Former Rams fans or Cross-Fit junkies who attended the “Athletes in Cannabis” panel at MOCANNBIZCON+EXPO on March 3, 2020, hoping to hear about monumental plays and sports victories would walk away from the discussion without that want being met.
But that’s the whole point – this wasn’t a ComiCon celebrity hunt for autographs.
This session was focused on the use of cannabis in the professional sports community. Attendees heard validation from actual patients whose lives have been dramatically impacted by the use of marijuana – for injuries and pressures that many of us will never experience in our own professional careers. Former St Louis Rams players Grant Wistrom and Kyle Turley joined world-class Cross-Fit star Dani Horan for the panel, hosted by Dr. Mimi Vo.
Dr. Vo, a St. Louis area clinician and long-time cannabis advocate, served as a moderator and contributed to the hearty discussion among the athletes. Each of the panelists had their own story of how they became interested in cannabis as medicine and found relief from a plethora of conditions, from endometriosis to over-adrenalized anxiety. Interestingly enough, each shared their own stories of dramatic improvement in their daily lives.
As Turley vehemently insisted, “Cannabis changed my life, period.”
Their initiation into marijuana as medicine was as diverse as their backgrounds and hometowns. Turley and Wistrom both began medical use of cannabis in their early careers in the NFL. Turley’s evolution from a California-born kid who was raised Mormon to an NFL superstar shared that an NFL Hall of Famer noticed his struggles with the sport, the culture, and the intense pressure to succeed, while still maintaining a personal life coupled with extreme pain from injuries led him down a path to be the medical marijuana advocate he is today.
Wistrom’s first foray into the green fray was to help recover from the 1-2 day drive to aggression and fire required of him to compete in the NFL.
“When that game’s over, you don’t just get to throw that switch and it’s off,” Wistrom spoke of consuming on his way home from games while his wife drove and arrived home ready to interact as “a normal human being.” The daily pressure of the sport contributed to Wistrom’s constant racing thoughts but also had a negative impact on his gastrointestinal system. After using cannabis as medicine, he was no longer buying Pepto Bismol for daily use and spoke of a complete nervous system transformation.
Horan was the only participant who was actually encouraged by her physician to try cannabis as a medicine for chronic and painful reproductive health issues that previously had not responded favorably to prescription or over-the-counter medications. Sadly, despite Horan’s Vermont medical marijuana card and a well documented medical history were not enough to allow her to compete in a national contest under the terms of the Cross-Fit Drug Policy’s “Therapeutic Use Exception.”
Wistrom, Turley, and Horan unanimously agreed that cannabis is an unbeatable part of their post-workout regimens, and Turley and Horan both spoke of using the medicine to enhance their actual performance and pre-workout preparation.
Turley encouraged the crowd to watch or re-watch “Pumping Iron” on YouTube and see it from the perspective that the performers were under the influence of cannabis. He spoke of the performance improvement and higher achievements that cannabis produces as a result of its impact on the human cannabinoid system, which Turley referred to more than once as “the number one regulatory system in the human body.”
One particular common thread among these incredible athletes was their individual experiences with the use of cannabis and its positive impact on their nervous systems and their state of mind. They mentioned extremely high performance and endurance requirements, and the physical toll the sports took on their bodies. But for those of us who haven’t competed in professional sports, who have been in stressful work settings in which the exhaustion and stress are largely mental rather than physical, we know the power of the plant to help with anxiety, the ability to “shut down” at night, just as well as these athletes.
These panel members are all clearly champions of the power of medical marijuana in their own lives, and all spoke about the positive impact and the life-changing results they all realized in their professional careers. Their professional lives today aren’t on the field or the floor – and each plays a part in the cannabis industry today.
Horan wants to play a larger role in educating other women about the effects of cannabis on the female reproductive system, as well as the specialized field of sports and fitness and the role cannabis can play in the future of sports. She continues to participate in her Cross-Fit practice and serves as a role model via social media platforms for women and girls everywhere.
Wistrom, a Missouri native, was awarded two medical marijuana licenses – both in Springfield – including a dispensary and a manufacturing infused products facility, both under the company name of Revival 98. Wistrom continues to support K9s for Camo, which is a non-profit organization that rehabilitates shelter dogs in prisons by teaching prisoners to train the dogs for placement as service dogs with veterans.
Turley continues to be an advocate for medical marijuana and has joined the industry with his own CBD company, NeuroXPF, which specializes in THC-Free, CBD (hemp-derived) cannabis products for sports therapy, which received a vocal endorsement from Wistrom on the quality of the products. One of the highlights of the panel was Turley’s constant injection of humor into the discussions and when asked if he had a favorite strain, he proceeded to list an extensive roster of strains and even broke them into Sativa and Indica vs. hybrid. It’s clear he’s well versed in the plant and its many faces. Like Wistrom, Turley also gives back in the form of non-profit work, supporting Donnovan’s Dream, a foundation started in an effort to improve the quality of life for athletes suffering from head, neck, and spinal injuries from youth sports.
Each of these athletes brought a unique perspective to cannabis and an engaging panel that provided attendees with the opportunity to not only learn more about the benefits of medical marijuana, but also validated that the use of this plant can cross-cultural, economic, and social barriers to change the lives of people everywhere.