Cannabis and the Kiwi Athlete: Turning around the stereotype

Cannabis Character Lifting Heavy Barbell

A new survey of physically active people has found that 81 percent of respondents use cannabis just before, or after exercise. Many report that cannabis motivated them to work out, improved their recovery after exercise and helped them to enjoy exercise more. 

The researchers in the study wrote that motivation, recovery time and enjoyment are all significant. “Given that these are all recognised barriers to exercise,” they wrote, “it is possible that cannabis might actually serve as a benefit to exercise engagement.”

This also explains why former athlete, Kiwi Paralympic star Liam Malone confirmed he’s smoked cannabis with Olympic athletes.

Malone, who won gold in the men’s T44 200m and 400m at the 2016 Rio Paralympics, said he smoked cannabis for the first time as a teenager growing up in Nelson.

Malone wrote on his Twitter account.
Liam Malone Tweet

athletes and weed

Liam Malone winning gold at the 2016 Paralympics.

“I think it’s really unfortunate the hypocrisy that athletes can drink alcohol as much as they want … go out on these huge benders, make a fool of themselves, make a fool of their country, but if they want to consume something plant based and non toxic – it’s prohibited.”

Other former athletes have said the same, although most typically mention cannabis as a potential replacement for opioids in managing pain.

As of 2018, The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) no longer lists CBD as a prohibited substance. They still like to remind athletes that CBD oil often still contains some concentration of the banned substance tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Therefore, the use of CBD oil is at an athlete’s own risk.

Repetitive heavy training can easily lead to injuries such as muscle strain or tendinitis, all causing significant pain. With most current pain management options not being sustainable for everyone, more and more athletes are now using CBD as a daily supplement.


1. Exercise-induced inflammation

Inflammation is a condition which is often experienced by professional athletes. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are typically prescribed to athletes for inflammation, but their frequent use can increase the risk of gastrointestinal ulcers and bleeding, heart attack and kidney disease. As a result, some athletes have stopped using those and many have limited their consumption due to side effects. In contrast, CBD is a great health supplement for post-exercise recovery and overall wellness with no negative side affects.

2. Game day anxiety 

Athletes often experience performance anxiety due to the stress arising from the pressure to succeed. Fear and anxiety are normal, adaptive responses which are essential to coping with stress. However, excessive or persistent anxiety may hinder athletic performance.

Most medications currently prescribed to treat anxiety usually result in drowsiness and mild to moderate sedative effects, which can seriously interfere with athletic performance. On the other hand, CBD is a daily supplement that won’t leave you with this feeling of being tired or exhausted after using it.

3. Relaxation and sleep support 

A good night’s sleep is essential for good performance and recovery. The body repairs itself during sleep, and maintains and regenerates muscle fibers and other tissues. Sleep is also very important for brain health and memory formation. Post-exercise insomnia affects a lot of athletes, especially after long workouts or sport events, and lack of sleep can stand in the way of tissue regeneration and optimal athletic performance.

Unfortunately, CBD is still not legally available to athletes in New Zealand. However, with a referendum happening in 2020 this could change soon and many Kiwi athletes are certainly hoping it does!

Waiheke Green Cross will keep you posted on any changes to the regulations and we have a special celebratory gift for subscribers when the rules do finally catch up to the science.

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