Yukon athletes turn to micro-dosing.
Last summer, Leyla Weston was training for the Reckless Raven, an 80-km ultra-marathon in Whitehorse, when a fellow runner suggested she try taking cannabis edibles on her runs.
The woman, who was also training for the race, had started micro-dosing CBD and THC in the form of fruity gummies, taking them at specific intervals during her hours-long runs.
The dosage in each gummy—2.5 mg each of THC and CBD—isn’t enough to cause impairment, but she told Weston it helped her running feel easier. She was able to get in “the zone” better—something long-distance runners are always striving for.
Weston was intrigued. As a teenager, she occasionally smoked marijuana, but today, at 50, she’s more interested in her health and physical activity—she loves trail running in the summer and cross-country skiing in the winter. After cannabis was legalized in Canada, in October 2018, and edibles a year later, Weston experimented with gummies at parties. But it never occurred to her they could play a role in her endurance running.
She bought some edibles and tried them on a six-hour group run across a mountain ridge just outside of Whitehorse.
“I definitely get into this sort of zone, where it’s just not that much of a struggle,” Weston says. “You’re just out there running, and you’re enjoying it.”
She isn’t the only athlete incorporating cannabis into her fitness activities. There’s a lot of buzz about CBD in the running world. In 2020, Trail Runner magazine published an article titled “Is CBD Trail Running’s Wonder Drug?” Two years before that, the World Anti-Doping Agency removed CBD from its list of prohibited substances, while all other cannabinoids, including THC, remain banned.
“Really, our job now isn't to sell the cannabis. It’s to educate, I think, if people can open themselves up to the understanding that it’s not a harmful substance if taken in an educated and meaningful way,”
Jordi Mikeli-Jones, president and CEO of Triple J’s Canna Space, in Whitehorse, estimates roughly three dozen athletes frequent her shop. In 2021, she started offering private information sessions to educate health-conscious, fitness-loving locals who are, as she puts it, “canna curious.”
In these sessions, she explains the basics: THC is the main psychoactive compound in cannabis—it causes impairment, and some people find it can help reduce pain; CBD, another compound, is non-impairing and some find it reduces anxiety and inflammation.
Athletes generally don’t want to smoke cannabis, but there are lots of other options. Cannabis stores in the Yukon sell oils, chocolates, beverages, mints, cookies, and topicals, including creams, roll-on sticks, and bath bombs. The cannabis content varies from product to product. Some, like the gummies Weston tried, include both THC and CBD, while others contain one or the other.
“Really, our job now isn’t to sell the cannabis. It’s to educate, I think, if people can open themselves up to the understanding that it’s not a harmful substance if taken in an educated and meaningful way,” says Mikeli-Jones. There’s a lot of anecdotal evidence out there, she acknowledges, and it will take time for science to catch up.
Though cannabis is legal, the federal government doesn’t promote anypotential positive effects of its use. As per the federal Cannabis Act, retai-
lers are also prohibited from promoting or marketing cannabis, including creating the “impression that health or cosmetic benefits may be derived.”
But retailers can share personal experiences. Mikeli-Jones has used cannabis for 30 years—she says CBD oil has worked wonders for her rheumatoid arthritis—but it wasn’t until 2021 that she, like Weston, began pairing it with her fitness.
“It sort of was like a lightbulb went off,” Mikeli-Jones says. She, too, was signed up for the Reckless Raven, and before three- or four-hour training runs, she often felt anxious. Would it be struggle? Would she be able to keep up to her group?
“[The gummies] alleviated that worry, so I could very much be present and focus on breath and really being in tune with nature and my surroundings and how my body was moving,” she recalls.
Mikeli-Jones’ post-run routine includes a range of cannabis products. She’ll drink a CBD beverage, soak in the tub with a CBD-THC bath bomb, and then apply a high-THC cream onto painful areas, like her ankles, calves, and shoulders, and a high-CBD product to her swollen knees.
“The ability to micro-dose and the benefits it can have pre-workout, post-workout, during.… It was just an absolute game changer for me, personally,” she says. “And then the gospel spread like wildfire and there was a lot of interest.”
CANNABIS IN THE YUKON:
- Yukon is home to five licensed cannabis retailers: three in Whitehorse, one in Carmacks, and one in Dawson City.
- These retailers are only allowed to sell in person, but the Yukon government is amending the Cannabis Control and Regulation Act to allow them to sell online.
- The Yukon government closed its brick-and-mortar cannabis shop in October 2019, but still sells online.
- Between 2020–2021, the Yukon government sold $12,000 of cannabis through cannabisyukon.org. It sold $6 million of wholesale cannabis to licensed Yukon retailers in the same time period.
Edibles and topicals are popular with gym goers, too, says Dan Schneider, manager of The Herbary, another Whitehorse cannabis retailer.
“I find a lot of people are really utilizing it for aftercare, especially the CBD with its anti-inflammatory properties,” he says. He likes to take a THC product before he hits the gym—in the form of a gummy or oil—because it helps him focus and stay in the zone as he works out. After, he’ll use a roll-on stick on his joints.
Stigma around cannabis still exists, but in the wake of legalization, local business owners say that’s slowly decreasing as its use becomes more normalized.
“It’s not about being a stoner on a couch somewhere,” says Mikeli-Jones. “That’s the key here when we talk about micro-dosing. The intent is not for people looking to enhance their fitness regimes to be impaired. It’s really not. It’s to minimize anxiety, minimize pain, minimize inflammation, enhance the experience, enhance being present.”
Weston finds the pain management angle particularly intriguing. She has lower back pain and tendonitis in her elbow and often relies on ibuprofen, a pain reliever many runners use during or after races. She’d love to phase it out.
“THC and CBD for health is definitely something I want to pursue more and really test it out more regularly,” she says.
Weston dialled down her running over the winter but is already thinking about the Reckless Raven this summer and long training runs ahead. “For sure, I’ll probably be delving into the [edibles] again.”