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Statement Regarding Sha’Carri Richardson and the USATF’s Actions

Let her medicate. And let her run.

Sha’Carri Richardson is one of the fastest women on the planet. In dominating the 100-meter sprint at the U.S. Track and Field Olympic Trials last month, she pronounced to the world, “I’m that girl.”

What we did not know at the time was that Richardson was also reeling from the recent death of her biological mother. In a difficult moment for Sha’Carri, she turned to cannabis to help her cope with her mother’s loss, hoping to still have a shot at pursuing her dream of competing at the Olympics.

But now that dream has been ripped away from her.

The history of cannabis use in the United States is one of stigmatization and systemic racism. Prior to the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which was championed by a small racist and xenophobic group of white men, cannabis had been available to all Americans and utilized frequently to help treat a variety of conditions, including mental health ailments. The Marijuana Tax Act enacted Federal restrictions on cannabis use and sales for the first time, and in 1942, cannabis was removed from the U.S. Pharmacopoeia. In the decades following, dog-whistle references to cannabis were frequently used by politicians as a stand-in for explicitly racist statements.

And most recently, the so-called War on Drugs has systemically targeted marginalized communities throughout the country, despite the fact that rates of drug usage among white communities and communities of color are similar. Multiple reports from the ACLU reviewing data from 2001 to 2018 have shown that, while rates of cannabis usage were roughly equal between white people and black people, black people were more than 3.5 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis than white people.

This history of stigmatization and unequal enforcement has also contributed to the inclusion of cannabis as a prohibited substance by the World Anti-Doping Agency, WADA.

There is no reason that cannabis should remain a banned substance by WADA. This is particularly apparent when considering that WADA removed alcohol, a drug most adults consume freely and which is responsible for 50,000 deaths annually, from the prohibited substances list back in 2018. Despite its risks and lack of benefits, alcohol is accepted culturally as a way to deal with grief. Had Sha’Carri gone out to a bar and gotten drunk to cope with her mother’s passing, she would still be able to participate in the 100-meter dash at the Olympics.

As a physician led, science-backed cannabis company, we are dedicated to finding alternative therapies for people suffering from chronic pain and mental health issues outside of traditional single-agent pharmaceuticals. Mainstream pharma options like opioids, benzodiazapines and stimulant medications kill hundreds of people daily and increase the risk of suicidality, especially among younger users.

At Goodness Growth, we are committed to not only righting the wrongs caused by the so-called War on Drugs, but to educating organizations like WADA on cannabis and its potential health benefits through implementation of high-quality clinical research by documenting validated patient-reported outcomes.

The time for serious cannabis policy reform is now. What happened to Sha’Carri is a direct result of policy that targets black and brown communities in the United States and has also denied Americans a potential treatment for multiple conditions and symptoms, grief included. The prohibition of cannabis has never once been based on research, science or medicine. It has always been based on something far more nefarious.

Substances are deemed prohibited by WADA if they meet two of the following three criteria: 1) It enhances, or could potentially enhance, an athlete’s performance; 2) It could pose a health risk for athletes; and 3) It “violates the spirit of the sport.” While the third criterion is especially subjective, WADA is not required to disclose which of the three criteria are used to ban a substance – further adding to the unnecessary veil of secrecy surrounding these decisions.

A 2011 publication titled “Cannabis in Sport” and co-authored by several representatives of WADA wrote that cannabis use “is not consistent with the athlete as a role model for young people around the world,” which we believe was a targeted microaggression, negating the experience of millions of Americans participating in state-legal programs. Additional research has shown that cannabis is not a performance-enhancing substance, further demonstrating that it does not meet two out of WADA’s three criteria for prohibition.

We stand behind Sha’Carri Richardson, and we do not condone the actions of USATF which resulted in the voiding of her dominant win at the Olympic Trials due to cannabis consumption. She is being punished for using cannabis for mental health support – a human right – while present in Oregon, a state where the adult use of cannabis is legal. Goodness Growth adds our voice to the many that say, “Let Sha’Carri medicate, and let Sha’Carri run.”

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