The 420 Games

The 420 Games gather Olympians, pro football players, and athletes from all over the nation, proving cannabis users are anything but indolent.

Participants don’t have to run a marathon to be actively involved – rather, they can arm-wrestle a Ultimate Fighting Championship® (UFC) legend, watch a live Jiu-Jitsu match, or stroll along Southern California’s beaches.

This year, events will be held in Los Angeles (March 31-April 1, 2018), Pittsburgh (April 12th), Denver (July 8th), and San Francisco (August 11th).

The LA games, back for the third year, kick off with the signature 4.2 mile walk/run/bike/wheel each morning. Participants will loop around from the Santa Monica Pier to Venice Beach, and back again.

Jim McAlpine, 420 Games founder, said, “traditional races tend to be 5K’s, or 3.2 miles. Our race incorporates an additional mile so participants can literally ‘go the extra mile’ for cannabis.”

“The race isn’t about running or walking, but rather, it’s about being active,” he said.

Participants will have opportunities to do just that throughout the two-day festival. Activities include: pre-run yoga sessions, a basketball tournament, a professional skateboarding contest, a post-run village party and beer garden. Prizes will be awarded for “Most Fit” male, and female.

An arm wrestling contest allows attendees to go one-on-one with former NFL players, Reggie Williams (Cincinnati Bengals), Eben Britton (Jacksonville Jaguars), or UFC legend, Frank Shamrock.

More than 100 cannabis companies, food vendors, and dispensaries will be on site. Their purpose: to educate and engage participants about how cannabis fits into an active lifestyle.

“This is not a consumption-based event,” McAlpine explained. Attendees are asked not to smoke on site.

This event is the largest yet, and for the first time, will occur over a two-day period. More than 4,000 people are expected to attend.

The games have gained momentum since the inaugural event in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park in 2014.

Attendees are just as diverse as the 420 Games’ lineup, “Moms, kids, senior citizen, pro athletes, [para athletes], ” explained McAlpine.

Thomas Quigley, entrepreneur and Florida resident, will return to compete in the games for the second time. The games, he said, aren’t just about athletics, “[it’s about] music, family, and companies evolving in the industry,” he noted, “it’s uplifting.”

His first attended in Santa Monica in 2015; he participated in the 4.2 mile race, which featured an emotional finish by triple amputee Jose Martinez.

Participation, said Quigley, is important to the effort to de-stigmatize the plant. The gathering spotlights holistic health, and those who use cannabis to battle illness with alternative medicine. Cannabis, he said, is just one piece of the holistic ecosystem.

“The event gives permission to start those conversations,” he explained, especially for athletes who hide their cannabis use. “An event like this, it gives them a value, [it allows them to] come out of the cannabis closet, express how they use it [and] how it enhances performance,” said Quigley.

Quigley, a Jiu-Jitsu and mixed martial artist, uses cannabis as an athletic aid. When consumed before, it helps him focus. “Then after, I find that high CBD products also help with recovery,” Quigley added.

McAlpine believes the plant doesn’t define a person. “You can choose to be a stoner and sit on the couch, or ride a bike up a mountain,” he said, “It’s not the plant that’s making you do either.”

“I’ve always been an athlete; I’ve always used cannabis in a health-oriented way,” he  said. “There are many of us.”

McAlpine is also the founder of the New West Summit, and Power Plant Fitness, the world’s first cannabis gym, expected to open later this year in the San Francisco Bay Area. He broke the mold, and wanted to “teach the world that using cannabis doesn’t mean you’re a stoner,” he said. “I smoke it everyday, I don’t consider myself a stoner.”

What works for him may not work for others, McAlpine said. On that note, he encourages people to learn what works best for them.

An athlete’s exceptional ability to do just that — know their own body — gives them an unparalleled understanding of health, and cannabis’ role in it, explained Eben Britton.

As an elite athlete, Britton’s job was to be in tune with his body. “I know what I needed to make [myself] feel better,” he added, “I know the way my body responds to food, to drink, to medicine.”

“My true education with the plant on its applications as it relates to [my] athletic career didn’t happen until I got into the NFL,” he explained.

Britton spent 15 years playing football, six of those as an offensive lineman for teams such as the Chicago Bears and Jacksonville Jaguars.

Daily trauma, mounting injuries, and season-ending surgeries took their toll. Britton found himself in a spiral of pain, anger and discomfort, which he said, “felt like a nightmare.”

Several athletes, including Britton, have spoken of the “T train,” described as a line of players waiting to get a shot of Toradol (a powerful opiate) to curb chronic pain, and get them through a game.

Pain management within the league relies heavily on the use of prescription anti-inflammatories and opiates. Side effects of such medications wreak havoc on the body and mind, said Britton.

He gravitated toward the cannabis plant instead. It’s the “one thing that brought mental peace and recovery, and helped me relax after I’d come home from a 12 hour day of grind – [which included] meetings, weightlifting, and full-speed practice,” with 70-100 hits per day, he explained. It put him in a “very adrenalized state.” Cannabis brought balance.

Britton points to the plant’s neuroprotective properties — especially important in a sport whose players experience concussions often. According to “Cannabinoids as Antioxidants and Neuroprotectants,” or U.S. Patent number 6630507B1, held by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “cannabinoids are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants, for example in limiting neurological damage following ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and HIV dementia.”

Britton believes that the existence of such knowledge should be enough for the NFL to embrace cannabis use among its players.

It’s Britton’s personal experiences with cannabis that motivate him, and many others, to advocate for cannabis use in athletics. He currently works with Athletes for CARE, and co-hosts the Mindful Warrior Podcast with former NFL player, Nate Jackson.

Jackson once said that half of NFL players use the substance. When asked whether that was a fair assessment, Britton said that’s “very conservative.”

The brilliance of the 420 games is that it draws attention to people who are constantly putting their bodies, minds and spirits through trauma and physical stress, Britton added. “Cannabis is an intricate part of the healing process […]” said Britton, “athletes are at the forefront of understanding and applying this method of being.”

Athletes are given the opportunity to be vanguards for social issues, notes Britton — take Jim Brown or Muhammad Ali here for example. “Cannabis [use] is among those social issues.”

For more information, including a schedule of events, visit the

Emerald contributor since February 2016


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