Ogden Nash wrote that quatrain in 1931. He appended a postscript in 1968:
Pot is not.
This week, 50 years later, authorities in Canada transmogrified “pot is not” into “pot is legal.” And few Canadians are happier than Ross Rebagliati.
He won history’s first Olympic gold medal in men’s snowboarding 20 years ago at Nagano. Then, when he tested positive for marijuana, Olympic officials took back his medal — only to return it when they discovered cannabis wasn’t a banned substance at the time.
Today Rebagliati has his gold medal — plus Ross’ Gold, a medical marijuana business, and Legacy Brands, a cannabis company focused on cannabidiol consumables and home-growing kits. Company motto: “A growing lifestyle.”
So, does he see Canada’s new law as a business opportunity?
“Yeah, absolutely,” he tells USA TODAY. “We came up with our company, what, almost six years ago, and we weren’t looking at a legalization opportunity at the time. It was strictly medicinal.”
Now Rebagliati wants the World Anti-Doping Agency to remove cannabis from its list of banned drugs. He says cannabidiol, or CBD, is a cannabis compound that offers athletes relief from inflammation and pain as a nonaddictive alternative to opiates. He says Legacy Brands offers products “for the athlete in all of us,” including CBD-infused snack bars and energy drinks.
“If athletes are allowed to use alcohol and tobacco, which are proven to be dangerous for health reasons,” he says, “then there is no good reason, really, why athletes shouldn’t be able to use a healthy, natural product that helps them perform at a higher level.”
Besides, he says, WADA is based in Montreal, where Molson and marijuana are both legally acceptable for recreational use by adults.
“Where I used to live — in Whistler, a ski community, cannabis culture — I had used cannabis for years and years, but I chose April, 1997, to be my drop-dead last smoke, so to speak,” before the Games in February 1998. “But at the end of the day I would go hang out with my friends for dinners and barbecues. There was a lot of cannabis use, as usual, and I was simply passing the joint on to the next person. But what I didn’t bank on was testing positive for secondhand smoke.”
Leno styled Ross Rebagliati as Nickel Bag-liati. “Saturday Night Live” ran a sketch with CBS’s Jim Nantz, played by Will Ferrell, interviewing Rebagliati, played by Jim Breuer as a sort of Cheech-and-Chong-style stoner.
“It’s all in fun and good humor and good faith,” Rebagliati says. “It’s not meant to be derogatory. … I’m a guy from British Columbia, I grew up in the mountains, and the next thing you know you wake up one day and Will Ferrell is doing a skit on you. It’s, like, unbelievable.”
Rebagliati and his wife have three kids, ages 9, 6 and 3. He says they’ve seen cannabis around the house since they were born.
“If I’m rolling a joint, I don’t turn my back to them so they don’t see what I’m doing,” he says. “You wouldn’t turn your back if you’re holding a beer in the backyard, or a glass of wine. They know cannabis is for mommies and daddies and that it’s a medicine.”
The title of that 1931 Ogden Nash poem is “Reflections on Ice-Breaking.” For consumers new to cannabis culture, Rebagliati figures it’s just a question of breaking the ice.
“The way things are rolling out in Canada, it’s all about education and making sure people know about dosing and how many milligrams is considered one dose,” he says. “So there’s going to be a lot of newcomers to the industry, but at the same time it’s really more a question of: ‘Are we going to be able to keep up with the demand right off the get-go here?’ ”
Winning gold made Rebagliati famous. Losing it, even briefly, made him more so. And now he is among Canada’s most famous users of cannabis at a time when Canada is famous for legalizing it.
“I appreciate carrying the cannabis torch,” Rebagliati says, “for the last 20 years.”
Unlike the Olympic torch, with this one you could test positive for secondhand smoke.