Over 18 NBA seasons, Cliff (Uncle Cliffy) Robinson twice made it to the NBA Finals, and in 1993 he was named Sixth Man of the Year; now he runs a marijuana company, Uncle Spliffy, that plans to sell in Oregon. Rohan Marley led the 1993 Miami Hurricanes with 95 tackles and went on to play in the CFL; along with his siblings, he now runs Marley Natural, a cannabis company branded after his father, Bob. Both former athletes see marijuana playing a role in sports beyond just recovery.
Michael McKnight: I’ve heard athletes say cannabis can actually enhance performance. How? Can it help you get loose or more creative?
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. You know? 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 oneself 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!
MM: What is the improvement? Is it in your physical performance?
RM: No, no. Just being focused, feeling the joy of it. It makes one 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—you know what I mean? Doing it right. It makes you not cheat the game. Herb enhances your emotions, I would say.
MM: 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.
MM: Could you imagine running that marathon without herb?
RM: Misery. I would already be tired before I start. Herb allows you to set your pace, hold your pace, meditate, relax. Without that, I’m in competition, I’m not in harmony with myself. I need the medicine for harmony, which is why I ran that marathon. It was about completion, y’know?
MM: Would you recommend marijuana to, say, an NBA player playing 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. That’s why lawyers smoke herb. But they don’t get tested, you see? They don’t test the owners of these sports teams, either! 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?
MM: 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.
MM: 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.
MM: 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, 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. I was too aggressive. Too angry. Herb teaches us how to love. My dad said, “If the army smoked herb, they wouldn’t wanna fight no war.”
MM: Right—so would athletes still have the fire to compete?
RM: Competing is different than violence. Sport is love. It’s passion. There’s no passion in hurting people.