Sports & Cannabis — It’s Not A Good Thing, It’s A GREAT Thing

Tennis (with cannabis) anyone?

America’s sports leagues are walking point on some very important realizations we’re all having about cannabis. The NFL, MLB, the NBA and the NHL no longer punish athletes for using cannabis. As ESPN put it, league attitudes — at the rules & regs level — is now officially “whatever”.

The leagues — all still holding onto bits and pieces of our old way of thinking about cannabis (the Harry Anslinger-inspired Reefer Madness way of seeing it) — told themselves that cannabis was good for pain relief. That’s why it was okay if their players tested positive for THC in their swabs or urine samples. For starters, not having to punish their stars for something they might be using themselves (knowing the effects) was a huge load off their, um, consciences. It also absolved them of having to justify test results that can’t tell anything beyond the presence of THC.

THC tests can’t tell you how much THC is in you. Can’t tell how long said THC has been in you. Can’t tell what exactly said THC did to your brain that makes punishment for it so important.

As I wrote in Blunt Truths, a thirteen-part series I did for WeedmapsNews (back when it existed as a thing), the story of cannabis prohibition is a story of racism and nothing but. At no point in our national conversation about cannabis did those trying to prohibit it ever back up their reasoning with science or data or anything remotely connected to them. Don’t you think they would have if they could have?

Oh, there’s “science” but it’s of the climate denying variety that could be picked apart by a kid working on a science fair project. The data — now that we’re collecting it — tells a very different story about (here’s the problem) a very different product. Different, that is, from alcohol. And other drugs that do things cannabis does not do.

Cannabis simply does not do to our brains what alcohol does. Or opiates for that matter. We need to stop acting — well, legislating and law enforcing — like it was. One of the things I wrote about in Blunt Truths was how marijuana became popularized in America. It more or less entered the country via the southwest. It had been used in Mexico for a long time already when the Mexican Revolution (started in 1910) sent a wave of Mexicans fleeing north to escape the violence.

In 1913, the very white California State Board of Pharmacy had noticed that Mexicans sometimes used marijuana to relax. Marijuana being foreign to them, these white guys decided it could only be bad — since Mexicans were already bad cos not white. They helped write the first anti-cannabis legislation. They claimed science but had none on their side. See how that works?

Anyway — in time marijuana use spread to New Orleans. It was taken up there at first by the mostly black musicians like Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton and King Oliver who were inventing a new kind of music called jazz. Music was everything to these guys. They lived it and, well, breathed it. And they knew from experience that they couldn’t write music — couldn’t really play it — on alcohol. Opiates? Fuhgeddaboutit.

But, marijuana — that was different. Not “I want it to be different” different, DIFFERENT. On marijuana they felt both relaxed and deeply focused. The relaxed feeling — the euphoria — took the weight of the world from their shoulders. While the marijuana was caressing their brains — and smoking it gives you an hour-and-a-half or so of “prime time” and a few hours of much milder effect — they heard better. They articulated better the abstract musical ideas in their heads — reproducing it as notes on a trumpet or piano or glockenspiel even.

Marijuana really and truly makes its users more creative. Hell, I use indicas for sleep (I use sativas & hybrids the rest of the day). I mix & match from my collection (I like to keep a “rotation” of 8 or 9 different indica strains going) — usually doing two bowls of Skywalker or Hollow point or Paris or King Louis XIII or Afghani directly before bedtime. But, even as the indica’s sleepiness begins to envelope me in its delicious embrace, I can still get creative.

Suddenly, I’m sitting down and writing. Spewing an idea in all its glory as if I hadn’t been sleepy a minute before. I’ll sketch the thing out. Put down the pad or close the computer — and marvel at how the sleepiness, in a moment or two, returns. As if I hadn’t just been experiencing a vibrant, creative outburst.

And then I slip between the covers and sleep wonderfully. I started using cannabis a few years ago because of insomnia. Because OTC sleep meds weren’t doing anything for me. I had been using them for years and could count the number of “good” nights’ sleep on one hand. I was experiencing memory loss, too — a side effect of those drugs. Living in California, I figured what the hell. Dope had never been my thing when I was a kid — it put me to sleep. If that was the problem I was trying to solve — why not?

After putting my sleep problem to bed, I began to wonder what was in all those other jars at my local dispensary — that weren’t indicas? I had no concept back then what an indica was versus a sativa or hybrid. Like most people, what I knew about cannabis was mostly bullshit colored by Harry Anslinger, America’s first drug czar (he served as first Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics from 1930 all the way to 1962 when JFK shitcanned him). I had no idea that sativas had a very different effect from indicas. And what were these “hybrid” strains?

Then I discovered Durban Poison.

DP is a great working strain because the “high” is so focused but also so “smooth”. Other sativas (or sativa-dominant stains) like Crystal Coma or Green Crack deliver the same mental focus but with a little more edge. It’s kind of like feeling “extra curious” about things. Your mind wants to dig deeper still into whatever you’re thinking about. DP doesn’t prohibit one’s mind from going there, but it doesn’t automatically put your mind there.

Again — what sativas deliver to our brains is focus. It slows everything down. Think of our brains as being like digital circuits: our synapses are either open or closed. A zero or a one. THC causes more of our synapses — our digital circuitry — to be open. It’s not making us see more or hear more, but it is allowing our brains to process more. More visual input. More smell and taste input. That’s why people feel paranoid — their brains are receiving more information in real time. Some people perceive that as threatening. They think the information flowing to them means someone is watching them. It’s not a rational thought, it’s a feeling. But we go with it.

That additional flow of information to our brains also is why food tastes incredible when you’re high. It’s why smells are stronger and things just seem… funnier. That’s why people laugh so much on cannabis. You don’t just see the humor in things, you REALLY see it. And then you really, REALLY laugh.

If the fans attending a sporting event smoked cannabis instead of drinking beer, there would never be a fight in the stands because one drunk got pissed off at another. There would never be rioting after a match. People would be too busy hugging each other and saying “good match!” And the players?

Yeah — what of the players — and their experience using cannabis on the pitch or field or tennis court.

I’ve played tennis all my life. I hated it most of the time. Not tennis’ fault, that. Mine. I didn’t realize until a few years ago that I was dealing with a monstrous depression. A few days before Christmas 2016, I came within literal inches of killing myself. In the long, slow march toward oblivion that I was on, I would torture myself weekly with tennis.

My depression was filled with self-destructive loathing. If I played badly, it was because I sucked. I sucked because I always played badly — and I always played badly because I beat myself up instead of coaching myself. Long story short, my depression’s in remission. My mood stabilizer stops me from beating myself up — especially about tennis.

When I stopped beating myself up and started coaching myself instead — I got better at tennis. Well, I started to live up to my tennis-playing potential and that was awesome. It was fun, too. A shitload of fun.

Imagine it being a revelation that the sport you’ve played all your life can actually be enjoyable to play. Cannabis is the icing on that cake.

As it does with my work, cannabis focuses my brain on tennis. It relaxes me. Slows everything down. “See the ball”, I tell myself — and I find it as my tennis partner hits it and follow it all the way to my racket. “Where’s the ball?” I ask also. The ball needs to be in a specific place for me to attack it — and I need to be attacking it (rather than being attacked by it). I need to have a strategy in mind — and the cannabis does that too. I pick a spot. I attack the ball accordingly (racket back ASAP), stepping into the shot, striking the ball in “the zone” and then (most importantly but too often forgotten) following through.

I wish I was more consistent. But I’m waaaaaay better than I was — and I’m always keenly aware of exactly what I do wrong when I do things wrong.

The advantage cannabis gives me on the tennis court isn’t physical. It’s mental. I’m not being pumped up, I’m being focused. I’m being relaxed into a better performance.

And a fun experience becomes exponentially more fun.

Does cannabis give me an unfair advantage? That’s a science question, really. I sometimes think it does. But then I lose focus momentarily — because I’m still me — and I’m not so sure.

The Hardest Part Of Cannabis Legalization Is Overcoming The Mountain Of Bullshit & Lies

Poor cannabis. There’s bad press and then there’s the hatchet job that America’s first drug czar, Harry Anslinger, did to it.

When Anslinger first got hired in 1930, marijuana was hardly on his radar. Few Americans knew what it was. Fewer still smoked it (though many Americans benefited from its presence in various medicines). The Mexican Revolution in 1910 sent a wave of Mexican refugees across the border. They brought cannabis with them. That freaked out the white people. It wasn’t the cannabis that concerned them so much as the fact that Mexicans were smoking it and deriving pleasure from it. That meant (to the white people) that something had to be wrong with it.

Eventually, marijuana found its way to New Orleans where the black musicians assembled there were busy inventing jazz. While they couldn’t play or create on alcohol (it made their minds too fuzzy), marijuana had the opposite effect. It focused their minds and allowed their creativity to flow.

American soldiers in Vietnam encountered the same phenomenon. They were prohibited from drinking (because, as with the musicians, it fogs the mind). But, the American soldiers learned — having found marijuana both cheap and plentiful — that pot both relaxed them and focused them. They could smoke a joint then walk point in the jungle, their senses not diminished but, rather, heightened.

From time to time, New Orleans would shut down its whorehouses and banish all the musicians working at them When that happened in the mid 1920’s, musicians like Louis Armstrong headed up the Mississippi, stopping in places like Memphis and Nashville on their way to Chicago. Had all those black jazz musicians kept cannabis to themselves, that might have been the end of it. But they didn’t. Cannabis use spread to the white community — and that, from Harry Anslinger’s point of view, was a total non-starter.

Not once did Anslinger ask about marijuana’s health consequences. Even if he had, no research existed proving marijuana was good or bad for anyone’s health. But Anslinger had an agenda. He needed marijuana to be bad. And he knew that aside from the Mexicans, black jazz musicians and handful of white people using marijuana, no one knew a thing about it. Whatever Americans were going to know about cannabis would be what Harry Anslinger told them.

Virtually all of our current perceptions about cannabis flow from Harry Anslinger’s fetid imagination where every black man who smoked a joint then went on a mad raping spree (raping white women exclusively). Anslinger was a racist’s racist. But he was also a master bureaucrat who knew how to work the system.

We laugh now at Reefer Madness because it’s way over-the-top and way wrong about everything. But when Reefer Madness was released in the 1930’s, no one had that perspective. America and the world bought in to the Reefer Madness mythology.

Even in states where cannabis is now legal — like here in California — people remain squirrelly about cannabis. The thought of walking into a dispensary feels wrong to them. They worry about cannabis doing things to them, to their minds, that cannabis simply does not do.

If I get stopped by the LAPD — and they swab me — they’ll find THC in my system. The swab can’t tell how much THC is in me, what the accompanying turpene profile is (and how that might be affecting me), they can’t tell how much THC is in me or whether it’s an indica, sativa or hybrid. All the swab can tell is that there’s THC in my saliva.

We assume — because of the mythology’s enduring power that even a hit of cannabis will turn me into a danger on the highways. That’s because we apparently assume that alcohol and cannabis have the exact same effect on our brains and bodies. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Nation Highway Transportation Safety Administration reported the following to Congress in 2017 — “…research has demonstrated the potential of marijuana to impair driving related skills. It does not show a relationship between THC levels and impairment.”

Get that? Research demonstrates “potential” impairment yet doesn’t show a “relationship between THC levels and impairment”. How is that possible? It’s not. It’s a leftover prejudice. In the very next paragraph of the NHTSA’s report, it says this: “… after smoking marijuana, subjects in most of the simulator and instrumented vehicle studies on marijuana and driving typically drive slower, follow other cars at greater distances, and take fewer risks than when sober…”. “In contrast,”, the report continues, “Subjects dosed with alcohol typically drive faster, follow at closer distances, and take greater risks.”

See how differently drivers with THC in them perform vs drivers who’ve been drinking? Why do we act like they have the same effect when they don’t? When even legitimate scientific research says they don’t?

Blame Harry Anslinger. Blame us, too. We know better. We simply refuse to acknowledge what we know. It’s like we prefer the effects that bullshit has on us.