shown that to lower inflammation you need to activate CB2 receptors. Thus, the best weed strains against inflammation are those that you grow from CBD auto seeds and similar genetics rich in CBD.
Pain-relieving. Sore muscles and aching joints are most common in any sport. In boxing, you also get whatever pain and injuries you sustain from punching. Marijuana is a mild pain-killer, but please note that the most effective for pain are high-THC varieties.
Anti-spastic. Cannabis is so effective against muscle spasms that there are cannabinoid-based pharmaceuticals for multiple sclerosis (MS) patients. Note that spasticity is one of the most common and painful symptoms of MS. Athletes suffer from muscle spasms of a less severe kind, so medical marijuana is even more helpful for them.
Sleep-inducing. A good night’s rest is extremely important for persons with a vigorous workout and training schedule. If you have trouble falling asleep or maintaining a deep untroubled sleep, high-THC strains are known to induce drowsiness, especially in high doses. And CBD-rich weed or CBD products calm you down and reduce anxiety which in turn helps with insomnia.
Motivating. Contrary to a popular myth, consuming cannabis doesn’t always make you a lazy couch potato. Used in small or micro-doses, THC makes you more focused so that you can stay “in the zone” through a whole hard workout.
When thinking about incorporating cannabis into your training routine, don’t forget about possible health risks, too, such as impaired motor skills and respiratory issues, as well as possible addiction and withdrawal symptoms. Not to mention legal trouble if you live in a state or country where the prohibition of the drug has not been repealed yet.