First things first: If you’re looking for an unbiased opinion on marijuana’s place on (or off) the golf course, go somewhere else — you outta know where we stand.
Weed’s already legal in some form in 22 states in this country, fully legal in 11 of them, and adding more to the list with each election cycle. The NHL doesn’t punish players for using it, the MLB has removed it from its list of banned substances, too, and hoards of athletes, including some golfers, have begun citing the benefits and even promoting the use of cannabis products. Yet some powers that be still believe a drug is a drug is a drug — and drugs are bad, mmmkay.
Robert Garrigus learned the PGA Tour’s stance on the issue last March after he was suspended for testing positive for “elevated levels” of THC. The 22-year Tour veteran lives in Washington State (where weed is legal for medicinal and recreational use), reportedly owns a weed farm himself, and uses it to treat knee and back pain as prescribed by his doctor. While he’s no stranger to the drug culture, having checked himself into rehab in 2003 and speaking publicly about his struggle with substance abuse, he’s still a far cry from your standard “pothead” stereotype. He tried his best, with the help of his doctor, to stay within the tour’s limits and play by the rules to no avail, and it cost him 12 Tour events.
If anything, Garrigus should be heralded, not punished, for overcoming his past of alcohol and drug abuse and speaking publicly about it. After all, anyone remember what Tiger Woods went through?
After his return at the 3M Open in July, Garrigus’ stance on marijuana hasn’t changed, and it’s a familiar tune that mirrors some of the common sense that’s allowed for marijuana legalization to become so widely accepted.
“I could be on OxyContin on the golf course and get [an exemption] for that. I think that’s ridiculous. The Tour can talk to me all they want about it but that is a double standard,” Garrigus told USA Today. “The fact that it is socially unacceptable for cannabis and CBD right now blows my mind. It’s OK to take Oxycontin and black out and run into a bunch of people, but you can’t take CBD and THC without someone looking at you funny. It makes no sense,” Garrigus said.
Let’s play a quick game of Would You Rather. Would you rather you or a loved one take pharmaceutical substances proven to be highly addictive and often lead to overdose, or smoke a plant? (In case you haven’t heard, we’re in the middle of an opioid epidemic in this country that’s being fueled by pharmaceuticals like OxyContin.) Next round: Would you rather you or a loved one take OTC drugs proven to cause liver and kidney damage with prolonged use, or smoke a plant? And for the bonus: Would you rather athletes and their doctors be able to decide what’s best for them to be able to perform, or leave it up to the business people representing a sports brand?
I know my answers.
“[The Tour] had to deflect. They have an image to protect and uphold.” Garrigus said after meeting with Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan at the 2019 John Deere Classic.
Let’s talk about that image for a second then. Alcohol and golf often go hand-in-hand, and the likes of Arnold Palmer, John Daly and others made smoking heaters and stogies a fixture in the highest levels of the sport. There’s no controversy there, no sponsorship money lost or anything close to suspensions. Why is recreational marijuana so much different? The question still stands outside of recreational use: Why can’t a player use a legalized, prescribed medication to treat themselves off the course?
It’d be one thing if changing its stance on marijuana meant the Tour would be overrun by weed brands or whatever else it deems unsavory to its image, but that’s not going to happen — the NHL and MLB are certainly no worse off. At the end of the day, it’s not even about upholding the sanctity of sport, or upholding an image at all. PEDs and “hard” drugs aside, who the fuck cares what people do in their off time so long as it’s not affecting the results on the leaderboard?
Really, as legalization becomes even more widespread, the Tour’s just setting itself up for more stories like that of Garrigus’. It’s an issue that’ll keep on growing, like a weed.