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Here’s Why The NHL Isn’t Going to Change its Marijuana Policy

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Canada plans to legalize marijuana in October, which is good news if you’re Canadian.  But what if you’re an athlete?  Deputy NHL Commissioner Bill Daly says that the NHL doesn’t expect to change its rules on marijuana after the legalization comes into effect.  In fact, the legalization won’t even really affect the NHL’s drug-testing policy.  It will still continue to test players, but even if someone tests positive, it doesn’t automatically lead to a suspension. Which makes you wonder if it’s such a bad thing?  Now I’m not advocating on its use, but I do want to explore the idea of athletes using it, and perhaps why the NHL isn’t changing its stance on the drug.

When you think about it on the outset, marijuana just doesn’t seem to mesh all that well with fitness, let alone high performing athletics.  The image that comes to mind when we think of marijuana is far from that of a professional athlete.  But is there something behind its use?  Pro-marijuana athletes tend to embrace its use for a number of reasons, some say it gets you in the zone.  But I would wonder if it would also help with aches and pains.  Which is why I could see it being used by NHL and NFL players.  Those guys can take quite the beating, so if it’s being used for pain management, it makes complete sense to me.  Further, that also supports the NHL’s stance on not changing the rules.  Why?  Because it’s helping players to recover faster (potentially, I’m not a doctor) and therefore would keep them on the ice longer.  Thus bringing in more money to the league etc.

That said, some believe it to be a potential performance enhancer as well.  This is where it could get some into trouble.  Integrative cannabis physician, Dr. June Chin believes that athletes should use marijuana during the training season to help recover, ease pain and push themselves to the next level.  Note, Dr. Chin is saying that it should be used in the offseason.  Or at least that’s how I’m reading it.  Sure you could make the argument that an NHL player is always training, but I think that’s where she’s going.  Further, there is evidence that CBD, which is the non-psychoactive compound in marijuana, has been removed from the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of banned substances.  Why?  Because it’s been proven to have therapeutic properties and it doesn’t get you high.

There is a lot of fighting that happens in the NHL.  There are a lot of body checks against the boards, falls and even head injuries at times.   As I said, I’m not a specialist or a doctor, but I do think that there’s evidence that marijuana has healing properties.  Maybe even more so than that of a prescription drug.  Rather than altering their stance, Daly said that the NHL and the Players Association will ramp up their efforts to educate players about the details and ultimately the laws.

The NHL has seven teams based in Canada and one in Colorado where there is some legal use of marijuana.  Again – I am not suggesting that this is a good idea, necessarily.  I am merely outlining the possible merits of its use, given the fact that players in Canada will be able to use it without fear of retribution.