Twenty years ago, Ross Rebagliati became an international sensation in the most sensational way. The former professional snowboarder from Vancouver, B.C., won the first-ever gold medal for snowboarding at the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics.
But his moment of glory didn’t last long. His gold medal was taken away shortly after a drug test revealed tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in his system. Ross maintained his positive test was a result of second-hand smoke and that he hadn’t purposefully consumed any marijuana.
The media circus only intensified after Olympic officials confirmed that cannabis wasn’t even on the list of banned substances in the first place. Ross was given back his medal, and he became a media fixture overnight, appearing on late-night talk shows and parodied on “Saturday Night Live.”
The controversy and his subsequent notoriety took a toll on Ross, who stopped snowboarding shortly after his big win. While he’s still active on the slopes as a skier, his driving force is now marijuana.
Ross is the face behind Ross’ Gold, a cannabis lifestyle brand that includes a dispensary franchise. Now a vocal marijuana advocate, the 46-year-old says he uses the plant in its various forms for a multitude of purposes. When asked how he came to cannabis, he replies: “Cannabis came to me.”
Growing up in British Columbia, Ross became immersed in cannabis culture at an early age, before even recognizing what it was. “I’d smell it on the ski hill chairlift as a kid, way before snowboarding was around,” he says. “When I moved to Whistler in the early ’90s, I’d see professional athletes using it in the morning. It never dawned on me that would be something people would do.”
Ross is now a licensed cannabis grower and regular user, consuming between five and 10 grams a day.
When it comes to physical ailments, Ross uses a cannabis-infused topical cream with THC and cannabidiol (CBD) on his neck, which is constantly in pain as a result of cracked vertebrae. He also consumes cannabis to increase his appetite.
“You’re getting an entourage effect that you couldn’t get just from taking an over-the-counter painkiller,” he says. “You’re masking the pain with THC, but you’re actually attacking the problem with the CBD.”
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While THC remains on the World Anti-Doping Agency's prohibited list (CBD was recently removed from the banned list), Ross says that doesn’t mean athletes aren’t still consuming marijuana. “I think there’s a lot more people using cannabis in sports than we know about,” he says. “Why would an athlete admit it? What’s the advantage? A lot of high-profile athletes have endorsement contracts, and it’s not to their advantage [to admit using cannabis].”
As laws change, Ross suspects that the culture surrounding cannabis will quickly change, too. “There’s going to be continuing education of cannabis,” he says. “In the next 10 years, people will stop with the ideological standpoint on cannabis and realize the truth.”
The truth—according to Ross—being that cannabis can help folks improve their health and wellness.