Cannabis “doc and jocks” promote marijuana in pro sports

Caleb Diehl

The panel was featured at the Cannabis Science Conference at the Oregon Convention Center. 

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Most of the nation’s largest cannabis science conference this week featured wonky research papers. The exception was a group of professional athletes, who took the stage to promote cannabis in sports.

In the “doc and jocks” panel, the “doc” was Uma Dhanabalan, a charismatic physician with a private practice in Massachusetts. She interviewed four “jocks,” former athletes in professional football, hockey, rugby and basketball.

The crowd of local Trail Blazers fans and cannabis advocates enthusiastically cheered former Blazer Cliff Robinson as he called for normalizing cannabis use in pro basketball. Robinson said he smoked marijuana to calm his anxiety but was punished for it.

He recalled the police stop that led to his arrest and suspension in 2001 for marijuana possession. “They were up on the bridge pointing guns at us,” he said. “All we had in the car was half a joint.”

While cannabis is criminalized in sports, the athletes said, unhealthy drugs and behaviors are big business. Beer and vodka companies spend billions on commercials. Big pharma churns out opiods that athletes turn to for pain relief.

Retired NFL offensive lineman Eben Britton questioned why alcohol and painkillers went unchecked in the league, while officials refused to listen to his case for cannabis.

Professional football runs on hard hits and high pressure, Britton said, fostering a culture of violence and substance abuse off the field. Britton described an “avalanche” of Oxycodone, Vicodin and other prescription painkillers “passed around on the airplane” en route to games.

He said marijuana could provide a more natural cure. He described the “neuroprotective” properties of cannabis as preventative medicine for the NFL’s epidemic of concussions and long-term brain damage.

“As soon as somebody goes down,” Britton said. “There should be someone rushing onto the field with some sort of cannabinoid.”

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