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.