“There’s little point in me trying to use words to convey what it feels like to win gold. All I kept saying to myself is “I’ve won – I’ve finally won!” – The sense of accomplishment is unreal.”

These were the words of Ross Rebagliati, the Canadian athlete who won the first ever Olympic gold medal for snowboarding. Until 1998, snowboarding wasn’t even an Olympic sport but at the Nagano Winter Olympics he placed himself firmly in the history books. 

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“I was already used to competing at the top level for 10 years, but as you can imagine the Olympics are a different story. To win gold, to have the recognition that my peers respected me as an athlete, it all hit home. You can imagine the preparation that goes into being a professional athlete. You don’t see your friends or family, just those who you share the snowboarding scene with.”

Ross’ sacrifices are commonplace for professional athletes, but despite receiving his gold medal and the recognition that comes with this ultimate accolade, he also hit the headlines for a different reason.

A little while after the award ceremony, Ross’ coach came into his room. Given the timing and atmosphere, it didn’t take long to figure out that it was something to do with his drug test results. 

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Ross was adamant he hadn’t used anything that could affect his drug testing, the only potential being the slightest exposure to marijuana. This showed up on his results. After much discussion, Ross’ coach reassured that other athletes had shown positive for traces of marijuana previously and hadn’t been stripped of their medals.

The gold medal was reinstated and in recent years The World Anti-Doping Agency changed the threshold of THC in an athlete’s system from 15 nanograms per millilitre to 150 nanograms per millilitre. Cannabis across the globe is undergoing some reforms. 

“You can argue this is a cultural issue now, some countries are not shifting in their stance and continue to pursue harsh penalties. Often law abiding, family-oriented members of society are caught up in the issue. But, we’re in a very different conversation now in Canada; the scientific evidence is proving the many benefits to legal marijuana, and the economic benefit is simply too hard to ignore. We’re looking at one of the few areas of commerce that provides a multi-million dollar industry practically overnight. I’ve always said that the only people that benefit from the prohibition of marijuana are organised crime groups. It’ll be interesting to see how many other regions follow in legalising after Canada.” 

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When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was elected into office in 2015, there followed the creation of a federal-provincial-territorial task force. Subsequently, Canada is now the first G7 country to fully legalise cannabis and is in the process of rolling out a ‘legal’ marijuana market. Ross and his business partner Patrick Smyth are now at the forefront of Canada’s new industry.

“It’s going to be interesting from a marketing perspective as each Province has its own laws on the distribution of cannabis.  For example, in Ontario the sale of cannabis will only be done in government-owned stores and consumption will be banned in public places. In British Columbia private retailers are permitted. Ontario has also set the legal age of purchase at 19 while Quebec has chosen 18, both matching their legal drinking ages.”

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Ross had previously established a company called Ross’ Gold in preparation for the pending cannabis reforms and the brand has evolved to keep up with Canada’s rapidly changing landscape. In December 2017 Ross’ Gold, was acquired by R Gold Ventures Inc. with this new team is working to build franchised stores within Canada’s new regulatory environment and Ross acting as a brand ambassador.

Also launching will be Legacy by Ross Rebagliati – a company focused on branding solutions in hydroponics, horticulture, and grow operations for companies and consumers alike. These include products such as soils, nutrients, fertilizers, LED grow lights, personal home growing kits, as well as subscription-based online memberships, and consumer goods.

Having won the first ever snowboarding gold for Canada, Ross Rebagliati is now blazing a new trail. Not only is it an exciting prospect for both Ross and his partner Patrick, but also Canada as a whole.

 

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“Canadians are opening up more and more to cannabis, and many older people are really understanding as to the benefits of CBD; which is used to treat medical conditions like epilepsy. It is gaining favour among athletes and the public alike. Unlike other extracts, CBD is not psychoactive and is used for sleep regulation, inflammation, and anxiety.

“We are excited. We feel the rest of the country will adopt a healthy use of cannabis in the coming years."


This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. 

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