“Legal” doesn’t mean “good for your health”: the role of pot in fitness



It’s a simple matter of semantics that “legal” is not the same thing as “good for you.” But the amount of uncritical news coverage of the legalization of cannabis in Canada might make you think otherwise. Since Cate and I both had issues with the way the legalization of cannabis has been framed, we decided to do a post in two voices to voice our concerns. Here goes:


It has been a tough week for me, listening to people talk about pot as if, now that it’s legal, people literally should treat it as a perfectly fine and fun recreational option. Possibly even, as suggested on this very blog, as a performance enhancing training supplement. Let me start with a disclaimer: pot just about ruined my life and I am now completely abstinent with respect to all mood-altering substances (that includes alcohol). I do not believe it should be a criminal offence to use pot. But I think it is terribly irresponsible to promote it as something fun and harmless to try. I’ll say a bit more about why in a minute.


I will also up front acknowledge that I am completely triggered by the “wooo hoooo weed for everyone!” news coverage this week.  I have a lot of wariness about the uncritical celebration of any mood-altering substance, although I do drink, warily and moderately.  But I’ve spent too much of my life around people for whom moderation wasn’t a possibility to not have a critical and anxious eye.  And weed in particular drives me bonkers because of the implication by so many that it just! solves! everything!  I was at a wedding a few weeks ago where both the grandmother of the groom and his aunt were dropping CBD oil into their mouths at dinner and I was like, wait, it’s NOT a cure all.

That’s the part that makes me so so wary — because of the notion that we should just integrate weed into our “daily life” — to cure aches, to cure anxiety, to help us focus at work, to train.  People have reported that they even think they are BETTER DRIVERS while high!  (News flash — they’re not!)  A lot of the people I know who claim they are using pot medicinally (for sleep, anxiety, inflammation — you name it) are just winging it — they are not under the guidance of anyone who actually knows about the science of cannabinoids.  And there  are many potential harmful effects — from easily overdosing on edibles (talk to any emerge doc for horror stories) to dependence to slowed down reflexes to impaired judgment to the harmful effects of smoking to the increased risk of psychosis.  It’s not benign.  We don’t talk about improving our running by sipping bourbon or smoking a cigarette — why is this different?


I think it’s perceived as different because of the narrative that has sprung up around weed over the decades as a non-addictive, harmless substance people can use to chill out. People get caught up in “yay! It’s legal!” and immediately jump to “yay! it’s fun and harmless and maybe even good for me! And for you! And for everyone!” There’s an evangelical angle that’s been played a lot this week. Also, the health angle. I’m not familiar with “medicinal” marijuana, but the very fact that it is sometimes prescribed for some people for health reasons is another reason people seem to think it’s a health cure-all, not the same as cigarettes, which appear to have no health benefit at all. But hey, opioids are also sometimes prescribed for health reasons and — newsflash — have ruined many a life.

Also, needing a thing for medical reasons, to help moderate symptoms of chemo or [fill in the blank  because I actually do not know what medicinal marijuana is ever prescribed for nor would I ever accept a treatment plan that included it], is not what we’re talking about this week. This week, it’s recreational uses that have been legalized. It also doesn’t mean, suddenly, that it’s a great thing to incorporate into your training plan. Asking neutrally, “hey, have you tried it for running? I heard it could be good!” is almost like asking (if steroids suddenly became legal) “hey, have you tried steroids for weight training? I heard they’re good for that!”


I worry that I sound like a ranting puritan coming out of the gate so strongly on this.  I am trying to figure out why I am SO put off.  I think it’s because I feel so strongly that a feminist lens on fitness isn’t just about “performance” — i.e., how fast and how far we can go.  It’s about inhabiting our bodies fully — really being present to what is true, accepting and loving ourselves for who we are, reaching deeper to find that strength that we can only hear when it whispers.  If we are muting or distorting that in any way, it might be movement, but to me, it’s not presence.  And I think for me, a feminist lens on fitness has to involve presence.  Knowing, hearing, listening, paying attention.  And you just can’t do that if you’re high.


Hey, a “ranting puritan” is my description lol! I am a lot more clear on why I feel strongly on this. I’m a bit of a purist. And I think of exercise as its own beautiful kind of mood-enhancer, without needing to add other substances to the mix. I’ve posted before about why I’m not into beer miles and pot yoga and I have strong feelings about the women and wine memes, that make wine out to be an obviously deserved “reward” for a hard day. I agree with you too, Cate, about presence.  I realize we all have our ways of escaping. And that some people might choose drugs as a means of doing that. I do my best not to judge other people’s choices. But the idea of promoting drug use as a good thing seems unwarranted if not in the context of asking further questions like: what are we trying to escape from? Why do people want to get high? What’s wrong with being present in an unaltered state? Are there more life-affirming ways to get into “the zone”?


I think we’re in fierce agreement here.  If you want to use weed in some way to make your fitness more chill or whatever, fill your boots — but don’t do it without thinking about the short term impact of fuzzy judgement (what do you do if someone gets hurt and you have to help them or you have to drive?  are you sure you are paying enough attention to physical risk?) or muting pain that is an important signal to stop what you’re doing.  And don’t do it without considering the bigger impact of distancing yourself even further from being able to really know, hear, and feel your body when you move it.







9 thoughts on ““Legal” doesn’t mean “good for your health”: the role of pot in fitness

  1. Yes! None of these things are harmless! Thanks for your well-expressed rants. I have never been one to choose to alter my consciousness. I prefer to find ways to work on life’s issues that I can control.

    But I just wanted to throw in one thought about possible medicinal uses. I had a brain tumor (I am fine, have been for 20 years now) and I follow a brain tumor forum. There are many who are in desperate circumstances and who find that various components of the drug can be enormously helpful. I even heard my neuro-oncologist say once, at a conference, that although she could not prescribe it, it might be worth considering. The problem is the the USA has virtually prohibited studies looking at it as a valid medicine, so we don’t really have any useful data to determine just what it can and cannot do. But one of the primary components that is used (and I don’t track it – so don’t remember exactly what that element is called) does not even include the high-inducing parts. There appears to be good reason to explore and learn more about it on the medical front.

  2. There is a book that I started reading a few months ago but life got busy and I had to return it to the library. I now received a message saying that it is ready for pickup and I can resume where I left off now that life is settled to a dull roar. The books title is “How to change your mind : what the new science of psychedelics teaches us about consciousness, dying, addiction, depression, and transcendence” by Michael Pollan. I feel that in the light of the legalization of the recreational use of marijuana that this book may help me in my own research on all drugs both legal and illegal.
    I appreciate both Cate and Tracy’s strong opinion about the ‘party’ going on in Canada, along with their misgivings about what the actual benefits of may not have. For me I can’t decide how to react. So, as a history major and professional skeptic I have started researching. As I am not a scientist I can not simply set up an experiment on marijuana but I can read articles as they come out.
    People’s bodies are their own. I applaud those who know that their body reacts badly to something and can stop using or consuming that product. My husband reacts badly to flax and yet it is considered very good for people. I have a hard time being near people who are wearing a strong scent. A friend of mine has Celiacs disease and cannot eat wheat.
    The previous article I read about pot on this site was about pot and its affects on sports performance. It seemed perhaps a little naive but with a very genuine sense of curiosity. I’m okay with this attitude, it is how we as a species develop and grow. (What happens when….?) I believe a Canadian Olympic athlete (snow boarder?) used pot just before competing a few years ago and there was much debate as to whether is was performance enhancing. Am I correct in thinking he kept a medal because it was deemed performance inhibiting? Please someone look this up.
    It would be great if the scientific community had had a chance to do the studies before hand but that rarely happens. It would be great if they could figure out why some people have a positive reaction and others not.
    Will there be problems? Absolutely. Will there be benefits to cannabis consumption? I think so.
    Like I said at the beginning it is time to get reading. These comments are my initial reactions to the two articles that came to me today and I am absolutely up for discussion about what I just wrote. I’m also not a writer so if you are at all confused about what I wrote then please ask for clarification (I do tend to ramble and forget commas).

  3. I don’t think pot is a cure-all or harmless and I certainly don’t think it should be used before or while driving!

    I don’t personally like the way it disconnects me from people, and I don’t like how disconnected my partners are when they use it, although I can understand how sometimes that’s the goal.

    I treat it the way I treat drinking (and I grew up in a sober home as both parents are in recovery) as a recreational substance to enjoy infrequently and in moderation.

    I will say that CBD tincture (with no THC) has been life changing for my anxiety though. I am pro-medication generally, but am really trying to avoid the side effects of SSRI’s and pure CBD is really helping me. But it took me a long time to get there with my family history of addiction, etc.

  4. When marijuana became legal in Colorado, I tried it for the first time in my life at age 37. I hated the experience immensely, but still tried twice more before swearing it off for good. However, I have recently been using CBD capsules, first for muscle pain, and right now for anxiety. Placebo effect or not, I’m happy with the results. What are your complains against CBD (without THC)?

    1. I don’t personally have an issue with CBD without THC except for the aforementioned thing about people winging it rather than having clarity about what to use when. This isn’t a issue with users, for me, as much as with the lack of info about appropriate dosages, potential risks, the general discourse that it’s a cure-all, etc. But my issues are with displaced highs, not finding ways for cannabinoids to be appropriately used medicinally. Thanks for being so open in asking 😉

  5. My natural high is….cycling nearly daily.
    I see cannabis…like drinking alcohol. There a lot of naïve people now…who believe legaliziaton = ok with cannabis as completely safe.

    A few wks. ago, a child was in medical distress and has to be airlifted from Vancouver Island to hospital. Kid ate cannabis laced gummy candy.

    I have 2 sisters….1 is a physician and the other is a hospital pharmacist who works in a teaching hospital (in downtown Toronto where it’s also acute care hospital where hospitals deal with trauma, addictions) and does get involved in clinical drug trial projects. Neither are willing to endorse cannabis fully…at all. They also each have several children.

  6. Another article that gives a bigger picture what physicans are dealing with over past few years :
    A lot of people are afraid to voice caution because it’s seen as judgement..etc. Shrug. You know, I no longer care.

    Honest, I’m a person who is allergic to alcohol…it is actually annoying at times, our local cycling advocacy group always meets at a pub for social get togethers.

  7. Thanks for your thoughts Jean and others — it’s going to be an interesting time while we figure out what is “normal” and okay and what is not so great. I appreciate all of the voices.

  8. Nice information, thank you for this sharing post. it is a really great post.

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