Nick Diaz's five-year ban for weed is master stroke of outdated thinking

Green grass

Back in 2009, Nick Diaz told the LA Times his method for avoiding positive marijuana tests despite frequently smoking weed and listening to jams.

“I can pass a drug test in eight days with herbal cleansers. I drink 10lbs of water and sweat out 10lbs of water every day. I’ll be fine.” Unpleasant as it sounds, this method has proven 90% effective for generations of high school kids, job applicants, and people on probation. Unfortunately for Diaz, the precaution failed on one of three fight-night tests and now it’s costing him his career.

Before we throw out the ‘drink and sweat 10lbs of water’ technique, consider that Diaz passed his first and third tests, which were administered by a National Anti-Doping Agency approved tester, and failed his second, unapproved test by a crazy margin, signaling a mishandling of his sample or test results. Diaz’s lawyer harped on this point to the Nevada State Athletic Commission to no avail. After Diaz pleaded the fifth to all questions from the NSAC, they slapped him with a five-year suspension and a $165,000 fine.

Five years on the bench places Diaz’s re-entry to the sport in 2020 at the age of 37, at best the tail-end of his physical peak. On the bright side, five years of smoking weed and not fighting might afford him significant recovery from the head trauma he’s been exposed to throughout his career. But this is not a guy who wants to stop fighting.

In a rambling post-session reaction video, Diaz expressed his general angst without going into specifics about the case. In his rage, he defaults to basic fighter rhetoric. “They’ve done everything they could to keep me from proving to the world that I’m the best fighter in the world, which I am,” he says, gesticulating with weaker bravado than he would in a post-victory interview. He railed against NSAC, calling them ‘dorks’, and said in varying cadences that he was the best and that everyone else sucked, repeating himself and jumping between thoughts rapidly.

Diaz treats his ADHD using cannabis under California’s medical marijuana law, the nation’s first, arguably its loosest, and largely the reason that many other states create far more restricted medical marijuana programs. Not many states include ADHD as a cannabis-treatable disease, but there’s evidence that it helps. What Diaz describes as keeping “consistent” is really the effect of dopamine management traits in cannabis.

If Diaz was following the advice of his attorneys, as he did when he sat silent through his hearing, he likely wasn’t stoned when he walked out and gave that interview. It served as the perfect testimonial for why he should be allowed to smoke weed. After 10 minutes of his rant, he ended up at this: “When I play Street Fighter, the video game, who do I pick? I pick my favorite, the karate guy. I pick Ryu, because that’s most like me. And that’s who I want to play with. That’s who I want to be.” A person with focus doesn’t arrive at Ryu in the midst of discussing a life-changing suspension.

At one point, Diaz touches on his upbringing in Stockton, California and his struggle to stay in school despite his ADHD and how others treated him because of it. Referring to the spirit behind the NSAC decision, he said, “This [is] exactly why I couldn’t make it through high school … I had little gangbangers starting up with me. I had little fights here and there. I got moved out of three or four grammar schools. They tried to put me on drugs, and then the teacher’s gonna go like, ‘Sorry, he’s acting up, he didn’t take his medication.’” What he seems to be conveying is that he has succeeded in life despite a childhood condition that’s seen as a disability, effectively turning a negative into a positive, and now he’s facing the same stubborn authoritarianism that threatened to hold him back in the first place. “The reason I became a fighter is so that I don’t have to break the law,” he says.

As a state institution, NSAC suffers from the same regressive tendencies that plague federal, state and municipal governments in regard to marijuana. Most people now support its legalization, and more still admit and accept that it’s a harmless substance and its users are needlessly persecuted, but the entities enforcing the rules are often sluggish to accept this shift. Diaz doesn’t feel he’s doing anything wrong, and even took measures to stay within the bounds of the law (10lbs of water), which were effective in two of three approved tests, and still he’s being banned from working for a long time. Incredulously, he says, “One year, two years, five years? I’m looking at fighting, like, right quick.”

Other sports organizations like the NFL have raised their limits on marijuana use. Particularly sports in which athletes receive cranial and bodily impact should consider the neuroprotectice, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and pain-relieving qualities of cannabis, keep them healthier for longer. Instead, an outdated form of thinking prevails, and guys like Nick Diaz have to serve as examples.

In his best attempt to articulate the issue at hand, Diaz said, “I didn’t test positive. And they raised the limit. They didn’t say, ‘You can’t be using any THCs.’ It’s not a full banned substance. It’s banned after a certain percent. Or after a certain nanogram, or whatever you call it. I wish I had the terminology so I could stand here in front of this camera and sound smart. But I fight. That’s why I fight. That’s what I do.”

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Abdullah Saeed, for theguardian.com on Friday 18th September 2015 13.15 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010