Earlier this month USA Track and Field athlete Sha’Carri Richardson, of Clermont, Fla., was given a one-month suspension from the Olympics after she tested positive for THC. The suspension was set to end before the women’s relay event in Tokyo, but Track and Field did not list the star on the relay roster it released last week. Outcry from fans has, once again, stoked the fires of debate around the topic of listing cannabis as a banned substance for athletes by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).
Richardson was set to compete in the Tokyo Olympics before anti-doping agents found THC in her system. Cannabis is banned under USADA policy, because the agency says it could potentially endanger athletes due to “increased risk taking, slower reaction times and poor executive function or decision making” and because using cannabis “is not consistent with the athlete as a role model for young people around the world.” Strikingly, the agency also notes that, “Cannabis can be performance enhancing for some athletes and sports disciplines.”
“Richardson’s competitive results obtained on June 19, 2021, including her Olympic qualifying results at the Team Trials, have been disqualified, and she forfeits any medals, points, and prizes,” said the USADA in a statement.
“The rules are clear, but this is heartbreaking on many levels,” said USADA CEO Travis T. Tygart. “Hopefully, her acceptance of responsibility and apology will be an important example to us all that we can successfully overcome our regrettable decisions, despite the costly consequences of this one to her.”
Richardson admitted that she’d used cannabis legally in Oregon after learning about the death of her mother. She apologized and accepted the agency’s decision, but advocates and fans did not.
In a statement to NBC News, the Drug Policy Alliance spoke against the ban. “Drug testing is yet another tool of the drug war, and it’s a failure,” said Executive Director Kassandra Frederique. “Sha’Carri’s suspension serves as a cautionary tale and a reminder of how insidious the drug war is in our everyday lives, far beyond the carceral state. Drug testing does nothing to show current impairment. The USADA must undo this archaic, inhumane and unscientific policy.”
“Sha’Carri Richardson, like millions of her fellow Americans, turned to cannabis’ therapeutic benefits to help her cope with the tragic loss of her mother,” said NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri. “To use this as a rationale for denying this athlete, who is otherwise competing at the top of her sport, the ability to represent the United States at the Tokyo Olympics should be an unacceptable outcome in this situation. Let Richardson race.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked to comment on whether President Joe Biden supported the decision or wanted to see the runner represent the U.S. “Richardson is an inspiring young woman who has gone through a lot personally—and she also happens to be one of the fastest women in the world,” said Psaki. But she noted that the decision was made by USADA, and it was not the president’s place to comment on its anti-doping policy.
When a reporter asked President Biden directly how he felt about the ban, he responded, “The rules are the rules and everybody knows what the rules were going in. Whether they should remain the rules is a different issue, but the rules are the rules.
“I was really proud of the way she responded,” he added.
Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Jamie Raskin (D-MD) sent a letter to the USADA criticizing the decision, saying it was based on the “antiquated prohibition on the use of cannabis.”
“We urge you to reconsider the policies that led to this and other suspensions for recreational marijuana use, and to reconsider Ms. Richardson’s suspension,” wrote the representatives. “Please strike a blow for civil liberties and civil rights by reversing this course you are on.”
NM Bank Welcomes Pot Businesses
Southwest Capital Bank told reporters that it has been working with New Mexico cannabis businesses for years and plans to continue doing so.
According to KOB, the bank has worked with as many as 120 clients involved in the medical cannabis industry, and it expects to at least double that number now that the state has legalized recreational cannabis for adults.
Federal law currently prohibits financial institutions from knowingly doing business with anyone involved in illegal activities. Since cannabis is still federally banned, this puts banks and credit unions in an awkward position as cannabis clients are technically operating an illegal business, despite what state laws may be in place. Luckily, since the Obama adminstration, federal prosecutors have been instructed not to interfere with cannabis business in states where it’s legal.
But while banking institutions are arguably protected by policy, many are afraid to do business with cannabis companies based purely on the perceived risk level associated with marijuana.
Southwest Capital Bank President and Chief Operating Officer Lonnie Talbert told reporters that his bank isn’t afraid to open its doors to pot companies. “Having a banking partner who is willing to take their deposits and willing to offer them the services that all legitimate businesses should have access to is incredibly important,” he said.
Governor Speaks at Cannabis Conference
At a cannabis conference held near the end of June, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham happily encouraged New Mexicans to take part in the burgeoning recreational cannabis market. “I want you to knock the socks off of this industry,” she said at the New Mexico Cannabis Legalization Conference, held at the Albuquerque Convention Center. The governor told attendees that she believes New Mexicans will be able to produce better marijuana than Colorado and said, “It’s not green and red anymore; it’s green and green.”
The two-day conference drew experts, activists, established cannabis businesses and entrepreneurs looking to enter the new industry. Participants took part in workshops, discussions and presentations on how the cannabis industry in New Mexico might look over the next few years.