The relationship between golf and marijuana has always been fuzzy. It's getting more confusing by the day.
Maybe the smoke in the room is blurring the lines of what its impact should be on the game. Make no mistake, cannabis is a player in all levels of golf, whether you want to believe it or not.
I've played golf with somebody smokin' a 'j'. (I didn't partake, let alone inhale). There's even a Canadian course, Lombard Glen Golf Course in Ontario, that marketed itself in 2019 as North America's first "cannabis-themed golf course."
The latest craze is CBD oil. Although it's technically not illegal or intoxicating, CBD, a cannabinoid found in cannabis and hemp, is making serious inroads in golf as an anti-inflammatory and to ease anxiety. Reports have linked Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson to chewing CBD-infused gum at tournaments. At this year's PGA Show, CBD brands had a major presence on the floor in hopes of getting into more golfers' medicine cabinets.
Marijuana is definitely a hot-button issue on the PGA Tour, magnified this week by Matt Every, whose first-round 65 Thursday sat atop the leaderboard of the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club & Lodge in Orlando. Every, who was suspended last year for 12 weeks for violating the PGA Tour's drug policy, believes the PGA Tour needs to amend its policy on cannabis.
"It bothers me that it's even an issue out here at all," he said. "I think it doesn't do anybody any favors that it's even on the list for a prohibited substance. You could fail for heroin and marijuana and the penalty is the same. If anyone wants to make the argument that that is performance enhancing, they have never done it before. I promise it's not."
Pros and pot
In an anonymous poll conducted by Golf.com last fall, roughly 60 percent of the 52 players who participated indicated that weed should be legal on Tour. One in five said they had smoked or taken an ingestible form of the drug.
The PGA Tour's anti-doping policy currently follows guidelines set by the World Anti-Doping Agency. This is where the conflict arises.
"I think it would be cool if we were proactive about it and made some changes," Every said. "I, you know, anxiety is a real thing and the way I treat it - like, I know I treat it the healthiest way possible for my body. And, but WADA doesn't think so and the Tour goes by what WADA says. So it's really silly, to be honest. It's really silly. Now I'm kind of fired up about it, so I'm going to stop talking now."
But he couldn't help himself.
"Here's the other thing that's weird," he continued. "The cutoff for THC (in the body) is 150 nanograms. So you could have, you, let's just - we'll use me. If I get tested and I have, and I'm at 145, good to go. If I'm at 155, I'm a drug abuser. That's ridiculous."
Every, who has won twice on tour but shot 83 in Friday's second round to miss the cut at Bay Hill, isn't alone in his beliefs. Robert Garrigus, who was suspended last year, spoke out against the Tour's policies to golfchannel.com upon his return last July. Garrigus says he was using cannabis prescribed from his doctor to treat knee and back pain. He owns a marijuana farm in Washington, one of the many states where it is legal.
"If you have some sort of pain and CBD or THC may help that, and you feel like it can help you and be prescribed by a doctor, then what are we doing?" he said. "If you are doing marijuana then we should be testing for alcohol, too. If you can buy it in a store, then why are we testing for it? That's my opinion."
Marijuana in the amateur game
The golf course has always been viewed by marijuana smokers as a relatively safe place - wide open park spaces with the only surveillance being the occasional ranger.
I'm sure we've all run into a scenario where golf meets the grass at some point. I got paired with a toking twosome at a Colorado muni a few years ago. They fired up their joints and blue-tooth speakers on the first tee and away we went. It was a perfectly enjoyable round. I can assure you it didn't help them play better, but both hit it well enough to keep up pace of play and didn't endanger anyone. But the one major concern is a golfer high on cannabis behind the wheel of a golf cart. That, just like alcohol, can seriously injure not just themselves but other golfers on the course.
The continued proliferation of states legalizing marijuana may begin to have an impact on where buddies trips choose - or avoid - for their next trip. Destinations like San Diego, Denver and Las Vegas have fully legalized recreational marijuana and dispensaries galore. Will popular meccas like Myrtle Beach, where state laws are more conservative, be left behind? Marijuana is currently legal in 11 states - Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington - the District of Columbia and Canada.
Googling golf and marijuana brings up tons of stories from pro-weed websites that tout "Why cannabis and golf go hand in hand" or "why players who want to score low first get high." Golf Digest even tested the theory in 2018, inviting three Californians to light up then tee it up.
Lombard Glen, the Canadian "cannabis" course, was supposed to change its name to Rolling Greens, but that hasn't happened yet, according to its website. It's probably for the best. I'm guessing the course will alienate more golfers than it will attract by going all in on Mary Jane.
And that's the rub. Should golf - from the tours to the everyday course operators - embrace cannabis or shun it? It's a question that needs a definitive answer sooner rather than later.
Is cannabis harmless in golf or should it be banned? Let us know in the comments below!