On Tuesday, USA Track & Field officials announced what many of us dreaded was coming: Sha’Carri Richardson, a stellar Black female athlete who earned the right to represent her country, would be denied a spot on the U.S. Olympic relay team. It was her last chance to get to Tokyo.
She tested positive for doing what millions legally do every day: consuming cannabis. And she apologized for breaking the rules.
As a consumer of cannabis and an advocate of social equity, I want to say to Richardson: Sis, I see you, and I want to thank you. I want to thank you for being that girl, unapologetically fast and human.
I see how the war on drugs and all of the misconceptions around this plant continue to negatively impact people like Richardson every single day.
The fact of the matter is that she didn’t need to apologize because she has nothing to apologize for.
She exercised her right to consume cannabis. The only difference between her and the millions of people who do the same is that an antiquated rule made her pain and grief front and center for the world to see.
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There is so much more we need to know about this plant and how we can use it to care for ourselves. But here is what we do know: People should never be shamed into apologizing for needing help to cope with the emotional toll of losing a loved one. Richardson had learned that her biological mother died right before the Olympic trials. That alone is difficult. But Richardson learned about it in a way that most of us can’t imagine. The track star recounted on NBC’s “Today” show being shocked when she heard the news from a reporter during what she thought was going to be a routine interview.
Last year, we watched helplessly while millions of Americans died due to COVID-19 and while our country deemed cannabis an essential business. It was essential because so many people, just like Richardson, rely on cannabis to cope with difficult situations.
Two in three Americans support cannabis legalization, and about 43% of Americans have access to legal cannabis where they live. These statistics continue to evolve every day.
Our collective truth is that we are not bad people because we consume cannabis, we are human.
The love on display between Richardson and her grandmother, and the connection she shared with her grandmother after her qualifying heat, will forever keep Richardson in our hearts.
Richardson should not have to apologize and justify her decision to use cannabis as an aid to process and cope with the trauma of losing her mother.
I hope that as she prepares to continue bedazzling us on the track, she’s going to take the time to heal and grieve in whatever way makes sense for her.
Those who are in control of policies and laws that restrict access to this plant for athletes should hear us. We will not stop fighting for fair regulations surrounding the use of this plant.
I’m not advocating lawlessness, but I do think there’s room for an honest assessment and critique of the rules. Especially rules that reflect U.S. laws related to the war on drugs – laws that we know disproportionately impact communities of color.
We have the right to take care of ourselves, and we have the right to utilize this plant as a part of that care. I am so glad that Richardson’s spirit does not appear to have been broken by misguided and outdated rules that led to a detrimental decision about her future in the sport.
Whether she knows it or not, there are millions of us who are standing with her.
Khadijah Tribble is the vice president of corporate social responsibility at Curaleaf, a cannabis company.