Ross Rebagliati won the first Olympic Gold Medal for Men’s Snowboarding in the 1998 Games hosted in Nagano, Japan. He also is one of the first Olympians to open up about his marijuana usage, after he tested posted in those 1998 Olympics.
At the time, Rebagliati was briefly stripped of his gold medal before the International Olympic Committee ruled that marijuana was not a performance-enhancing drug. Rebagliati also received a US Travel ban from the positive test and has since become a major player within cannabis advocacy and the cannabis industry writ large.
Still, his legacy remains the Olympian who first carried the Cannabis Torch. And as he told Civilized recently, he couldn’t be happier about his reputation.
I’m proud to be the guy to take the hit for that. I feel that I represent tens of thousands of Canadians and citizens of the world that have unjustly paid different dues because of their cannabis use or their association with it. And I’m honored. Honestly, I love cannabis and I love the cannabis industry so much that I couldn’t be more honored not to be allowed into the States. To be that guy is a huge privilege. I thank my lucky stars every day that I tested positive for weed at the Olympics. I can’t imagine a better legacy for me as an Olympian than to carry the cannabis torch – to bear the cannabis flag.
But that appreciation only came with time. Initially Rebagliati was terrified, spending some time in a Japanese jail, and receiving the travel ban in the U.S. following 9/11.
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Rebagliati says that ban has only helped promote his company Ross’ Gold—a cannabis “super brand” that sells products and accessories—which has earned a sort of “street cred,” the former Olympian told Civilized. Though he believes the federal marijuana ban won’t last much longer, especially after lawmakers and citizens note the tax revenue coming in from recreational legalized states.
Because, as he notes, in the age of the smartphone, it won’t be long before people start discovering the information for themselves.
“They really need to be pragmatic now because you can’t just lie to people anymore,” Rebagliati told Civilized. “We have the internet now. It’s the dawn of divine information. So if the government says something, people go out right away and fact check it. We have the power in our cellphones that the FBI used to have. People are not in the dark anymore”