In the 1990s, ESPN knew sports. But about weed, ESPN didn't know squat.
In the late '90s, ESPN The Magazine did a series called "Drugs and Sports." It was the usual: steroids make you strong. Stimulants make you fast. And marijuana? "Marijuana has no performance-enhancing potential," ESPN wrote. It just impairs hand-eye coordination and leads to fatigue. It was no better for your workout than huffing paint.
The sports goliath wasn’t alone in believing this. Back then, cannabis was thought to be for sweaty, lazy losers who kept losing Cheetos in their fat rolls.
But the ‘90s are long gone.
Say "cannabis slows you down" to Clifford Drusinsky, a triathlete who wakes at 3 a.m., doses 20 milligrams of THC in a marijuana energy bar and heads out for a 13-mile run. Say "weed is for losers" to Jake Plummer, who led the Broncos to the AFC Championship game in 2006, and who now fights for the use of weed by NFL players greatly exposed to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Say "weed leads to fatigue" to Josiah Hesse, who gobbles marijuana edibles while running, including during the 24-hour Ragnar race all through the mountains, music blaring.
"I love drugs, I love running, I love cannabis, and I love music," Hesse says. Hesse is a Denver author writing a book about cannabis and long-distance running. "The combination of those things is pretty much the greatest high I've ever experienced. Better than an orgasm, better than ecstasy, better than fulfilling an ambitious career project."
To a whole grip of athletes, weed is the new kale, the new performance enhancing drug, the new super dope. Not a drag on your health, but a boost.
Lia Arntsen calls herself a Canna Coach. She doesn't tell her clients Just Say No. She tells them, "Want to get active? Light up!"
That "one weird trick to get healthy" that you see on every clickbaity website, she says, is weed.
She's seen slobbish souls stone themselves into becoming a Richard Simmons. "Cannabis makes my clients move better," Arntsen says. Her advice: "Rip a bowl before the run, eat CBD on the run, and use cannabis lotion after the run."
It's a shock to anyone who still buys into the Cheech and Chong stereotype, but whole businesses are being built on the premise that weed is like broccoli that you smoke. Weed yoga. Weed massage. Weed chiropracty. Weed tai chi.
Edible companies are scrambling to cater to the health-conscious. For years, marijuana edibles mostly came in the form of fatty snacks — because the oils in cannabis bind to the oils in brownies and gummies. But edible companies are using super high-tech processing techniques to create slick, healthy cannabis supplements that have as many calories in them as celery does.
"So many of the edibles are unhealthy," says Missy Bradley, of Stillwater Brands. So they invented Ripple, a zero-calorie, tasteless THC/CBD powder you can sprinkle in your LaCroix. It's so body-friendly that the company's founder, Justin Singer, gives it to his 90-year-old grandma, Bess. She can't have the sugar 'cause she's got the sugar diabetes. Her grandson’s cannabis concoction helps her pain and helps her sleep.
It's unlikely that Grandma Bess is gonna toss away her walker and complete a triathlon, run a 24-hour race or join the NFL. But, then again, who knows? People — even people who are supposed to understand sports and health — have underestimated the power of marijuana before.
In fact, nutritionists say, there’s more to this plant than meets the high.
Your sticky buds are loaded with great stuff. In fact, raw cannabis juice is just like any other trendy green vegetable juice like kale, spinach or wheatgrass, says Martha Montemayor, owner of Healthy Choices Unlimited medical cannabis evaluation clinic and director of the Society of Cannabis Clinicians Colorado.
“It contains less vitamin A and C, but more trace minerals than the other juices,” she says. “It also has the added non-psychoactive immune system boost from the THC-A naturally present in the leaves before flowering.”
Testing a 1 ounce serving made from vegetative fan leaves of Purple Kush / Blue Dream, Montemayor and her team found lots of good stuff. On leaves produced by Verde Natural, and tested by RM3 Labs, here is what a nutrition label for cannabis might look like:
Carbs: 1 gram
Fiber: 3 grams
Fat: 4 grams
Protein: 1 gram
(Under 2%: Iron, Manganese, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Zinc, Copper)