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HOWARD LAO

Sha’Carri Richardson vs The Committee

Then there’s the simple fact that Cannabis is nowhere close to a performance enhancing drug.

Dear reader, the whole premise of this column is that we’ve moved on, to a degree, from the stigma associated with Cannabis in the world. We aim, then, to celebrate those who stuck their necks out, so to speak, in defense of what they knew was the truth: Cannabis is harmless and prohibition was a hoax. After last month’s news regarding the Olympics and Sha’Carri Richardson – it’s obvious that I need to rethink this stance.

In case you’re unfamiliar with this particular situation, Sha’Carri Richardson is one of the most athletically talented 100 and 200-meter sprinters in United States history. In April of this year, she ran a 10.72 second 100-meter dash – making her the sixth fastest woman in the world, and the fourth fastest in U.S. history. In June, she ran it in 10.86 – qualifying her for the Olympic games this summer in Japan. Then, on July 1, she was drug tested and it was discovered that Richardson had THC in her system. She was summarily disqualified from competing in this summer’s Olympic games.

For weed? Yes, for weed.  

In the United States, the reaction was a swift condemnation of the Olympic Committee’s actions. After all, in the state where Richardson consumed Cannabis (Oregon) – Cannabis is legal. And, Richardson had just lost her mother one week prior to the Olympic trials – she was in mourning and used Cannabis (like many of us do) to cope with emotional stress. But a disqualification from the Olympics truly stings – it is, in effect a four-year ban – since the Olympics are held every four years. And then there is the stigma of a ban, which will sadly stick with Richardson for life. 

Then there’s the simple fact that Cannabis (when it comes to running or aerobic exercise) is nowhere close to a performance-enhancing drug. In fact, it probably inhibits performance where running or sprinting are concerned. So, that levels this decision down to a moral judgment – one that many of us believe should not be in the hands of the Olympic Committee. 

This is one of the most egregious, bone-headed decisions that come to mind in the long, exacerbating lineage of Cannabis intolerance around the world. The funny thing is, this time we’re wagging our collective fingers at the internationally diverse Olympic committee, rather than at U.S. federal law enforcement. And, while many of our fellow Americans agree that this penalty is overtly punitive and ridiculous, it is all our fault as residents of the United States.

That’s because the world’s intolerance for Cannabis has been largely shaped by pressure and propaganda from the United States. As the drug war raged in the ‘80s – we forced our own twisted paradigm upon countless nations around the world, many of which had rich and complex histories with Cannabis that were dismantled or forced underground due to imposed threats of sanctions from the world’s superpower – these United States. From Amsterdam to Afghanistan, one can see the cultural imprint of a forced prohibition on this most harmless of all “drugs.”

My friends, we still have a very long way to go it seems. But people like Sha’Carri Richardson are our modern-day heroes when it comes to further normalization of the benefits, and relative harmlessness, of the plant we appreciate so dearly.

This article was originally published in the issue of all Leaf Magazines.

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