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Ross Rebagliati: Olympics Should Allow Athletes to Use Cannabis

Ross Rebagliati: Olympics Should Allow Athletes to Use Cannabis

Dina Al-Shibeeb
Ross Rebagliati: Olympics Should Allow Athletes to Use Cannabis

Ross Rebagliati, the world’s first Olympic gold medalist for Men’s Snowboarding and a long-time cannabis activist, believes Olympic events should allow athletes access to cannabis if their countries of origin allow.

“Athletes from countries that allow [one of the many psychoactive compounds in marijuana] THC like Canada, America, and other countries in the world like Portugal and Spain, those Olympic athletes should be allowed to use cannabis because that is part of culture they live in,” the 47-year-old Rebagliati told The Puff Puff Post.

As thousands of international athletes ready up for the 2018 winter Olympics in South Korea’s PyeongChang, the trend to legalize marijuana is taking a sweeping effect around the globe.

In 2017, Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalize marijuana, influencing many others to accept cannabis use, at least medicinally. Such is the case in Mexico and Germany.

On Jan. 1, California lent its heavyweight population to be the eighth and the largest U.S. state to legalize recreational marijuana. There is already a dozen of U.S. states that allow the medical use of marijuana.

In Portugal, which already has legal marijuana plantations destined for exports, the Doctors’ Association is calling for the legalization of marijuana-based medicines on Thursday. This is the same day parliament started to debate a draft bill that goes even further, seeking to allow patients to grow pot at home.

Moreover, Rebagliati’s home country – Canada – is expected to become the first developed nation to legalize recreational cannabis this summer.

Rebagliati made international headlines in 1998 not because he won the world’s first ever gold in Men’s Snowboarding for Canada in Nagano, Japan. Rebagliati’s gold medal was almost stripped away from him because the Olympics committee found traces of THC after a blood test.

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Ross Rebagliati, from Canada, holds his gold medal in the Snowboard Men’s Giant Slalom at the victory ceremony for the Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, Sunday, Feb. 8, 1998. (Image via AP)

British Columbia native, Rebagliati’s incident was not at all isolated in a community of athletes.

A few years later after the incident, the U.S swimmer Michael Phelps was the poster child for the “sporting stoner” after he acknowledged a picture taken of him smoking a bong at a party was legitimate.

Asked if it is fair that some athletes can use cannabis while others can’t, Rebagliati said:

“I think that is fair. But it will be fairer if all athletes are allowed to use it, but that means it has to go through all federal governments around the world.”

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Canada’s Ross Rebagliati rides to victory in the first-ever men’s giant slalom snowboarding competition, Feb. 8, 1998, in Yamanouchi, Japan. (Image via AP)

Athletes Finally Get to Use CBD

So far, cannabis remains on the banned substances list for Olympians. However, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in 2013 raised the limit of marijuana allowed in an athlete’s system to 150 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood.

Also, WADA in 2017 removed CBD, an anti-inflammatory compound derived from cannabis, from its 2018 prohibited substances list.

Rebagliati, a father of three, described these changes as a “sign” that both the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and WADA “are moving in the right direction.”

Cannabis Great for Workout Recovery

The former athlete, who turned into a cannabis activist about two decades ago, praised CBD for its wondrous health benefits like the way it controls anxiety.

“It is probably one of the best things for an athlete to use,” he said, citing marijuana’s “anti-inflammatory” benefits “during workouts.”

“It keeps muscles from seizing up, and allows body recovering during a workout,” he added.

“The anti-inflammatory attribute of CBD is far more superior than any pharmaceutical [drug] that has been created so far,” he said. “And when you infuse CBD with special sports creams that athletes are already using, the cream can get very effective as muscle treatment on the location instantly. It does not take 15 minutes.

“There are also the oral sprays, one can also take CBD sublingually and there are so many different things for it.”

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Ross Rebagliati (C) on stage with NBA hall of fame Rick Barry speaking about cannabis and athletes in Toronto. (Photo courtesy Ross Rebagliati)

Cannabis Helped His Appetite

For Rebagliati, cannabis is a big plus for his health especially for his appetite in a fast modern era “when everyone is on the go.”

“If I don’t use cannabis I can go through the day without thinking about food,” he said. “I don’t know what is my problem is, I love food, but a lot of times, I don’t have an appetite and I get low blood sugar a lot.”

And like any other ambitious Canadians, who want to make profits, Rebagliati has already put one foot forward to tap into the cannabis giant industry, which is expected to generate about $8 billion annually with projected growth to about $22 billion by 2025.

Last year, Rebagliati opened his a flagship cannabis company – Ross’ Gold – in Kelowna city, south of British Columbia. But in the grey market in his municipality does not allow such businesses.

His medical marijuana business was operating for a year until it was shut down in late 2017 by the municipality.

In British Columbia, municipalities have a different say on cannabis businesses compared to other provinces in Canada. Vancouver is the main city where marijuana is tolerated in the western province.

“We complied with the city but we are not trying to fight anything anymore, we understand that we won,” he said in anticipation of summer 2018, where laws nationwide in Canada will change to permit marijuana businesses to thrive.  

“We are just going to close the door until the municipality comes up with the regulations and we will comply with these regulations.”

He said: “We will be ready to go on July 1. We have multiple locations right now being built out across the country, and as soon as the law changes, we will be opening our doors.”

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Ross Rebagliati gives his thumbs up following Trudeau government’s pushing through marijuana legalization in April 2017. (Photo courtesy Ross Rebagliati)

Patients Head to the Black Market?

The activist-turned businessman said his company Ross’ Gold served almost 2,000 patients before the municipality closed his store.

“We were open only for one year, that is a sign if you think about that: One store having 2,000 patients, there were 20 stores in Kelowna,” he said, speculating that tens of thousands of people were back to the black market following the municipality shutdown of cannabis businesses.

He said these people at the same time “might vote in the next municipal election [on Nov. 15] for marijuana reforms.”

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Ross Rebagliati showing his medal. (Photo courtesy Ross Rebagliati)

Rebagliati Rejects Govt. Monopoly

When it comes to business, Rebagliati does not support a government monopoly.  

“We believe it should be free and should not be controlled by the government at all…I think that’s the only way to assure quality and the best price.”

Like many others, Rebagliati criticized the heavily government-regulated monopolies governing marijuana businesses in Ontario, considered to be among the worst regulations in Canada. But he is still prepared to expand his franchise across Canada.

“We have infrastructure right now so that our brand can be also available in these government stores,” he said.

In the end, Rebagliati’s motto will always be:

“cannabis is the cure and love is the answer.”

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