I am who I am. I have reached a place in my career to embrace a fearlessness for allowing my values and principles to shine through, whether or not they fit other people’s expectations.
Most of us have felt, at one time or another, that we need to strategically tailor ourselves to our environment, sometimes at the cost of compromising our own values, to be accepted, negotiate a deal, or get paid. I believe in being adaptable and willing to compromise, but I also believe that we cannot contribute to the best of our ability, if we are not honestly representing ourselves.
It is with this perspective in mind, that I made a, somewhat radical, decision this year to partner with the locally, Reno-owned KYND Cannabis Company and the MYNT Dispensary, as the first ever professional athlete, cannabis ambassador in Northern Nevada. I am extremely proud to represent this quality brand and the cannabis industry. Though I am not a heavy marijuana user, myself, this partnership represents a greater philosophical statement about me.
I am taking a significant risk and jumping into controversial territory. Most professional athletes who have come out as advocates for cannabis do not do so until after their careers are over, for fear of immediate repercussions. That is exactly the reason why I feel the need to take this stance, while I am still in the prime of my competitive professional career.
As of November 9, 2016, the use of both recreational and medicinal marijuana has been legalized in Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, but cannabis is still listed as a Schedule 1 substance under the Controlled Substance Act of 1970, and is federally illegal. It is also NOT a legal substance according to the governing bodies of cycling: USA Cycling (USAC), Union Cycliste Internacionale (UCI), U.S Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). Some of the language in their policies point to marijuana use as “unsportsmanlike” or “performance enhancing”. I look forward to bigger conversations with these agencies to learn more about their position.
In the meantime, I primarily race enduro mountain biking, which is still a relatively new, unsanctioned cycling discipline, and, during my cyclocross season, I will comply with the governing UCI rules and refrain from using cannabis, until there can be further discussion. Regardless, I am moving forward unapologetically, and I look forward to being on the leading edge of these conversations, that warrant deeper analysis.
Marijuana has been stigmatized for a long time and it’s time for us to talk about it openly and honestly. Without digging too deep into the turbulent history, we know that many legal issues surrounding marijuana came from roots of racism and corporate and government control. As it’s become increasingly available, more studies are being done that illuminate the scientific medical benefits of marijuana for a huge variety of ailments, from insomnia to cancer. The benefit that marijuana is having for veterans, aging baby-boomers, people struggling with depression, and other mental health issues is astounding. In many cases, marijuana is proving to be a viable, less-addictive alternative to opioids, and opioid addiction has become a national epidemic. More information can be learned about the benefits of cannabis, with the growing legalization. As an example, the cannabinoid, CBD (Cannabidiol), which is one of 113 identified cannabinoids, has powerful anti-inflammatory properties and provides pain relief and calms anxiety. As an athlete, the CBD tinctures and creams are extremely useful for injuries and sore muscles.
Beyond medical, I am also an advocate for marijuana as a regulated, recreational substance. We have hidden behind the one-dimensional mask of medical use for long enough, and, though the medical benefits are extremely relevant, it is a substance that people, obviously, consume for psycho-active purposes too. Similar to alcohol, I believe strongly in the regulation of marijuana, so the consumption is done responsibly and at the legal age. As adults, we have the ability to make responsible decisions for ourselves.
There is always an opportunity for substance abuse but one of the best ways to enable people to make good decisions is education, dissemination of new information, and open dialogue. Also, in the realm of mountain biking and outdoor recreation, weed is already rampant. Let’s talk about it.
The reality is, humans have a tendency to seek out mind altering experiences. Even athletics, themselves, create an altered state of mind and I know numerous people who are completely addicted to exercise. Too much of a good thing can still result in addiction.
I acknowledge the legitimate concerns surrounding the abuse of recreation and prescription drugs. Depending on the substance, the abuse of a substance can sometimes be the symptom not the cause. We all know someone who has been traumatically affected by substance abuse. Sometimes this results from a lack of education or family/community support or mental illness… and sometimes it is for darker reasons like corporate greed and manipulation by pharmaceutical and alcohol companies, which brings me to my next point.
I am also choosing to partner with the KYND Cannabis Company to call attention to the hypocrisy of our social acceptance of pharmaceutical drugs and alcohol and the stigmatization of marijuana. Let’s call into question the status quo. The Tour of California in 2017 was sponsored by AMGEN, the title sponsor, a well-known big pharmaceutical company and producer of EPO (a red-blood-cell-increasing drug, illegal in cycling and most sports). How is it that the money from this company causes us to overlook the damaging message of having an EPO producer sponsoring one of the largest national road races, when road racing has been notoriously plagued with EPO and other doping scandals??
I have been given a speaking platform as a professional athlete and I do not take my position lightly. It is my responsibility to be a role-model and demonstrate critical thinking, responsibility, integrity, an open mind, and a child-like sense of wonder. The concerns and hesitation around marijuana are relevant, and I am fully receptive to all sides of the issue and I still have a lot to learn. Most importantly, I hope you are willing to ask questions, do research, take some calculated risks, and learn along with me. Whether people are ready for this topic and legislation to be on the table or not, it is.
Weed is officially legal for recreational purchase and consumption for adults 21 and older in Nevada today, July, 1st 2017