Near the end of 2016 we learned Las Vegas would be home to the Vegas Golden Knights professional hockey team. This year, it was confirmed that the NFL team commonly known as the Raiders, is relocating to Las Vegas. As the jewel of the Silver State, Las Vegas is also known as the fight capital […]

 In Opinion, Sports

Near the end of 2016 we learned Las Vegas would be home to the Vegas Golden Knights professional hockey team. This year, it was confirmed that the NFL team commonly known as the Raiders, is relocating to Las Vegas. As the jewel of the Silver State, Las Vegas is also known as the fight capital of the world for professional boxing and mixed martial arts (MMA). What do all these professional sports have in common? Athletes must endure repeated impacts to the head during competition and training throughout their careers.

As cannabis legalization continues to sweep across the country, professional athletes in every sport are beginning to take note. Last month, Green Flower Media held a free livestream educational cannabis conference with a variety of panels and topics. One panel was dedicated to professional athletes which included retired NFL players and retired MMA Legend Bas Rutten. These former-pros spoke about athletes in high impact sports exploring the healing benefits of cannabis on conditions like chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a type of brain damage.

As reported in Vegas Cannabis Issue 29, the Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC) has come a long way since September 2015 when it proposed a lifetime ban on UFC fighter Nick Diaz who exceeded the allowed in-competition THC limit for the 3rd time. Since then, Anthony Marnell III has been installed as the new chair of the NAC and is open to exploring options giving athletes access to cannabis. “We are the gold standard here in Nevada, we are leading the way…We’re going to take some shots for this but that’s part of the job of this commission,” said Marnell January 13, 2017 at an (NAC) hearing establishing an open public process workshop to give the commission a more complete understanding of cannabis.

On March 11, 2017 at UFC Fight Night 106 in Fortaleza Brazil, UFC middleweight Kelvin Gastelum knocked out Vitor Belfort in round 1 of the main event. A month later Kelvin’s win was overturned by the Brazilian Athletic Commission, his win bonus forfeited, 20% of his total fight purse fined in addition to a 90-day suspension. The suspension ends June 11, eight days after UFC 212, where Gastelum was scheduled to fight Anderson Silva. As a result of the suspension Kelvin was pulled from the card leaving the UFC scrambling for a new main event which caused a butterfly effect type chain reaction rippling throughout the UFC.

Kelvin uses cannabis for pain and sleep, although he claims to have quit consuming cannabis three weeks before the fight, he tested positive for in-competition use. Traditionally, in-competition is considered 12 hours before and after a fight. The threshold for in-competition use (recently raised by the NAC) is 150 nanograms per milliliter in a urine test. The 150 nanograms is an arbitrary number not based on any scientific findings about impairment and with no direct correlation to the euphoric effects of cannabis. The fines and other costs incurred have reportedly cost the professional fighter nearly $100,000!

Popular UFC Fighters Nick and Nate Diaz are well known cannabis ambassadors in the sport of MMA. Last August, during a press conference after a fight, a reporter asked Nate what he was vaping, to which he replied CBD. The press conference took place two hours after the fight which is technically considered in-competition. Nate was given a public warning instead of a suspension and on April 1, 2017, a rule change occurred. Under the UFC’s anti-doping policy with the United States Anti Doping Agency, the in-competition window now closes after the completion of the post-fight drug test sample collection. If that sample isn’t collected within a reasonable amount of time, the in-competition window will close one hour after the fighter’s post-bout medical clearance.

On May 22, 2017 UFC promoter Dana White appeared on GGN News hosted by Snoop Dog. Snoop asked the promoter if UFC fighters can smoke weed and his response was, “We’re not saying you can’t smoke weed. You can smoke all the weed you want to. Twenty-four hours before the fight you can’t smoke weed.” The day before that video was released, Snoop gave a performance during the UFC Fighters Retreat in Las Vegas at the newly opened UFC Headquarters. Although sources tell us no fighters smoked cannabis during the concert, the connection between Snoop and the UFC appears to be more than just a coincidence.

In other news, the mystery surrounding the abrupt retirement of UFC light heavyweight contender Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson was solved. After losing a championship fight April 8, Rumble shocked the world by retiring at the prime of his fight career. He claimed his motives were strictly business but kept his future a secret. For weeks, the world speculated with rumors of his move to the NFL. Mid-May, Rumble appeared on the “Heated Conversations” podcast hosted by former WWE star Booker T. and vaguely revealed his plans, “We’re opening up a facility, if you know what I mean, it’s for medical uses. … We got some good things going on. It’s already big. We’re just waiting for that law to pass and whenever it passes, we’re golden. We’re playing our cards right, we’re playing by the book, so that way there’s no issue.” Although he never used the words cannabis or marijuana, most were able to deduce his business endeavors from the conversation.

Should MMA consider a therapeutic use exemption for fighters with a medical cannabis license?

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