A4C was represented at the 2018 Cannabis Science Conference in Portland, OR, and I was thrilled to be a part of this fantastic event. Like last year, I took pages of notes and learned a ton about exciting new developments in cannabis research. But this year I also had to opportunity to be on The Doc and Jocks panel along with A4C athletes Eben Britton, Riley Cote, and Cliff Robinson, moderated by Dr. Uma Dhanabalan.
Dr. Uma is one of the warmest, most genuine people you'll ever meet - and also an electrifying powerhouse in the field of cannabis medicine. Her message was clear, compelling, and commonsense: cannabis is life. It's a healing medicinal herb that helps us relax, eat, sleep, and laugh - and it is also an exit drug from more socially harmful substances.
The athletes then vividly illustrated her point through sharing our personal stories of the healing, wellness, and empowerment we've found through cannabis. For me, it meant a lot to be able to openly talk about this plant therapeutic that has done so much for me but is still so stigmatized. It's a huge relief to be among other athletes who will openly discuss what so many elite performers still do secretly.
The audience was really responsive, with many coming up after to talk with us, ask questions, and offer their own stories in turn. Something that especially touched me was the number of women who approached me to say how much it meant to them to have a female athlete on the panel. One of the reasons I'm so proud to be a part of Athletes for Care is the organization's wholehearted appreciation of all athletes - it's an organization that values women's perspectives right alongside men's.
I was touched by how humble and kind the other athletes on the panel were, and by their willingness to open up and share their personal journeys. It is especially lovely to hear battle-hardened warriors express the joy, fulfillment, and spiritual growth that cannabis has fostered in them. The folks I've met in A4C tend to be without ego, which is refreshing given the glorified context of professional sports. It felt wonderful to be welcomed so graciously by the other ambassadors and to be part of an athlete team working on this mission together.
A final big takeaway for me was the great impact that A4C has on audiences - not just through using our platform to advocate, which is extremely important - but also in offering a personal connection, opening ourselves up to show people how much we have in common. We all walk different paths, and for some athletes that includes glory and even fame - but at the heart of things, we all feel joy and pain. We all have challenges to face and opportunities to pursue. We all want to enjoy life: to relax, eat, sleep, connect, laugh, grow, and HEAL - and cannabis can uniquely bring us together in these human experiences.
Anna Symonds’ rugby career includes a USA Rugby Division I National Championship (2014), selection to the National All-Star Competition, and a Sydney Premiership Championship (2003). She represented the USA at the 2015 Touch Rugby World Cup and has won three national championships in Touch with the Portland Hunters (2007, 2013, 2017). She has also competed in mixed martial arts (MMA). Anna holds an MA in Communication from the University of Portland where she was named Outstanding Graduate Student of the Year in 2011. Professionally, she is a CBD educator and advocate with East Fork Cultivars’ CBD Certified program. As a pledged brain donor to the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank, she supports the work of The Concussion Legacy Foundation. Follow Anna to learn more about her experience as a professional athlete on Instagram @exitdrug