San Francisco

Athletes Shed Stoner Image at 420 Games

Former college football player Dexter Holman is going to smoke a joint Saturday morning, eat a bowl of oatmeal, then run 4.2 miles from Santa Monica to Venice and back for what he says is a worthy cause.

He'll be among the more than 1,000 participants running, walking, skateboarding and biking in the 420 Games.

"Some people make it like it's the most unhealthy thing in the world," Holman said of consuming marijuana. "I feel like I'm positively affected by it. I can go harder. I can go longer. I feel like I'm lifted."

The event is the brainchild of Jim McAlpine who came up with the idea more than two years ago as a way to "de-stigmatize the millions who use cannabis in a healthy and responsible lifestyle." Unlike other cannabis events, he asks that 420 Games athletes not smoke on site.

"We're not all couch-laden, Taco Bell eating, video game players," said McAlpine, who also recently opened San Francisco's new Power Plant Fitness, a gym that allows users to smoke and eat marijuana. "People think of Jeff Spicole in 'Fast Times at Ridgemont High' and not Michael Phelps who's the fastest swimmer in the world and who's a known cannabis user."

The event is open to all levels of runners. Last year Chris Barnicle, the "world's fastest stoner" and Olympic U.S. trials marathon runner, ran in the 420 Games. Avery Collins, one of the top ultra marathoners in the world, won 420 Games in Colorado and San Francisco.

He usually wins by 5 minutes and runs backward high-fiving other participants on the way back, McAlpine said.

Former NFL offensive lineman Eben Britton said he's likely going to skateboard the 420 Games.

The 29-year-old cannabis advocate has smoked marijuana for years. He said it helped him deal with severe injuries through his six-year pro career. He said he even chose marijuana over prescription drugs because marijuana helped ease the pain, reduce anxiety and helped him sleep.

He said prescription drugs, on the other hand, made him feel sick, angry and irritable.

"Cannabis was the complete opposite," he said. "It emotionally and mentally refreshed me for the next day."

The games, named after April 20, the traditional pot holiday, are open to smokers and nonsmokers. Everybody gets a medal and everybody gets the same number — 420. Afterward there's a yoga warm down session.

A normal 5K run is just over 3 miles, but this event is 4.2 miles to prove that pot smokers go the extra mile, McAlpine said.

Police will be out in force, said Lt. Saul Rodriguez, a Santa Monica Police Department spokesman. Pot sales and distribution are banned and smoking will not be allowed at the event, he said.

"The smoking of marijuana in public will be enforced as necessary as will any other smoking ordinances in the surrounding area," Rodriguez said.

McAlpine views this 420 Games as a way to herald in the end of the prohibition of marijuana in California as the state is set to roll out Proposition 64, the recreational adult use of marijuana, on Jan. 1.

But it also comes as the U.S. Justice Department has vowed to step up enforcement of federal laws in states where recreational marijuana is legal.

McAlpine said many people in the industry are worried and investment in cannabis businesses has slowed because of the fears, but it isn't stopping him.

He said attendance to the games has been growing over the years. This year events are being held in eight cities — LA, San Francisco, Phoenix, Denver, Boulder, Portland, Seattle and Las Vegas.

And while there is little science behind the impacts of marijuana use and exercise, he says many swear by it.

"Cannabis is absolutely a benefit and an enhancement to an athlete on multiple levels," he said.

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