Marijuana users on the west coast are running, or walking, away from the popular image of the Jeff Spicoli-like pot smoker.
420 Games is a Marin County, Calif.-based events company whose goal is to de-stigmatize the mainstream opinion that cannabis users are lazy “stoners” like Sean Penn’s character from “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” The company holds 4.2-mile runs/walks and other types of sporting events to show that marijuana users are just as active as non-users. “If you smoke cannabis and someone hears about it, you’re called a stoner right away,” says 420 Games founder Jim McAlpine. “No one calls you a drunk if you take a drink here or there.” (The term “420” originated in the 1970s as a code for smoking marijuana.)
420 Games held its second annual 4.2-mile run in San Francisco on Saturday, and has also hosted a run in San Jose, Calif. The company plans to introduce its events in new cities with a run, then expand to other activities, such as golf tournaments, paddle board races and long board marathons, he says.
The events are “family-friendly,” he says, and people do not have to use marijuana to participate in the activities. The most recent race had about 500 participants. McAlpine bases his business model after obstacle course companies like Tough Mudder and Spartan Races.
For 2016, McAlpine has events planned in Colorado, Washington, Oregon and California. Recreational marijuana use has been legalized in Colorado, Washington and Oregon, but only medical marijuana is legal in California. However, McAlpine says the legal status of marijuana in the states that 420 Games operates in is not an issue since they do not sell cannabis, and he hopes to use his events to raise awareness in states where cannabis is entirely outlawed.
He does have a list of dos and don’ts. Participants in events may use cannabis before they arrive at the race or after they finish. “That’s the beautiful thing, we’re not a cannabis company, we’re an events company,” McAlpine says. “…I would love to expand to places where it would make more of a social difference.” He also prefers that people do not smoke at the event itself, but after the races, the company holds a 2-hour beer garden and a concert. Saturday’s race featured a performance by reggae artist Pato Banton.
420 Games also has professional athlete advocates. Retired mixed martial arts fighter and cast member of “The Ultimate Fighter” Kyle Kingsbury promotes athlete use of cannabis and ran in Saturday’s race. Canada native Ross Rebagliati, the first snowboarder to win an Olympic gold medal, is also working with McAlpine to bring 420 Games to Canada.
Racers enjoy the beer garden and Pato Banton concert.
In the right amounts, using cannabis before races and long-distance activities helps people maintain focus, and using it after helps with muscle and joint recovery, McAlpine says. “All the athletes in our events who used cannabis had a good time, it kept them engaged,” he says.
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Not everyone agrees. Keith Humphreys, a psychiatry and behavioral sciences professor at Stanford University, says the researched effects of marijuana during athletic activity may not be as straightforward as McAlpine suggests. Cannabis can give users a slower reaction time, though they may not be able to perceive it. “There are two separate things to consider: how do I perform and how do I think I’m performing,” Humphreys says. Sports like basketball and boxing that require quick muscle reactions would not be recommended activities to participate in after consuming cannabis, he adds.
However, Humphreys says marijuana does help reduce anxiety, which helps athletes in high pressure, low contact situations, like rifle shooting, though some studies suggest overuse can cause paranoia. Additionally, cannabidiol, or CBD, which is a non-psychoactive component of cannabis with a variety of medicinal purposes, helps treat muscle inflammation after intense training.
As for focus, Humphreys says there is currently no research that proves or disproves the idea that cannabis maintains concentration for long-distance athletes, but it is an area of interest for researchers.
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source: Market Watch by Kathleen Burke