Banned For Cannabis? Is Weed An Illegal Performance Enhancing Drug? Runner’s High: How a Movement of Cannabis-Fueled Athletes Is Changing the Science of Sports With Josiah Hesse.

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American sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson, expected to be one of the biggest draws at the Tokyo Olympics, will miss the 100 metres at the Games after accepting a one-month ban for testing positive for cannabis during her U.S. trials victory in June.

Related to this entire topic, I recently read the book Runner's High: How a Movement of Cannabis-Fueled Athletes Is Changing the Science of Sports. As kind of a mash-up of Michael Pollan's How to Change Your Mind and Christopher McDougall's Born to Run, this immersive, investigative look at the hidden culture of cannabis use among elite athletes (as well as weekend warriors) reveals the surprising emerging science behind the elusive, exhilarating “runner's high” they all seek.

The author of the book and my guest on today's podcast—Josiah Hesse—believes that “pot makes exercise fun,” or at least easier or more productive. The link between performance enhancement and cannabis has actually been an open secret for many years, so much so that with the wide-sweeping national legalization of cannabis, combining weed and working out has become the hottest new wellness trend.

Why, then, is there still a skewed perception around this leafy substance that it only produces the lazy, red-eyed stoner laid out on a couch somewhere, munching on junk food? In fact, scientists have conducted extensive research that uncovers the power of the “runner's high”—the true holy grail of aerobic activity that was long believed to be caused by endorphins. In an extraordinary reversal, scientists believe marijuana may actually be the key to getting more Americans off their phones and onto their feet.

In Runner's High and in this podcast, Josiah takes you on a journey through the secret world of stoned athletes, describing astounding, cannabis-inspired physical and mental transformations, just like he experienced. From the economics of the $20 billion CBD market to the inherent inequalities in the enforcement of marijuana prohibition; from the mind-body connection behind the “runner's high” to the best way to make your own cannabis-infused power bars; Runner's High takes this groundbreaking science out of the lab and onto the trail, court, field, and pitch, fundamentally changing the way we think about exercise, recovery, and cannabis.

Josiah is an author and journalist from Denver, Colorado, whose work has appeared in Vice, Esquire, Politico, and The Guardian. Hesse casts a wide net in his journalistic curiosities, covering everything from science, crime, and politics, to pop culture, the arts, sex, and drugs. After a decade of covering the slow-burn legalization of marijuana, Hesse finally wrote the book we discuss today.

In this episode, you'll discover:

-How the “420 games” inspired Josiah's book…07:15

-Josiah's history with cannabis prior to the 420 games…12:20

-An ultra-marathoner that has taken edibles during his runs for years…17:15

  • Jerry Dunn
  • For the 100th anniversary of the Boston Marathon, he ran the whole course of the race 26 times once a day leading up to the marathon
  • Athletics generally has a reputation for being very conservative
  • More focused on the pleasure of running than the competition

-What to expect in cannabis-inspired fitness classes and events…21:20

  • Mary Jane Fonda classes in Portland, OR
  • Lots of legal issues, such as stipulations cannabis cannot be used in public
  • No legal precedents to refer to in making new laws
  • Lots of tourists want to partake while exercising
  • Some are more “mainstream-friendly”
  • Distance the culture from the “stoner” culture associated with cannabis

-How prevalent cannabis use is in professional sports…25:30

  • No official surveys have been conducted in pro sports but a lot of retired athletes attest to its popularity
  • Not using it to get high, but to get into a flow state
  • Jiujitsu league High Rollerz
  • Familiarity with the activity is important in deciding whether or not to use it
  • Ben reports that learning music is easier after using cannabis
  • Cannabis helps remove some of that self-doubt and get into that flow state
  • When you enjoy something it is much easier to learn it
  • Malcolm Gladwell calls it “capitalistic learning” in his book Outliers

-How, when, and why cannabis became “persona non grata” among natural herbs…34:15

-What the best dosage is to increase the efficacy of exercise…50:25

  • “Start low and go slow” with cannabis
  • Josiah likes a 1:1 CBD/THC ratio
  • Different types of athletes will use different ratios
  • CBD modulates anxiety from THC
  • A bit of anxiety and fear is good during exercise, writing, etc.
  • CBN (cannabinol) is good for inducing sleep
  • Take the edible when getting ready for exercise so you're prepared when it kicks in
  • A Runner's High by Dean Karnazes
  • Mastic Gum

-Does cannabis help altitude performance?…59:55

  • THC is known to calm nausea, which is common with altitude sickness
  • Cannabis is very popular among trail runners
  • Spotify playlists Josiah has created for exercise with cannabis
  • ChiRunning by Danny Dreyer

-Is cannabis a true performance-enhancing drug?…1:04:00

  • Champion Mindset by Joanna Zeiger
  • Cannabis does not take you beyond what you can naturally do
  • It returns you to a state of balance
  • Many of the bans in sport are not based on science
  • World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)—cannabis is against the spirit of the sports
  • Safer than coffee

-Is cannabis a crutch for Ben Greenfield?…1:11:05

  • One hard workout a week where Ben takes about 5mg of THC (edible) like Moxey's Mints

-And much more…

Click here for the full written transcript of this podcast episode.

Resources from this episode:

Josiah Hesse:

– Podcast:

– Books:

– Other Resources:

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