Let’s Talk About Grief, Loss and Cannabis

Let’s Talk About Grief, Loss and Cannabis

By now many have heard about Dallas native, LSU track star Sha’Carri Richardson testing positive for THC after securing a spot on the US Olympic team to be held in Tokyo summer 2021. The backlash towards the bright, charismatic, young sprinting phenom in our opinion has been nothing short of cruel and borderline victim blaming. The suspension of Richardson glaringly highlights the racism and double standard that is deeply rooted in sports. These biases are also deeply rooted in the resurgence of conversations surrounding cannabis. To put it bluntly white men and certain white women can participate in the cannabis conversation from consumption to corporation without backlash or repercussion. Everyone else is policed based on the powers that be. 

This point has been upheld through media, laws, profits, property, and people. This point is also deeply rooted in grief. What happened to Sha’Carri is also undergirded by grief and repeating the soundbite of “the rules are the rules” does not erase the grief of it all.

The catalyst for Richardson’s actions is grief. The sheer fact that she found out about the loss of her biological mom during an interview is heartbreaking. She characterized receiving this information during the interview as “definitely nerve-shocking.” Let’s not forget she got this news a week before she was to have the biggest race of her young life. However, when the choir barks the line “the rules are the rules,” funny how no one seems to note how cruel it was to tell this young woman about her mom is such callous manner. Even when people are unfortunately victims of crimes, names aren’t released until family members are privately notified. Where is the outrage for the complete disregard of how Richardson was notified about her mother?

Once Richardson found out about her biological mother passing away - her grief process was set into motion. This 21-year-old superstar, who has the world watching, must now decide what to do next. Is she to quit, crumble or perform? Anyone who has experienced loss on a significant level has moments of “what do I do now?” And many who have experienced loss on a significant level has thought of or turned to methods of self-soothing. Sipping on a little something, prescription meds, shopping, checking out of daily duties, to ultimately wrapping one’s head around the truth that things will never be the same. Documents from an antiquated governing body or conversations about which substances are deemed Schedule 1 drugs doesn’t bring one’s mother back.

The courage Sha’Carri displayed by speaking honestly after the death of her mother and she that needed to cope is more than the Sunday morning sideline judges will ever understand. To say that she made a mistake is insulting – she did what most of us do and that is make it through each day. Countless studies have shown that cannabis and CBD help mitigate stress hormones, regulate emotions, and decrease panic attacks; all things most people experience in private when they have lost a loved one. Imagine going through this on the world stage just days before trying to make your greatest dream a reality.

A study published as recently as July 2020 in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine; marijuana inhalation is associated with short-term reductions in depressive feelings. The study was epublished by the National Institute of Health and is titled “The effectiveness of cannabis flower for immediate relief from symptoms of depression.”

Researchers examined the effects of marijuana inhalation on depressive feelings in 1,819 subjects over a one-month period. Study participants self-administered marijuana and reported symptom changes in real time on a mobile software application. According to researchers “almost all patients in our sample [96 percent] experienced symptom relief from using cannabis to treat depression.. with an average symptom intensity reduction of –3.76 points on a zero-to-ten visual analogue scale.”
The difference between Sha’Carri and 99% percent of the noise makers, is her immense talent and discipline to run at her best. And yes, she still has discipline. She is no less discipline than other male Olympians who have turned to cannabis to cope and were not chastised in front of the world. In fact, they were assisted in keeping their choices quiet, rewarded with more endorsements and celebrate repeatedly each time they were given the chance to compete.

When all the talk dies down on how Richardson may have thrown away the best opportunity of her life remember she is still grieving the passing of her biological mother and will have to go through those stages when the peanut gallery goes back to their lives. When the Olympics begin she’ll have to grieve this again; which could have been avoided had better care been taken in conveying such private information to this 5’1”, young woman who is finding her place in adulthood like any other 21-year-old would have to do in the face of triumph and tragedy.

At the end of all this we know that the phenomenal Sha’Carri Richardson can RUN. No amount of racism, policing of black bodies, double standard of gender will ever take that away. With the support of people who believe in her, Sha’Carri will have an amazing future and she says, “don’t play with her!"