Marijuana and its use among professional athletes

Marijuana and its use among professional athletes
Max Sargent

Cannabis has been given some negative stereotypes over time, however, the advocacy of multiple world-class athletes is beginning to change this.

Due to decades of propaganda, cannabis is very often associated with laziness and even stupidity. In contrast, many world-class athletes are beginning to smash this stereotype by using the herb to enhance performance and assist with recovery.

Quite a lot of world-class and Olympic athletes are already using cannabis to boost performance and find relief after strenuous workouts and events. These hard-working, almost superhuman individuals are utilizing cannabis to be the best they can be, and in return, are turning old stereotypes on their heads.

Let’s get this straight; it’s not just one or two rogue, pot-adoring professional athletes that have started using cannabis as part of their game plan. In fact, a whole pantheon of athletes advocate for cannabis, and have the credentials and medals to prove that it doesn’t undermine their performance. Instead, it may enhance it.

Michael Phelps, named the greatest Olympian of all time, has been pictured in the past lighting up a loaded bong. Phelps is the proud recipient of an unprecedented 28 Olympic medals, 23 of which are gold.

Maybe Phelps doesn’t blaze often, or when training, but his recreational cannabis use as the most decorated Olympian of all time is a sure sign that the substance definitely doesn’t render all users into lazy stoners.


Marijuana and its use among professional athletes

Former Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight title challenger Nick Diaz is known mainly for three things; his Stockton slap, his impressive grappling skills, and his loud and uncensored advocation of cannabis. Diaz has stated that he is the number 1 athletic stoner besides Michael Phelps.

It’s no secret that Diaz blazes on a regular basis, and the fact that he is one of the most well-known and entertaining mixed martial arts fighters in the world is a testament to the fact that cannabis is compatible with sports.

Diaz wants to make it clear that the stigma associated with cannabis and laziness is completely false. The professional fighter is so solid in his stance that he actually refers to cannabis as a performance-enhancing drug.

His cannabis use is so intertwined with his sporting career that he recently got into trouble with the United States Anti-Doping Agency for toking on a vape pen during UFC 202’s post-fight press conference. It was thought that he was simply inhaling CBD, yet Diaz claims he was indeed toking on some kush.


Marijuana and its use among professional athletes

Cannabis has also seen use within the world of endurance sports. Avery Collins is an ultramarathon runner who has successfully set course records at 200-mile and 100-mile events. This young endurance machine has shown that cannabis truly has a place in the world of sports.[1]

Collins has described his preferred mechanisms of getting high, stating, “Edibles, for me, provide a much deeper high - everything is much more natural and flowing - and it makes the run much more spiritual.” Collins also enjoys a smoke now and then, “As far as smoking goes, it’s a clearer high. Sometimes even more energetic. Typically, I prefer it on a shorter run - up to 15 miles - because it’s going to wear off a lot faster.”


Marijuana and its use among professional athletes

It’s no shock that the brutal contact sport of American Football causes some severe pain within athletes. The impact of two or more large bodies hurling themselves at each other at fast speeds can really do some damage, with some impacts equivalent to the force experienced in 25mph car accidents.

The analgesic effects of cannabis are no secret, and numerous NFL players have turned to weed to combat acute aches and chronic pain. Many retired and active players within the sport have started to voice their opinions when it comes to cannabis use, stating that the plant could be superior to lethal painkillers like opioids.


Marijuana and its use among professional athletes

In November 1996, 25-year-old NBA star J.R. Rider was cited for smoking weed out of a soda can. This was two days before his first game as a Portland Trail Blazer.

While Rider may be one of the earlier examples of NBA stars being punished for cannabis use, he’s certainly not the only player to enjoy weed. In fact, recent findings seem to suggest that cannabis is the drug of choice for many basketball players. In interviews with former professionals, Bleacher Report found that in the peaks of their careers, NBA stars would use weed to help with insomnia, anxiety, and pain management.

Kenyon Martin, who was the number 1 pick in the 2000 draft, said that to the best of his knowledge, “85% of the league” smoked marijuana during their career. Former pro Matt Barnes agrees. “It wasn’t every single game, but in 15 years, it was a lot”.

This hasn’t gone wholly unnoticed by the NBA. Since 2015, the league drug-tests its players six times per season, which is more than any of the other major professional leagues. If an athlete is caught with a positive result, penalties range from a $25,000 fine to automatic five-game suspensions.

But there’s hope that the NBA may begin to concede to the benefits of cannabis for professional athletes. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told the Bleacher Report that there is interest in “better understanding the safety and efficacy” of medical marijuana.


Not only is playing sports while high a potentially spiritual and performance-enhancing experience for some, the herb also has an important role when sessions come to an end.

Cannabis plants produce a vast array of medicinal chemicals, including the psychoactive cannabinoid THC, which many athletes use to soothe pain.

Another cannabinoid found within the cannabis plant, CBD, has also been shown to offer anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects, making it highly attractive to athletes. Furthermore, it’s non-psychoactive, so it doesn’t interrupt regular psychological functioning. Former NFL quarterback Jake Plummer has been vocal about his use of CBD oil as a pain-relieving anti-inflammatory.

Most sports and physical activities cause muscle damage and inflammation at some level, and CBD may be an extremely safe and natural way to combat this.

Some people in the world of sports welcome this as a good development as the use of cannabis will eventually even replace opioid painkillers, which on the other hand have become an epidemic in the West, responsible for many associated deaths and cases of addiction.


As a huge step in the right direction for weed and sports, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) finally put into writing that CBD is no longer a prohibited substance. While THC is still banned, this is an encouraging sign.[2]

Times are changing, and the lens through which cannabis is viewed is becoming different. Hopefully, a point will be reached where athletes can ditch dangerous and addictive painkillers, and run to natural help instead.


  1. ^ Colorado Runner, Get to know ultrarunner Avery Collins of Colorado Springs, retrieved December-11-2018
  2. ^ World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), Summary of major modifications 2018 prohibited list, retrieved December-11-2018

Max Sargent
Max Sargent

Max has been writing about cannabis and psychedelics for several years now. With a strong belief that an open, honest attitude toward drugs and drug policy can improve the lives of many, he seeks to offer insightful and developed opinions on the subject.