Becoming an elite athlete takes years of dedication — long days, longer nights, pain, and sacrifice. As an Olympic caliber sprinter, Sha’Carri Richardson committed herself to the process, navigating a labyrinth of rules and regulations for the chance to compete at the highest level of her sport. On July 2, the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) dashed her dreams of participating in the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games with a suspension for violating its ban on marijuana, an outdated rule with no basis in science.

Demonstrating maturity and poise, Sha’Carri took full responsibility for breaking the rules, but her acceptance can’t change the weight of this injustice. The USADA’s marijuana ban, derived from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) classification, is a vestige of cannabis prohibition’s vile legacy. A legacy that is built on racism. 

Harry Anslinger, a founding commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, designed and successfully executed the campaign to outlaw cannabis. He crafted it as a tool to suppress and control what he called the “degenerate races.” More than eight decades later, Anslinger’s crusade against cannabis, which snaked its way into our cultural norms, finally shows signs of cracking. Adult-use marijuana is currently legal in Washington, D.C. and 19 states,

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