Cliff Robinson twice made it to the NBA Finals in 18 seasons; now he runs a marijuana company, Uncle Spliffy. Rohan Marley led the 1993 Miami Hurricanes in tackles and later played in the CFL; now he helps operate Marley Natural, a cannabis outfit. Both men see pot playing a role in sports beyond just recovery
I've heard athletes say cannabis can actually enhance performance. How?
CLIFF ROBINSON: I never partook before I played [real games]. I want people to understand: I wasn't high out there. To get to the NBA, I worked my ass off. On off-days, though, or in the off-season, if I'm working out or shooting jumpers, did it help me with my focus and my concentration, open my mind a little bit? Yes.
ROHAN MARLEY: Herb is the thing that brings me together. It de-stresses my mind [and allows me to] be more focused and have direction, y'know? ... It allows a person to kinda—like my father said—"remove oneself from Babylon." Right? To go above the stratosphere and look from the outside in ... to take yourself to a quiet place and bring your mind together, so you can focus. Herb is vision. After I left [Miami], I would always light a spliff before playing soccer. I still do. I play much better!
What is the improvement?
Is it in your physical performance?
RM: No, no. Just being focused, feeling the joy of it. It makes you joyful and enhances the game, the love of the game, the passion. It makes you want to be smooth and play the game at a certain level of correctness and ... righteousness.
Can it inspire athletic creativity—trying a daring cross-court pass or other things that you otherwise wouldn't try?
RM: Well I smoked a spliff and then ran a half-marathon without any training! It takes you to that place of, like, no resistance.
Could you imagine running that marathon without herb?
RM:Misery. I would be tired before I started. Herb allows you to set your pace, meditate, relax. Without that, I'm in competition, I'm not in harmony with myself.
Would you recommend marijuana to, say, an NBA player logging 40 minutes in Toronto one night and then Miami the next?
RM: You think playing 82 games is easy? Not only for their bodies but their minds. C'mon, bro. Basketball players, with the strain they put on their bodies, they need herb. Do you know how hard it is to go home after a game and sleep with pain?
Are executives afraid that if marijuana use is allowed, athletes will be stumbling around the locker room, smoked out all the time?
CR: That's a ridiculous mindset. There are aberrations in any profession, but by and large NBA players behave like professionals when they're at work. It's so important to approach this as a business and usher it in in a positive way. Education. Responsible use. Keeping it out of the hands of children. The more we can educate people, the more we stay out in front and share that information—that's gonna be crucial.
Cliff, You were suspended three times during your career for violating the NBA's drug policy. What roadblocks have you encountered because of your affiliation with cannabis?
CR: Cannabis was always a negative thing throughout my career. I played 18 years; I wanted to go into coaching. I was excited about maybe using that knowledge and helping other guys achieve their goals. I'm sure the stigma around cannabis has cost me in that area. Right now I'm excited about creating a positive atmosphere around something that's been a negative for a long time.
How else can cannabis help athletes?
RM: I believe it can help with these negative situations athletes put themselves in, hurting other people, hurting themselves—the aggression. When I finished playing football, [my brother] Ziggy told me, "You're not Superman anymore." I was so aggressive. Not much direction. Then I started smoking herb, and it calmed my life down.
Right—so would athletes still have the fire to compete?
RM: Competing is different from violence. Sport is love. It's passion. There's no passion in hurting people.