Article by Eleanor Cummins, Inverse
Every summer, pot-loving athletes head to marijuana hotspots like Denver, Colorado to get high and exercise.
They’re participants in The Four-Twenty Games, a roving Olympic-ish event complete with a 4.20 mile race, kickball tournament, and, according to the event website, social events that “break down the stereotypes that have been built up during the era of cannabis prohibition.”
The events are part of a growing trend of making marijuana a regular part of an active lifestyle. For all the excitement they generate, Brook Henry, a cannabis researcher at the University of California, San Diego, tells Inverse these events are lacking one crucial thing: scientific evidence.
What We Don’t Know
Anecdotally, a lot of people love the experience of exercising while high on marijuana — and on plenty of other drugs, too. Case in point: There are dozens of Reddit threads dedicated to discussing the best drug-slash-workout combo. But actual research on the intersection of marijuana and physical exercise is scant.
That’s unfortunate because marijuana is widely used and incredibly complicated. Unlike other drugs, marijuana isn’t easily categorized as a depressant, stimulant, or hallucinogen. Rather, it seems to flit between categories, with users all responding drastically differently to the drug, thanks in part to an “entourage effect,” where dozens of cannabinoids like THC and CBD and pungent oils called terpenes work together to give you that special feeling.
In the lab, researchers can isolate each of these chemicals and test their individual effects, but it’s not exactly true to life, where the drugs are working in tandem. We know, for example, how CBD responds to a single receptor in a petri dish, but in the body, it’s actually interacting with 60 different receptors. Terpene linalool, meanwhile, is associated with sleepiness in the lab, but, perplexingly, it’s a key component of more stimulating strains of marijuana.