July 8, 2021
From podcast: https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/podcast/josiah-hesse/
[00:01:04] Podcast Sponsors
[00:02:58] Guest Introduction
[00:07:08] How the “420 Games” Inspired Josiah's Book
[00:12:20] Josiah's History with Cannabis Prior to the 420 Games
[00:17:06] An Ultra-Marathoner That Has Taken Edibles During His Runs for Years
[00:21:21] What to Expect in Cannabis-Inspired Fitness Classes and Events
[00:25:30] How Prevalent Cannabis Use is in Professional Sports
[00:30:47] Podcast Sponsors
[00:33:10] How, When, and Why Cannabis Became “Persona Non Grata” Among Natural Herbs
[00:50:10] What the Best Dosage Is to Increase the Efficacy of Exercise
[00:59:52] Does Cannabis Help Altitude Performance?
[01:04:00] Is Cannabis a True Performance-Enhancing Drug?
[01:10:59] Is Cannabis a Crutch for Ben Greenfield?
[01:13:48] Closing the Podcast
[01:14:43] End of Podcast
Ben: On this episode of the Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast.
Josiah: The joy of running under the influence of cannabis is really about a commuting between the mind and the body. And so, it becomes this neat little package of, well, that's why these people are poor because they use drugs. Anyone who uses drugs is inherently lazy. So, I think a lot of the time, cannabis can just sort of enhance whatever state you're in. If you are in a sedentary state, it can push you a little further in that direction. But if you're already moving along, it can enhance that as well.
Ben: Health, performance, nutrition, longevity, ancestral living, biohacking, and much more. My name is Ben Greenfield. Welcome to the show.
Alright, folks, my guest today wrote a book. The book actually doesn't come out for, I think, a couple more months, but I believe you can pre-order on Amazon. It's about weed and exercise. It's going to be an interesting one.
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Well, folks, I recently read a book, believe it or not, as I'm prone to do, and this book was pretty interesting. If you're listening to this podcast at the time when it comes out, the book is close to being released, or will release quite soon, or is already released possibly, especially if you procrastinate on your podcast downloads and you're listening to this after September. But anyways, the name of this book is “Runner's High.” And I was confused at first because there's another book called “Runner's High” by a former podcast guest of mine named Dean Karnazes, but his is called “A Runner's High,” and it has to do with the runner's high from Karnazes standpoint. Whereas this book is called “Runner's High: How a Movement of Cannabis-Fueled Athletes Is Changing the Science of Sport.” So, this is a whole new twist on the idea of high from a runner's standpoint. Although as you'll find out during this podcast episode, when people talk about the runner's high, they are actually talking about basically a very similar high chemically to what the cannabis can cause. We'll delve into that later.
My guest on today's podcast wrote the book, which is almost like a mashup between, I would say, like Michael Pollan's “How to Change Your Mind” and Christopher McDougall's “Born to Run.” Both excellent books as well. But what Josiah does in the book is he has this immersive investigative look at the hidden culture of cannabis use, particularly among folks like elite athletes, exercise enthusiasts, not the kind of people you would expect to be, Cheeto pop and potheads. And so, he says, even in the book, that pot makes exercise fun. That's a controversial statement. We'll dig into that. He gets into the link between performance-enhancing drug bands and cannabis, and whether it should be legalized in sports. And also, his own experience with running and ultra-running, and endorphins, and the endocannabinoid system, and cannabis use in general. So, we have a lot to dig into in this podcast because–I mean, we're talking about a $20 billion CBD market alone, and a lot of interesting dynamics biochemically between exercise and cannabis.
So, Josiah is an author. He's a journalist. I would say he's an immersive journalist. He lives in Denver, Colorado, appropriately enough, I guess, based on what this book is about. And his writing covers everything from science to crime, to politics, to pop culture, to arts, to sex, to drugs. He writes for Vice, Esquire, Politico, The Guardian. So, you probably read some of his stuff before. But after about a decade of covering and experimenting with this slow-burn legalization of marijuana, he wrote the book that we're going to talk about today, and we'll take a deep dive into it.
So, Josiah, did you get high for this podcast?
Josiah: I did not, no.
Ben: You didn't? You know what's funny is sometimes when I'm going to interview someone for a show, like I just did one a couple of days ago for this exercise suit called the Katalyst, I'll go do the exercise suit before the show. Or if I'm interviewing somebody about cold thermogenesis, I'll do a cold soak before the show. I honestly like to do that to get myself into the mindset. But alas, I did not at 10:00 a.m. in the morning go get high before the show. So, I suppose you and I will either be way more productive or way less funny, or I don't know, but I guess that's the kind of stuff we got to get into in today's discussion, huh?
Josiah: Absolutely. I love getting high before running, obviously, and that's what the book is largely about. But for things where you may have to remember a lot of names, and dates, and timelines, and scientific terms, cannabis, at least in certain doses, doesn't lend itself too well.
Ben: Yeah. Well, particularly THC to a certain extent, although I found about a 10 to 20 microdose, if you want to call that a microdose, milligram microdose of CBD is actually pretty good for focus and in my experience seems to enhance memory and word recall a little bit, almost like a little bit of a nootropic or a smart drug. But you certainly experimented with a lot more different approaches than just the 10 to 20-milligram dose of CBD in writing this book.
I really thought, Josiah, one of the most entertaining parts of the book in the early sections was something I was totally unaware of, and that's something called the 420 Games. I didn't know there was such a thing, but I was chuckling reading that section of the book. And I'm curious, what were the 420 Games and what those have to do with your initial inspiration for writing this thing?
Josiah: Yeah. Well, by that time, I had been using cannabis for a long time personally, and had been using it as a runner for maybe about a year at that point. And as a journalist, there've been so much to cover in terms of events or news. And so, the 420 Games, when it was touring around America and came through Boulder, was really just another assignment that I had. I was curious about other people doing the same thing that high [00:07:57] _____, believed I discovered. And a lot of people had that story like they thought they were the only ones who like to get high and work out.
But in terms of games as competition, 420 Games isn't really like–it's not comparable to the Olympics or any sort of organized sport. It's more of just an exhibition of a kind. There was a 4.2-mile fun run around the Boulder Reservoir when I went there. My understanding is that they have bigger events out in L.A. that are a little more competitive. But it was there that I met Avery Collins, who wound up being one of the central characters of my book. He's a very accomplished ultramarathon runner here in Colorado, and he was one of the celebrity athletes at the 420 Games, had come out and do the fun run, and talked to people. And then, after the run, there were a lot of tables with all of these different products. They couldn't sell any THC products, but there were a lot of non-psychoactive products there. And really, it was my first entry point to this side of the industry because the cannabis industry had been around for a few years by that point and there've been loads of different types of events. But a lot of them were more the high times stoner culture type events.
Ben: Not like exercising athletes you mean?
Josiah: Right, even though that subculture existed. I don't think it was quite as cohesive because of that fact that a lot of people didn't know that there were others who were doing the same thing that they were. But when I was out there, I met a lot of people who are like, “Yeah, I like to smoke a joint and then go lift weights,” or, “I like to take an edible and then go run a trail.” So, that was one of the early moments where I was like, this may be more than just a quirky thing that I do or that a handful of people do. It may be something that's actually quite popular and profoundly underreported. And meeting Jim McAlpine, the founder of the 420 Games, was just such a delight. He's a real character. He once took 100-milligram edible and swam from San Francisco to Alcatraz.
Ben: A hundred milligrams?
Ben: Oh, wow. Well, I mean, for people who are listening who are not familiar with dosage, and I'm assuming that was a THC edible, that for most people would be severe couch lock for the next six hours at least.
Josiah: Yeah. And that's another thing that I discovered in my reporting is that there's a huge variance on the dosage and the administration when it comes to cannabis. Some people will take 1 milligram THC and they're just fine. Some people I've met have taken 600 milligrams of THC and that's what they need to experience with it.
Ben: Right. And a lot of that is just based on, I believe, genetic activity. We know that when you consume edibles, just so folks know, this 11-hydroxy-THC, which is what's created, that's like the metabolic byproduct that's created as the THC in any edible like a chocolate or something passes through the GI tract and the liver. It's a little more potent than its progenitor, THC, and can result in a more intense psychoactive experience. But I think some people genetically have different–I believe it's a CYP enzyme in the liver in terms of the speed at which they process that, the efficiency with which they process it, or possibly even the extent to which it interacts with some of the cannabis or CB1 or CB2 receptors. But yeah, I do know the oral administration effects tend to vary widely from person to person. Yet still, I think for anybody taking 100 milligrams of an edible and then swimming–how far did you say he swam?
Josiah: From San Francisco to Alcatraz.
Josiah: Which is notorious for being next to impossible. That's why Alcatraz [00:11:48] _____ people could swim that.
Ben: Yeah. I can tell you that I have a 32-degrees cold pool. And occasionally in the evenings, I will take a hit off of a vape pen or sometimes even eat an edible just to relax into the evening. And when I do a cold pool soak in the evening, I sit in there and nearly fall asleep if I've got an edible into my system in 32-degrees water when normally, when I'm fully alerted and I'm not as distressing with that in my system, I'm just in and out a little bit more quickly than that.
But anyways, I want to delve into, of course probably later on in our discussion, about some of the science. But you said when you got to the 420 Games–and you even started the assignment of writing this book, this wasn't like your first time using cannabis, and you had a history of using it in the past. Did you grow up with cannabis being something that was part of your lifestyle?
Josiah: It was around a lot. I came from a working-class community in North Iowa and my dad has been consuming it for most of his adult life, and a lot of people were secretly consuming it. I grew up in a very conservative evangelical background, but a lot of people were–
Ben: I did, too, actually. I grew up conservative evangelical, Christian Reformed Baptist in Lewiston, Idaho.
Josiah: Yeah. And then, that's another big part of my writing career. Really, just cannabis and evangelicals is what makes up the majority of it. But people don't realize that a lot of people are closeted cannabis users in that community and in every community. Really, it's just so widely used, but I was completely sober and [00:13:19] _____. So, I was about 19 and I grew up as a very anxious child. I had an overactive nervous system and it made it very difficult to do my school work, or to socialize, or really just to feel comfortable. Things really did change for me when I discovered cannabis. I heard Seth Rogen on Fresh Air recently talked about how the first time he used cannabis, it was sort of like putting on glasses for the first time. Like suddenly, the world came into focus and it was almost overwhelming the clarity that you felt.
And that was the case for me, I suddenly felt security, safety in my mind, and the calming of my nervous system, and ironically, an ability to focus, and study, and learn, and grow. And then, years later when I started taking edibles, I'd never exercised, at least not voluntarily, until about the age of 30. And it was edibles that I suddenly discovered like, wow, this is so much fun. And it wasn't a case of like, oh, I need to exercise for my mental health, or for my physical health, or to look good. It was simply fun. It was my favorite thing to do. And I'm 38 now. I've been doing it almost daily for the last eight years. My running is constantly improved. I just did my first 50k last April and it's really the highlight of my day, taking edibles and going for a run.
Ben: Really? So, you do that every day, you take an edible and go for a run?
Josiah: Unless I'm busy. I mean, like today, I'm doing some of these interviews and I'm going to actually record the audiobook for “Runner's High” later today. So, there's not always time, but it's rarely anything that I feel disciplined to do, like, I need to keep this up. Oh, I don't want to lose my momentum. It's more like, when can I get done with all of this crap and go for a run?
Ben: Yeah I, hear you. And I think sometimes substances that we use, even pre-workout supplements, whether it's beetroot or THC, we often tend to associate with a positive habit, sometimes with a negative habit as well. Like, being lazy eating junk food and watching TV can be one way to use marijuana, like associating, say, like an edible with a run or a trip to the gym and using that as a way to enhance the state that you enter into, almost like this flow state that I'm sure we'll talk about a little bit during that workout can be another method.
And I interviewed a guy named Tim Moxey, makes these things called Moxey's Mints up in Washington States. It's a mix of a little herbal pick-me-ups with I guess a small dose of THC in about 5 milligrams. And for a while, I literally had a bag of those in the doorway of my gym. I'd walk into the gym, grab it out of there like a candy dispenser, pop under my tongue and work out, and typically, would just–the best way I can describe it is you're working out and having a wonderful workout with less discomfort and a higher rating of perceived exertion than you normally have. And you look at your watch and it feels like you've been working out 20 minutes and you've been in there an hour.
And for me, just because I never like to feel, kind of like Anthony de Mello says in his book “Awareness,” that I'm attached to anything. I've since not been using edibles as much for exercise and I tend to be careful just to not overuse anything, but I went for a while there where I would just take 5 milligrams before workout and it was absolutely amazing in terms of, yeah, I mean, the reduced rating of perceived exertion, how quickly time went by, and how much I got into the flow and was able to focus. And honestly, the other thing I found, and I think you talked about this in the book a little bit, is that I pretty rarely will listen to music when I work out, but the combination of music and cannabis during a workout absolutely elevates the efficacy of that workout.
And I realize I keep saying that we're going to talk about this stuff, and we will, but I have a couple more questions before we delve into that because there was another interesting character in your book, and it was this guy named Jerry Dunn that you described. And this guy, from what I understand, he's been running ultramarathons for years on edibles. I think he's called like America's Marathon Man or something like that.
Josiah: Yeah. Anyone who was around in the Marathon or Ultramarathon World in the '80s and '90s, probably come across Jerry Dunn. He was doing a lot of big feats. He tried to run 200 marathons inside a year, where I think the year before, he did run 100 inside a year. And then, for the year 2000, he aimed to run 200, but he only made it to 186. I think it was the 100th anniversary of the Boston Marathon. He ran the whole course, 26 times once a day leading up to the marathon. And so, he was getting a lot of media attention, but he was closeted about his cannabis use. For obvious reasons, it was very controversial at that time. I mean, that was the Reagan era of Just Say No.
I think athletics has somewhat of a reputation. Maybe misguided, but it has a reputation of being very conservative. He was afraid to be open about that. But what I found most compelling about Jerry was his attitude toward running, which dovetailed very seamlessly with mine, and that he wasn't that concerned–even though he was doing like these big sensationalistic things, he wasn't that concerned about getting a personal best time or beating anyone in a race, or really even measuring his races. He said he would know retroactively how far he ran and could do the math looking at how long it took him to see what his pace was. But he never wears a smartwatch when he runs and he just likes to think of it as a childlike, playful activity.
And at one point, he talked about running on the beach in Florida, which is where he spends half his time. And he'll go very early in the morning when there's no one there and he'll run along the shore of the beach with his eyes closed. And he's barefoot, and so he can feel the water right there, but he's just in a zone that stay. Which to me, I'd never met anyone who had that approach to exercising or athletics before, where they weren't really all that focused on competition, but were more focused on the pleasureful, playful side of running. And for him, he said that combining cannabis with running was what brought out that side of him where he could leave all the numbers behind and just be in the moment of running.
Ben: Yeah, that makes sense. And I think that might be one of the reasons why sometimes the use of cannabis when people first hear about it related to sports, they do think of that skinny, hippie ultra-marathoner who's not using it because they have a great deal of, let's say, not to offend ultra-marathoners, but there's not a great deal of like athleticism as much as there is like endurance, stubbornness, perseverance, grit, stick-to-itiveness. But you'd never see like an ultra-runner and then compare them to, let's say, an Olympian gymnast or gymnast of any sort for that matter and question who might be the better athlete from a full spectrum power, strength, speed, mobility, performance, body awareness type of standpoint.
And I think that because of that, often people think, well, the only folks who use cannabis are the folks who can just check out while they're working out, who can run 100 miles and just need to kill the pain a little bit, kind of like how you'd use ibuprofen. And yet in reading your book, I was shocked at the percentage of pro-athletes from sports like the NFL and the NBA, of course being probably two of the biggest examples who actually use cannabis, as well as this emergence of these cannabis fitness classes that aren't just like running for miles in the mountains, but involve some of the type of workouts that I was describing. Like I was doing my own home gym with a microdose of THC.
So, first of all, I guess what I want to ask you is, have you been to one of these cannabis fitness classes? Because I never have, but I read about them in your book, and I actually didn't know they existed until I read your book.
Josiah: Yeah. I've been to a handful of them here in Denver, and there's one of my favorites, the Mary Jane Fonda classes in Portland. But there's a whole lot of variables like legalistic hoops that you have to jump through to have any kind of these events. When Denver legalized, we put in the amendment to the Constitution that you can't use it in public, but you can use it in a private space. And the gray areas of that have been very, very fuzzy. Jim McAlpine tried to start a cannabis gym in San Francisco and ran into a whole lot of legal hurdles from that. And then, investors are wary putting all their money into something that they don't even know if it's legal or not. Nobody really knows. I mean, this is a new frontier of law. I mean, law is all about precedent. And if there's no precedent, then nobody is comfortable advising anyone on what the legal logistics of it would be.
But yeah, there's a lot of yoga classes. That's probably the most popular one. And I think there are no shortage of people who are, like you said, taking edibles before they go to just a normal fitness class, or go to the gym. Some of the cannabis fitness classes lean in heavily to the cannabis aspect of it, and there's like bongs, and trippy posters, and lights, but then others are much more mainstream-friendly. And it has a strong touristy element to it. A lot of people who come through Denver and want to consume cannabis, they want to do cannabis events.
Ben: Yeah. I think the trippy posters, and the weird lights, and all that kind of stuff, I almost think that does the whole fitness aspect of cannabis a little bit of a disservice because it tends to blend the idea of cannabis use with that of hallucinogenic drug use, or psychoactivity, or some of the things that one might be going after when they're using cannabis as escapism or to, say, like journey in the same way that you might position–a microdose with LSD is being extremely cognitively enhancing it. So, when he takes 100 micrograms, there's no way they're going to be effective at work. I almost feel like there needs to be a little bit of a rebranding where you walk into a fitness class and it's more like a CrossFit vibe where you might have a small edible on-board to get you through an amazing workout, but not feel as though you're in Bob Marley land the whole time. You know what I'm saying?
Josiah: Yeah. I think there are a lot of cultural nuances to this issue. But at the same time, I think there needs to be a variance of activity or an availability to different types of people for where they're at on a fitness level because not everyone needs or wants to be an athlete. And exercise is something that everyone could benefit from if your body allows it. And so, I think for some people, taking even a strong dose of cannabis and going on an elliptical machine for 20 minutes, maybe more exercise than they've gotten in years, there may be something valuable in taking a really strong dose. And also, if you're in a terrific amount of chronic pain as one of the characters in my book, Janessa Leah(ph), and she started her own cannabis gym. She was taking I think like 900 or 1,000 milligrams of THC a day, but she also had this hypermobility issue where when she first started exercising, she had to do it in a pool because she was just in such a terrific pain and her body was so fragile.
So, I agree with you when it comes to the cultural aspects of it, I think we really do need to leave a lot of stoner culture behind, or at least acknowledge that it's not representative of all the people who consume cannabis, and certainly not all the people who use it for exercise. But I do think we need to keep some room open for all sorts of different approaches to exercise and cannabis use.
Ben: Yeah. Now, how about pro-sports, which I alluded to? I mean, obviously, in the book, you're talking about some of these CBD, or cannabis fitness gyms rather, and you talk about like the Zulu warriors who would consume cannabis. You said they smoked it. Sometimes they do an enema or a steam bath with cannabis to rouse their courage before battle. But then kind of drawing a parallel to that, there's some modern-day warriors, so to speak, who are using this stuff pretty regularly. And some of the statistics actually shocked me, like, how common is this in pro-sports in terms of cannabis use?
Josiah: Well, I'll preface this with saying that there have been no official surveys on this, at least in pro-sports, for the obvious reason that it's still banned and your career could be threatened by being open about it. But a lot of retired athletes are confessing to their cannabis use and saying like it's incredibly prevalent. There's this guy, Kenyon Martin from the Denver Nuggets, who said about 85% of the NBA uses cannabis in his estimation. Martellus Bennett put that around 89% for the NFL. And people like Shaun Smith from the Cowboys says he smoked two blunts before every game. David Irving says, “Every game you ever saw me in, I was medicated.” I talked to Riley Cote, who was a hockey player with the Philadelphia Flyers, and he said at least half the players in the NHL are using cannabis. And if you bring it down to just CBD, he says like around 90% of the people in the NHL are using it. And same with WWE and MMA. There's actually this jiu-jitsu league called High Rollerz where everyone shares a joint before they hit the mat. And then, I think the winner gets like a pound of cannabis or something.
Ben: But you're not like blissed, right? You're just basically using this to get into almost like a flow state?
Josiah: Yes. And also, I think a lot of it, and I emphasized this in the book, a lot of it comes down to how familiar you are with the activity before using cannabis. If you're trying something for the first time, particularly any kind of exercise you've never exercised or haven't in years, and then you use cannabis, you're not likely to go jump into a marathon. And I discovered that when trying to play soccer, I had never really played an organized game of soccer, but I've been running for a couple of years and using cannabis in that and I thought like, oh, I'll just take an edible before go playing soccer, and it was a nightmare. I didn't understand the rules. People were shouting these esoteric terms at me. I was like kicking the ball the wrong direction. It was a big nightmare.
Ben: How much cannabis did you take for that to happen during soccer?
Josiah: I think it was like 20 milligrams of THC, which was far too much.
Ben: Yeah. I was going to comment that I do think that, especially for motor skill learning, that if anyone is, I guess what I would call unconsciously uncompetent, or even consciously uncompetent, that I do get the impression, and this is based both on personal experiences some of the research I've seen that having too many of those cannabinoid receptors triggered in the body during that period of time would actually detract from your ability to be able to learn as quickly. Yet if you are unconsciously competent or even consciously competent, it can actually give you a little bit of an edge.
But what's odd for me is that the opposite seems to take place with something like music, where if I'm learning a new classical guitar–because I'm trying to do classical guitar right now and learn some classical guitar pieces. And if I take a hit on a vape pen before I go practice my classical guitar, it's amazing. I question myself less. I pick up on some of the tactics a little bit more quickly. The music flows more easily. And that's a situation which I'm unconsciously uncompetent. But cannabis is actually helping me, and that's an area where if I already do the same thing and go, I don't know, learn badminton or something like that, it'd would be a disastrous effect. So, it is interesting how it depends on the skill, particularly when it comes to music.
Josiah: I would think with music, on the one hand, you're letting part of your emotions get out of the way. I think with learning, sometimes people get really hard on themselves when something is challenging and they have a hard time seeing themselves through the difficult part, and cannabis can help remove some of that self-doubt and just get into a flow state. But also with any form of creativity, I think cannabis at certain doses is always going to be a boost. And if playing classical guitar is something you inherently enjoy and have some small amount of skill with, at least in terms of knowing the chords and knowing how to operate your hands on guitar strings, then you're going to increase your pleasure of it. And when you enjoy something, it is a lot easier to learn it.
I think Malcolm Gladwell calls that capitalistic learning. I think it was in “Outliers.” He talked about Tiger Woods and how Tiger Woods was always good at some level at golf. And when you are good at something and you enjoy it more, it's easier to learn it. There isn't just like one hard and fast rule for any aspect of using cannabis with fitness or with any kind of learning, but there's a lot of nuances from person to person and plant to plant.
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That's true. And I think that in the case of a lot of these professional sports, I think that a great deal of these statistics about use are centered around pain management strategies, recovery strategies, and sleep strategies, and may not actually incorporate a huge percentage of use during competition itself as a performance enhancement aid. Do you think that's the case?
Josiah: Yeah, absolutely. There's this guy from the Seattle Seahawks, or was with the Seahawks, Percy Harvin, and he said he got high before every game to deal with his social anxiety, which was triggered by these massive crowds, and he could just sort of like get dialed into the experience. But then for the most part, you're right, you do hear about it as a pain management, particularly as an alternative to opioids or just anti-inflammatories, which are hard on the stomach and dehydrate you. So, I think for a lot of people, it's becoming more and more popular after a big game to smoke a joint or take some edibles.
Ben: Yeah. Now, there's obviously a great deal of controversy behind cannabis use as a whole, and it's odd because it is really woven into our culture. I would like to get into how it got such a bad rap. But I mean, it goes way, way back in terms of how woven it is into just like human development and culture. And you actually have a really good section in the book where you walked through how far back has been cultivated and consumed by humans in just a part of medicine and beyond. So, how far back does this actually go?
Josiah: Really as far back as agriculture goes. One of the first crops that humans started cultivating more than I think around 10,000 BC is around the birth of the agriculture. It's been growing on the planet for around 28 million years. The oldest documentation that we have of it being used medicinally is 2700 BC. In Chinese medicine, it was believed to be a remedy for gout, malaria, constipation, and menstrual cramps. And then, you see it at least on the eastern half of the planet, the Hindus of India, the Egyptians, Zoroastrians, and then later the Greeks. Early Muslim cultures were using it.
And there was a recent archaeological dig in Israel that discovered cannabis being used in Jewish rituals around 2700 years ago. And this wasn't just non-psychoactive hemp. There was THC found in this residue. The Europeans started using it around 1621. A lot of medical texts said it would work for depression, or burns, or irritable bowel syndrome, or skin inflammation. I mean, the list goes on and on from its medical properties. And then, throughout American history, I mean, the early drafts of the Constitution were written on hemp paper. All the founding fathers grew hemp and some of them consumed it as well. Mary Todd Lincoln used it after the death of her husband, Abraham Lincoln. It was just like a common part of the American pharmacies for generations. Really up until the 20th century when a guy, Harry Anslinger, who was ahead of what would become the DEA, started using it to join up hysteria about immigrants and Blacks and getting more funding for the Federal Bureau of Narcotics after prohibition had disappeared.
Ben: That was back when it emerges the Reefer Madness type of moniker?
Josiah: Yeah, and that's where we got the term marijuana from. Before that, it was just almost exclusively called cannabis. But marijuana was a term that was used casually in Mexico around that time. So, when you're trying to gin up fear about this new drug, trying to frame it as a new drug, even though it had just been part of common household medical use, he slapped this kind of Mexican sounding term on it, and that's how we got marijuana.
Ben: So, is that term just made up, marijuana?
Josiah: It was being used. It was a slang term. It was spelled with an H at that time, marihuana. It had some precedent and use, but it wasn't all that popular. And a lot of the legislators who voted criminalized cannabis, if they had heard the term cannabis used in that legislation, they might have thought of it a little differently because it might have been something they were familiar with. It might have been something that was as innocuous as aspirin. But instead, there's this freaky exotic Mexican-sounding word, marijuana, just sounded new and dangerous, and was very effective, and ginning up a lot of fear.
Ben: Right. Kind of allowed these fearmongering politicians to prey on American's belief, whether racial or cultural or economically based and that these other people who were lazy or sinful would steal your money or corrupt your children while living on government handouts. And that was what marijuana was painted to be. And I think a big part of that was also the Nixon administration, right?
Josiah: Absolutely. I mean, Nixon is famous for coining the term War on Drugs and launching the War on Drugs. I mean, up until that time, acid was legal and marijuana was illegal, but the punishments for it became much harsher under the Nixon administration. And one of his aides, John Ehrlichman, in the '90s, in this interview, admitted that the fears about cannabis and LSD and heroin were completely fabricated in order to go after Nixon's enemies, who were basically the anti-war left and Black people. So, it was a way to have more coded language in the pursuit of dismantling a lot of these civil rights leaders or civil rights operations in a way to frame this new counterculture of hippies as people who are lazy, don't want to work, don't contribute anything to society, are going to corrupt your children. There's this really great book Dr. Carl Hart just released, “Drug Use for Grown-Ups.”
Ben: Oh, yeah, I heard about that one.
Josiah: It's just a phenomenal book, and he's written a few that are really worth reading. But he points out that most of what came out of the War on Drugs, most of the legislation, most of the hysteria was not based in science. It was, for the most part, based in racism and political maneuvering. And I think we see that to this day even in its prohibition in sports.
Ben: Yeah. I mean, it does make sense from a countercultural standpoint, basically, if you paint or associate like hippies with marijuana, or Blacks with heroin. You could criminalize both marijuana and heroin pretty heavily. You could disrupt those communities, rest their leaders, raid their homes, vilify them on the news, and create this rift that as a part of that rift includes the use of substances that from a medicinal or for some of the other, for example, exercise or performance-enhancing reasons or recovery enhancing reasons that we referred to has some benefit. You can take any of the downside of that, associate it with these lazy communities or criminalizing communities, and then basically paint the whole thing from a countercultural standpoint in a very poor light. In that case, when I run into people who grew up or were going through their formative years during that era, they really, really paint marijuana in a different light. They either consume it and consider themselves to be rebels because of doing so, or they vilify it because they still associate it with that countercultural propaganda that seemed to be heavily influenced by a lot of what went on in the '60s.
Josiah: Yeah. And it was incredibly effective as you pointed out. It got into not just an anti-drug campaign hysteria, but it got into pop culture. People just largely associate cannabis use with laziness, with a lack of ambition physically and mentally, to the point where I had to put a whole chapter in this book about the lazy stoner stereotype and how unfounded it is. So much of the marketing of this book, people call it a noisy book. It's disruptive and a lot of that comes from just battling this stereotype that we have about cannabis users and how lazy, and corrupt, and immoral they are, and a lot of that came from Nixon. And really, just a lot of conservative movements in the 20th century that just weren't really all that attached to reality and certainly are historically unprecedented because as we've been pointing out, it's been used by cultures around the world for all sorts of things, including physical activity like those Zulu warriors.
Ben: Yeah. Well, Reagan really had it in for weed, too, didn't he?
Josiah: Absolutely. I mean, he had it in for poor people in general by emphasizing in a way that the conservative movement never could before, certainly, Barry Goldwater never could before, and even Nixon never could before. The idea that poor people are lazy and that America has equal opportunity for all people, and so that anyone who isn't a millionaire is not a millionaire by their own fault because we all start at the same starting line and we all have the same abilities. And so, he really affectively tied in drug use to this narrative, drug use and welfare recipients. And that's when you started seeing more of an emphasis on drug testing welfare recipients. More of this image of the stoner or the junkie as someone living on the street and can't get their life together and have no moral backbone. He implemented a lot of legislation that bolstered the War on Drugs and certainly increased our prison population. But I think the thing he was most effective at is just getting those things linked in people's minds, poverty, welfare, and drug use. And so, it becomes this neat little package of like, well, that's why these people are poor because they use drugs. And anyone who uses drugs is inherently lazy.
Ben: Yeah. And not even differentiating stuff like marijuana from hard drugs like crack or heroin. I think the Just Say No campaign that I think Nancy Reagan was championing during that time was lumping all of these drugs into the same category, right?
Josiah: Yeah. And anyone who grew up in that time–I mean, I was born in '82, so the Reagan era was not really something I was cognizant for, but certainly alive in the '90s and went through the DARE program. And a lot of those programs were extensions of Nancy Reagan's Just Say No campaigns. They all had this catchall term of drugs. Didn't really talk about the overlap between legal drugs and illegal drugs that heroin and opioids were largely the same or amphetamines like I was put on as a child. Adderall is really not all that different from methamphetamine. It just used the term illegal drugs, but that was what was implied is just illegal drugs. They're all the same, they all do the same, and they all lead to the same place, which is just financial ruin. You're going to ruin your family. You're going to ruin your life. You're never going to have a hope of any sort of achievement in life if you use drugs.
A lot of people like myself came of age and tried marijuana, and meeting people who are regularly using marijuana and were high functioning, and didn't really seem to fit the stereotype that we've been served. We started looking around and thinking, well, what else are they lying to us about? And a lot of these campaigns, a lot of these people lost all credibility when you started educating yourself about the drugs and about their effects, and just saw that these things don't seem to add up. There were things that we could have used information about hard drugs like heroin or taking too much of a psychedelic mushrooms or acid. We could have used some sort of nuanced information about that and maybe had trusted the sources a little bit more. But instead, it was just sort of the blanket term “drugs.” And actually, about marijuana and Reagan, I think one of his first speeches that he gave in his campaign in 1980, he said that “marijuana was the most dangerous drug in America.”
Josiah: I mean, just let that [00:46:00] _____. I mean, maybe it was easy.
Ben: I mean, that's also crazy when you look at Big Tobacco, and alcohol, and Pharma, and all these companies selling what we deem is like socially acceptable intoxicants. They're bankrolling at the same time with a huge number of side effects and even deaths that go way above and beyond what we would get from marijuana. But even though a lot of those private companies, if that's what you want to call them, they're pretty highly incentivized to vilify marijuana as well, right?
Josiah: Absolutely. I mean, I saw an interview with Willie Nelson a few years ago where he talked about quitting smoking, and he said the thing that helped him quit smoking was cannabis. And whenever he had a craving for tobacco, he would use some cannabis instead and he's been off cigarettes for, I don't know, 30, 40 years. And it's the same when you look at Big Pharma. We're all pretty familiar with the opioid crisis in America and how things have changed in terms of our treatment and pain. But at the end of the day, it's a multibillion-dollar industry, so a lot of people are incentivized to demonize any of their competition.
Endless studies are showing us where medical or recreational cannabis is available. Opioid use plummets and a lot of people are finding that they can get off of opioids by using cannabis, both for pain management and just if you have any kind of addiction to opioids. It's part of the harm reduction movement that we've seen in the last few decades. So, if you're looking at this from the standpoint of business, you want to vilify the competition. But we have a lot of regulations against–if Coke wanted to say that Pepsi gave you violent diarrhea, they could be sued for that. Pepsi could say like, “There's no scientific basis for that. Why are you allowed to say that?” But that's not the case with illegal drugs. So, for generations, we've had opioid manufacturers bankroll a lot of these anti-marijuana campaigns and make all sorts of unsubstantiated claims about the dangers of marijuana, and they've really never been held to account for that. There's no legal maneuvering that a marijuana dealer could sue Big Pharma for making unsubstantiated claims about their products because it's illegal. And I think that's starting to change now, but the way it's changing is the opioid manufacturers are getting into the business, ultimately. They're buying patents that are manufacturing synthetic cannabinoids, and that just underscores incentive.
Ben: So, it's just nuts that the Partnership for Drug-Free America is funded by grants from folks like Johnson & Johnson who are highly incentivized to ensure that a lot of these, what I would consider to be like alternative health remedies that would fall under the…or cannabis would fall under that umbrella are vilified or something that are not considered to be approved or done by weird people. And there's just a huge amount of money pouring into that behind the scenes that I think so many people are unaware of and it's sad. But I think that gives a pretty good history I think for a lot of people of why they might have a negative association with cannabis. It's just been woven into our culture since it's waning as an ancestral medicine, and also something that can be used for some of the reasons that we just described, like enhancing a musical experience or allowing one to enter in a flow state during exercise, or feel less discomfort during a workout session. It's crazy how much politics there is behind this.
I really want to have time to get into this, and so I think we should get into it right now because some people might be wondering, well, how? How do you actually use something like this responsibly without shooting yourself in the foot during a workout or during a training session? So, I want to rapid fire a few questions to you if I could about how to actually use cannabis to enhance exercise, which is really your book is largely about.
So first of all, we've thrown around some dosages. Like I mentioned, I like to use 5 milligrams for like a good weight training workout in the gym. You mentioned 20 during some of your runs. Obviously, we talked about like 100 before that guy who swam. But what would you say based on what you've seen as far as dosages–and if you know anything about it, like combining it with something like CBD, for example, like THC, CBD ratios, which I know is that's something that's pretty popular, like a two to one CBD to THC or five to one CBD to THC. That's something I talked about when I interviewed Tim Moxey awhile back on my show. What's a dosage range that seems to work pretty well for exercise? And not to muddy the waters too much, but would that change if you're like long training session endurance athlete versus like a quick in and out CrossFit type of workout or power athlete?
Josiah: Yeah. I mean, there's a lot to unpack there, but I will assume that a majority of your audience are people who exercise semi-regularly and have some experience with that. I mean, I would give very different advice to someone who hadn't exercised in years in terms of their application of THC. But then it's also the same thing if you've never used THC or haven't in a very long time. There's a common phrase–actually, I think it was the state of Colorado who used this in their marketing, “Start Low and Go Slow with Cannabis.” So, find the lowest dose THC product that you can find and toy around with that a little bit outside of exercise, and then start using it in small doses. For me, I like a one-to-one CBD to THC ratio. I find that too much CBD makes me a little bit sleepy, which makes it great if you just had a huge workout and you want to lay down and recover, it will reduce inflammation in your body. It'll put you into a restful state, and that's fantastic. And in that case, you might want to take a large dose of CBD.
I know a lot of ultra-marathon runners were big on CBD. For something like that for an endurance athlete, I think you'd want to be somewhat modest with the THC, and you've got plenty of room over the five, six, seven, eight hours that you're going to be running to space it out. So, maybe start with 5 milligrams of THC and take another dose in an hour. But with something like if you're going to be sprinting, I don't know, lifting weights, or something that you're just doing like a 30-minute workout, that's going to be incredibly intense. Depending on your psychological state, I would think THC could be very effective and getting into a flow state.
I've talked to bodybuilders or wrestlers that really enjoy getting zoned in with THC on each curl of the bicep. Everything else just disappears and they're locked in on it. And also, for anyone who experiences nausea in their workout, I've also heard this from bodybuilders, is you can get nauseous if you're going too hard. It's not uncommon that they throw up or they have to eat a tremendous amount of food to keep their body repaired, keep those muscles repaired. And so, a lot of THC could stimulate your appetite.
Ben: That's also why it's commonly used for like cancer cachexia patients. They're just going to eat?
Josiah: Yeah. And some bodybuilders, they have to eat, what, like six meals a day. And some of them are getting up in the middle of the night and have to eat. I mean, I don't know about you, but I'm just not hungry in the morning. And if I had to eat that much, I would definitely want some THC. But also, the thing about THC, and this is just my personal experience, is it is anxiety-inducing, and CBD can help modulate that anxiety if you are someone who gets anxious like I do. But also for me personally, I like a little bit of anxiety on a run. I like a little bit of fear crawling up my spine if I'm going to go run through the park at night. It fuels me in a way. And that's the same thing with my writing as well. I consume a lot of caffeine and that'll get me a little jittery, but I can use that as a fuel. But if you have to run for hours and hours, you don't want that blast of anxiety that takes you to that adrenalized level because you just can't sustain that for hours and hours.
Josiah: And in the book, I do get into the various terpenes that have divergent effects. If you educate yourself on that and you know what you're looking for, you can go to a dispensary and ask for something that has myrcene, or linalool, or alpha-pinene. It's something that I leave to a lot of the neurologists and botanists in the book to explain because it's somewhat complicated. And a lot of the industry just isn't really there in terms of education. A lot of the edibles that you take, the only information you're going to get about cannabinoids is going to be THC or CBD. In some cases, they'll know something about CBN, which is something I take for sleep. That's very effective. There is a lot of variation in terms of what type of workout you're doing and what type of cannabis product you want to consume. And it varies from person to person.
Ben: Yeah, it does. CBN's amazing for sleep, by the way. And I believe I read, I think this was in your book, that for someone using it for a multi-hour training session like a long run, doing something like 5 milligrams but taking it so that it's hitting you as you're already running, like taking it 10 to 20 minutes before you head out in your run so that by the time you're putting your shoes on to start your run–because sometimes it can almost relax you a little bit unless you're already in the exercise session. So, you're taking like an hour before you head out. You might actually be slightly demotivated, where if it's hitting you like Azure in the session, it's a little better. So, for something like a long three-hour run, you could take 5 milligrams 10 or 20 minutes prior, and then take something along the lines of–I think this came from your book, like dosing with another 5 milligrams per hour along with perhaps, like you mentioned, a little bit of CBD, like 5 milligrams of THC, 5 to 10 milligrams of CBD for any inflammation, or stomach cramping, or anything like that you might experience during a run, and use that for something like a multi-hour training session?
Josiah: Yeah. That was something that anecdotally came up a lot, and it has been my experience as well that if I take the edible long before I'm ready to go and it kicks in, and I'm still laying on the couch, I'm going to want to keep laying on the couch. So, I usually take my edible as I'm getting dressed for a run, and I'll usually do a little warmup routine before that. And then, you get your shoes, and you get your water bottle, and all the little stuff that you've got to figure out before you head out the door so that when I'm out running, it kicks in maybe like 10 minutes into the run. And by that time, my heart is already beating, my muscles are warmed up, and I'm just sort of in that state. So, I think a lot of the time, cannabis can just enhance whatever state you're in. And so, if you are in a sedentary state, it can push you a little further in that direction. But if you're already moving along, then it can enhance that as well.
Ben: Yeah. And for anybody who uses this during a run, it gets a little bit of cottonmouth, which can sometimes be a side effect. And it's funny because Dean Karnazes, who wrote that other book that I talked about, “A Runner's High,” he introduced me to a mastic gum, which is like a Greek chewing gum that he used when he ran the Spartan marathon in Greece because it would keep saliva produced in his mouth, and also satiate his appetite. He would chew on that for hours and hours sometimes without drinking or eating. And I've actually found that that particular gum, which is also wonderful for things like H. pylori and gut issues, it really helps to keep the mouth salivated if you do get some kind of like a cottonmouth issue from using cannabis for workout.
So, that's a trick for folks. It's spelled M-A-S-T-I-K or M-A-S-T-I-C. You can get it as a capsule, but you'd want to look for like on Amazon. And I'll put a link in the shownotes, by the way, for everybody listening in. The shownotes are at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/runnershigh. That's BenGreenfieldFitness.com/runnershigh. I'll hunt down some of that mastic gum and link to it in the shownotes. And then, I would assume based on the potential for lung irritation and stuff like that that you are preferring inedible to something like vaporizing or smoking, Josiah?
Josiah: For me personally, yeah, I do find that edibles have much more of a body-high effect, and smoking can lead to a little bit more of that cerebral pinch that is a little bit more of a heady high. A lot of people do talk about smoking cannabis as a bronchial dilator. And there are studies that reveal that to be the case. The joy of running under the influence of cannabis is really about a communing between the mind and the body, and really enjoying tapping into all of the different activity of the body and having an awareness of the body, and a pleasure of what it can do on a run. For me personally, I don't get that much out of smoking. I do smoke cannabis fairly regularly, but not before a run. Vaporizers, at least for me personally, tend to give me a bit of a sore throat. So, I stay away from them. And same thing with dabs, really any kind of concentrates, give me a sore throat. So, for me, 10 to 20 milligrams of THC, maybe a little bit of CBD thrown in there is the perfect recipe for that body high.
Ben: Okay, got it. Now, a couple of other things that I think is interesting. One is altitude. I forget, but I think you had mentioned altitude in the book. Is there any evidence that it would harm or help altitude performance?
Josiah: I am not aware of any research on that topic. I know that nausea is a big part of altitude sickness and THC is notorious for calming nausea and stimulating appetite. But disorientation is also part of altitude sickness. So, if you are someone who has a sensitivity to THC and gets a little heady whenever they consume that, it could, I would think, exacerbate the problems of running at altitude or any kind of exercise at altitude.
Ben: Yeah. I guess maybe altitude sickness, if you're getting that at night when you go into a place to train, you could use it in the evening for recovery and for sleep, for example, though.
Josiah: Absolutely, but it has to be noted that–I live in Colorado and have spent a lot of time with trail runners over the last couple of years and all of those statistics we talked about with the NBA, or NFL, or MMA, it's at least that popular with trail running. I mean, I don't think they regularly get altitude sickness since most of them live at elevation, so it's not really going to be all that jarring for them. But I know it's incredibly popular to consume cannabis and go run trails or do mountain biking on trails. So, there wouldn't be, at least anecdotally from my perspective, a lot of evidence that it's harmful in any way for working out at altitude, and a lot of anecdotal evidence that's quite joyful, if not helpful, to people's performance.
Ben: Yeah. And then, of course, no matter how you're using it, like we talked about a little bit earlier, music can certainly enhance the effects. And I should mention to people that Josiah actually has hundreds of workout playlists he's assembled on Spotify for combining cannabis and exercise centered in that flow state or in that zone state, especially for the longer workouts. Can people just search for your name or Josiah Hesse on Spotify and find those?
Josiah: I believe so. I'll note that for me, a lot of those playlists are personal, and that they have this personal sentimentality for me about a time in my life or something about the lyrics that will give me a sort of emotional charge when I'm running. A lot of the runners I speak with don't like listening to music when they're running trails. They really want to be absorbed in the nature, the sound of their feet. A very popular book called “ChiRunning,” I think it is, where it is what it sounds like, you're just very, very focused on the act of running and you're very present. But for me, maybe it's because I wasn't an athlete for my teens and 20s, but I was an arts reporter and I was a music freak, and still am to this day. Everything I do has a soundtrack to it pretty much throughout the day.
I really enjoy running to music and not just as a kind of seasoning of the experience, but like an integral component to the experience because I am running to the music. That's something I had to temper when training when I really need to just run and pay attention to my heart rate and my pace, all of these different numbers that go into getting stronger and faster. I have mixed feelings about it. I'm very happy right now to not be trading for a race and I can just go out and run for fun. But when you're running to music, you at least have to, if you're going to have any sort of structure to it, you need to think about the tempo of the music that you're running to. I have music for sprinting. I have music for long runs, or short runs, or for splits. For me, there really is some effort put into getting the tempo matched with the type of run that I'm going to have. But sometimes I'm just in a really bad mood and I want to go run to Metallica or some Norwegian death metal and not care at all about what my heart rate's doing or what my pace is. I just want to sprint around the park to some very loud music and feel that emotional charge from it.
Ben: Yeah, that makes sense. And I think that a lot of people listening in might be screaming through our headphones right now that this is all good and well, but it's banned in a lot of sports. Everybody out there is doing anything from triathlon to cycling, to swimming, to UFC, or anything else. They're actually not supposed to use this stuff because it is considered to be an illegal performance-enhancing aid. Do you think cannabis actually is a performance-enhancing drug in that respect?
Josiah: There's a lot of nuances to unpack with that term, performance-enhancing drug, because there are so many substances that athletes use that are maybe not integral to their performance but aid it in many ways. This woman I spoke with for the book, Joanna Zeiger, she was an Ironman world champion and she has a book about mental performance or mental aspects of performance. And she talks about all of these different substances that people are using like anti-anxiety medication or anti-depression medication that if you didn't have that, it would have a huge impact on your performance.
And there was also a sports medicine educator I spoke with, Jeff Conine, talked about cannabis as something that's going to bring the body back to balance, but not push it to an unnatural state, unlike steroids or blood doping will take you beyond what your natural abilities are. He compares it to like, if I'm going to put ice on an injury, or an athlete, I'm not bringing their leg to some superhuman level of performance, I'm bringing it back to balance. And he says cannabis isn't going to take you beyond what you're naturally able to do. But when it comes to regulating competition and sports, I'm not a sports journalist, so there's a lot that I don't intuitively understand about that.
It's sort of similar to, I don't know, trans athletes. I have a lot of strong opinions about trans rights, but when it comes to competition, I leave that to the people who have great concern about competition and fairness in sports. But I do believe that a lot of the bands around cannabis and sports are not based on science. They're not based on how harmful it is, how much it's going to help you or harm you as an athlete, but I think a lot of it comes back to those cultural stereotypes we have about cannabis. And the World Anti-Doping Agency has said as much in a lot of their statements about the ban on cannabis that it's against the spirit of the sport, which is a very nebulous term, and that it sets a bad example for young people who look up to athletes as role models. And so, it's something that I feel is antiquated on a cultural level, and it's probably the source of the ban. But when it comes to whether or not it's going to make you a superhuman athlete, I don't think the science shows that it will. I'm not really a sports regulator.
Ben: Yeah. I mean, for me as a guy in nutritionist background, and biochemistry, and microbiology, studied some of this stuff in terms of pharmacology in college, I mean, there's a lot of evidence like steroids, for example, increased size and muscle, increased power, take you beyond your natural limits. That's a clear performance enhancer. And your body is not making like andro on its own when you go for a long run where it is making its own cannabinoids that some of the body's already making. It returns you to this state of balance after being depleted and helps with recovery the same ways like an ice bath or something like that. It's safer than coffee in terms of toxicity. You can die from taking 150th of a bag of coffee or caffeine powder rather that you could buy off Amazon today.
I think that when you look at the recovery effects of it, and also the reasoning behind what is saying that they ban it, like they say it causes muscle relaxation and reduced anxiety, and reduced pain during recovery, and might increase focus and risk-taking behaviors, allowing athletes to forget falls or previous trauma in sports and push themselves past that in competition. It's a host of reasons that to me just seem kind of silly. I don't know if it's influenced by the whole Reefer Madness thing that we talked about earlier. But ultimately, I guess as with anything, it could be overdone, but I just don't see pro-athletes getting high, getting completely irresponsible, and lazy, and making mistakes that put others at harm. I suppose, if anything, I'd say maybe WADA could put like a dosage ceiling, like a dosage limit on it like they did with caffeine at some time. And that seems to be a little bit more of a prudent approach than just like banning outright.
Josiah: And we are seeing a lot of those reforms take place not only in WADA, but in the NBA, the NFL, the MLB. WADA did change their, I don't remember the exact numbers, but they did change the level of testing for cannabis that's allowed in your system during competition, which permitted athletes to use it during training but not in competition. There's still feeling that in competition, it's going to give you an unfair competitive advantage. And that is a controversial topic in ultramarathon running that Avery Collins has run into a handful of times because he's one of the few ultramarathon runners that's very public about his cannabis use.
The regulations have changed even since I've finished writing the book in the NBA and the NFL. There were a lot of people who are consuming cannabis in the off seasons when everything was shut down during the coronavirus pandemic, and now people are coming back and nobody really knows what the testing should be. And since then, so many states have legalized. A lot of states where these teams live have legal cannabis. And so, it's just not as easy as it was in the Just Say No Reagan era to say it's illegal, it's banned, it's harmful, and that's the end of the conversation.
Ben: You unpack it pretty well in your book, the whole argument behind whether or not it should be a performance-enhancing drug, or labeled, or band as such. But I think when used responsibly with the right kind of testing in the right amount, and especially when we see what it does for keeping a lot of folks in the NFL or the NBA from using a lot of these other opioids and more harmful constituents, I mean, I think that it would do more good than harm, especially from a recovery, from a sleep, from an injury, from an anti-inflammatory standpoint to keep it legal.
I mean, maybe, say, you couldn't use it during the actual sport itself–and even then, I'm kind of iffy about that, but either way, I mean, there's so much you unpack in the book that we didn't get into. So, I think people really should read this. They can check it out at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/runnershigh.
I guess I should clarify because I always get these kind of questions so I might as well just address this right now because people ask me, “Well, Ben, you talk about cannabis like this. How much do you actually use this? Are you a stoner? Is this a crutch for you?” For me, I would say that I'll have one hard work out a week now where I'll take about 5 milligrams of THC, typically the inedible, and usually, I'll use something like those Moxey's Mints, for example. They've got one called Peppermint. That's like an energizing edible and they're made in the state of Washington, so those are easy for me to get. I'll pop one of those before a hard workout.
I have one of these vape pens. They're kind of dangerous. They're like the high THC variant that folks produced now, but I will take a hit on that vape pen, typically about one or two nights of the week when I'd rather have that than, say, like a glass of wine to relax at the end of the day, or I'll take a hit on that before I get a massage, or take an edible before I get a massage. That's really about the extent of my cannabis use. And so, I think there's a way to use it responsibly. There's also, in the same way, I could be hitting that vape pen every single night and just like in couch lock, not handy for my family, not able to help my wife make dinner because I'm forgetful in the kitchen. I could be doing something like that every night and be using it irresponsibly.
But I feel like as with anything, coffee, green tea, ibuprofen, any of those things floating around out there, you need to identify the risks and the benefits and use them responsibly. And I think you even say somewhere in the book, you quote that verse from the Bible, I think in Genesis, that basically God said, “Behold, I've given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of the earth, and every tree to you, it shall be for meat.” And basically, this idea that God made all things good, but we humans do a good job bastardizing it, and abusing it, and politicizing it, and as with anything, developing addictions or attachments to it.
My take is that when used responsibly, not only can it be used to enhance musical experiences, or rest, or relax, or sex, or sleep, or anything like that, but can also be used as a performance-enhancing aid. Not in the sense that it's such a performance-enhancing aid that I think it should be banned, but it can definitely help out quite a bit with running, with weight training workouts. And I think that this book is a really good guide in terms of how to do that responsibly. So, it's called “Runner's High.” And I'm going to link to that at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/runnershigh. The author is Josiah Hesse, H-E-S-S-E. And if you guys have comments after listening to all this and your own stuff to add in, feel free to toss it in there and either Josiah or I will jump in reply.
And Josiah, I want to thank you for coming on the show today. We covered a lot and in the books' great.
Josiah: Well, thanks so much for having me. It was a lot of fun talking to you.
Ben: Yeah, word. And again, you will probably get some comments from folks, and so I'll keep you posted in terms of the discussion that ensues in the comments section over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/runnershigh because that's one of the cool things for all you listening in. There's a discussion you're able to go over to that website and leave your comments as well. So, anyways, Josiah, I'll let you go. You probably got like 80 miles to run today, so I'll let you go. Pop your edible and strap your running shoes on.
Josiah: Thanks so much. It will actually be headache from this to go record the audio, but for runner's eyes, it'd be pretty sedentary. But after that, maybe I'll go for a quick run.
Ben: Alright, man, alright. Well, folks, I'm Ben Greenfield along with Josiah Hesse signing out from BenGreenfieldFitness.com/runnershigh. Have an amazing week.
Well, thanks for listening to today's show. You can grab all the shownotes, the resources, pretty much everything that I mentioned over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com, along with plenty of other goodies from me, including the highly helpful “Ben Recommends” page, which is a list of pretty much everything that I've ever recommended for hormone, sleep, digestion, fat loss, performance, and plenty more. Please, also, know that all the links, all the promo codes, that I mentioned during this and every episode, helped to make this podcast happen and to generate income that enables me to keep bringing you this content every single week. When you listen in, be sure to use the links in the shownotes, use the promo codes that I generate, because that helps to float this thing and keep it coming to you each and every week.
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
- 420 Games is an unorganized exhibition-style event
- Met Avery Collins at the games, ultra-marathoner
- This event was different from other cannabis-related events in Colorado
- Jim McAlpine swam from San Francisco to Alcatraz after eating a 100 mg THC edible
- Huge variance in dosage and tolerance of cannabis from one individual to another
- CYP enzyme in the liver affects how the body responds to THC
-Josiah's history with cannabis prior to the 420 games…12:20
- Grew up in a conservative, church-going family in N. Iowa
- Lots of closeted cannabis users in circles such as those
- Was a very anxious child, had difficulty focusing; cannabis helped with this
- Discovered the joy of exercising after taking edibles (8 years ago)
- Takes an edible and goes for a run most days
- Supplements are often associated with a positive habit
- Runner’s High: Marijuana’s Surprising Effects On Athletic Performance (& Whether Weed Really Can Make You Better At Sports), with Tim Moxey.
- Awareness by Anthony De Mello
- Music and cannabis during a workout elevates the efficacy of the workout
-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
- Cannabis use dates to the birth of agriculture (around 10,000 B.C.)
- Used in Chinese medicine 2700 BC
- Recent archaeological dig in Israel reveals cannabis use in Jewish rituals
- Europeans started using around 1621 AD
- Early drafts of the Constitution was written on hemp paper
- Became stigmatized in America after Prohibition ended
- Became known as “marijuana” which makes it sound more dangerous than it is
- “War on Drugs” was coined and enforced by the Nixon administration
- Nixon aide in the 90s admitted the fears about cannabis were fabricated to go after political enemies
- Drug Use for Grownups by Carl D. Hart
- Stigma on cannabis and other drugs was motivated by politics, not science
- Drug use became associated with poor and lazy—”you're not rich because you're lazy”
- War on Drugs lumped all drugs into one giant category
- “Marijuana is the most dangerous drug in America,” said Ronald Reagan during a campaign speech in 1980
- Big business supports the suppression of cannabis to increase profits
- Numerous studies show that when cannabis is present, opioid use plummets
-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…
Resources from this episode:
– Josiah Hesse:
- Runner's High By Josiah Hesse
- The Guardian
- Runner’s High: Marijuana’s Surprising Effects On Athletic Performance (& Whether Weed Really Can Make You Better At Sports), with Tim Moxey.
- How to Change Your Mind By Michael Pollan
- Born to Run By Christopher McDougall
- Awareness By Anthony De Mello
- Outliers By Malcolm Gladwell
- Drug Use for Grownups By Carl D. Hart
- A Runner's High By Dean Karnazes
- ChiRunning By Danny Dreyer
- Champion Mindset By Joanna Zeiger
– Other Resources:
- Moxey's Mints
- Mastic Gum
- KION Coffee
- Avery Collins
- Jim McAlpine
- Jerry Dunn
- Malcolm Gladwell
- Mary Jane Fonda
- Jiujitsu League High Rollerz
- History Of Cannabis Use
- Boston Marathon
- Relationship Between Marijuana And Opioids
- Nixon Adviser Admits War On Drugs Was Designed To Criminalize Black People
- Ben will be speaking at the Ancestral Health Symposium in L.A. on August 12-14, 2021
- Las Vegas Keto Expo (October 15-16, 2021). Ben will be speaking at the Las Vegas Keto Expo along with 13 other keto experts. The first 300 guests to register here will get a free drink chip for the poolside party and a free t-shirt.
- Keep up on Ben's LIVE appearances by following bengreenfieldfitness.com/calendar
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