If you broke your ankle and your doctor offered you 30 Vicodin or a single medicated CBD cream for pain relief, which would you choose? If you answered “CBD”, then you're just like thousands of professional athletes in the world. But unfortunately for those athletes, due to the illegality of cannabis in most countries and the harsh penalties imposed by professional sports leagues, the only option is opioids or nothing. That is, unless you're Elias Theodorou.
Elias Theodorou is a Canadian MMA fighter best known for winning The Ultimate Fighter Nations: Canada vs. Australia, an MMA-theme reality show he describes as, “Big Brother, but with punches and kicks.” He has also competed in the UFC Middleweight Division.
Nicknamed The Spartan, Theodorou currently holds a 17-3 record — which means he'll probably whoop your ass if you don't wear a mask.
Past fighting, Theodorou is also the first, and only, professional athlete in the entire history of professional sports to be granted a Therapeutic Use Exemption for medical cannabis by a governing body (the British Columbia Athletic Commission). This means that, because Theodorou is a citizen of Canada, where cannabis has been recreationally legal since 2018, he can't be barred from using the plant as medicine.
Cannabis over opioids
Of his journey, he said, “In Canada, because healthcare is a fundamental right, there's avenues to argue on that fact. We were able to present a case to the Athletic Commission in British Columbia and they approved my Therapeutic Use Exemption. What makes this a really important cog in the wheel of medical cannabis rights is that because it's the athletic commission, that's a governing body, so this is another component of cannabis being considered a medicine, and most importantly, it's the first time in professional sports.”
A huge medical cannabis advocate, Theodorou first saw the plant's benefits through the eyes of his former MMA coach and friend, Lachlan Cheng. During Ultimate Fighter, they spent time training in Thailand, where cannabis is illegal for foreigners. His coach was a medical cannabis patient; however, without access to that medicine, he had to turn to painkillers. Seeing the negative effects opioids can have on the human body, Theodorou, who suffers from lateral neuropathy (nerve damage in his upper extremities), knew there had to be a healthier choice.
“I already saw the pitfalls of first-line medicine, and I thought that cannabis might be a healthier alternative. I reached out to my family doctor and he essentially helped me through the process of getting medical cannabis. I've been a medical cannabis patient for the better part of 5 years at this point,” he told Weedmaps.
With cannabis being such a huge part of his everyday life, it's only right that in discussing his fight for medical cannabis rights, we also asked him about some of his favorite cannabis products. Here are a few of the things Theodorou can't live without.
High CBD tinctures
Elias is all about a scheduled out regimen dependent on how his body feels. Most of the time, that regimen includes high CBD tinctures. “Usually when I wake up, it's more CBD and tincture-oriented. I tend to do a 1:1 tincture in the morning, depending on how my body feels. At the end [of the day], I tend to do a little bit heavier CBD.”
For those that don't know, tinctures are a liquid form of cannabis oil that can be consumed sublingually, or applied to virtually any edible, including drinks. They tend to be great for medical patients, those who want to manage dosage, and anyone looking for a light experience that allows them to ease into their relationship with cannabis. Many tinctures come as CBD-dominant or with a 1:1 THC:CBD ratio.
“After my training session, I tend to vaporize for the most part. As an athlete, and also if I am going to advocate for the properties of medical cannabis, I think taking away the combustion component is a much healthier component.”
Vaporizers are the little pens you see people hitting on the go. The cartridges are made up of cannabis hash oil that can come from a variety of strains. You can get them in all forms, including THC-dominant, a balanced 1:1, and CBD-dominant. As cannabis evolves, you're even starting to see CBG and CBN vape pens hit the market. With the immense popularity of these products, you'll see a flood of unregulated vapes on the street, so remember to only purchase from reputable companies that can provide a certificate of analysis.
Topicals are the bees knees when it comes to rubbing cannabis into your skin. This especially applies to athletes and anyone else who uses cannabis to manage pain, arthritis, and other joint inflammation. Theodorou likes to ingest cannabis, but when it comes to topicals, he told me, “I'm trying to get as many cannabinoids on that knee area. I fight inflammation and pain when I ingest [cannabis], but on a topical sense, [I apply it] more directly on the area itself.” He specifically likes THCA topicals.
THCA is a cannabis compound that becomes THC after being combusted. THC is the active compound in cannabis that we associate with getting high. However, without the combustion, THCA doesn't provide the high, but still has the benefits.
“During the day, I tend to use sativa. After training sessions, I medicate with indica. At night, I sometimes use indica, but it is still heavy with the CBD flower.”
Two strains that Theodorou specifically called out are Chocolope and Dr. Who. Chocolope is a sativa cross of Chocolate Thai and Cannalope Haze that many people love in the morning for its uplifting and energizing qualities. Dr. Who is an indica-dominant hybrid cross of Mad Scientist and Timewreck. It's championed for being a relaxing strain that doesn't necessarily sedate you, so many people love it at any time of day.
Lastly, Theodoru can't live without CBD flower. As part of his nighttime regiment, he likes to consume CBD strains, though he doesn't have a specific favorite. Most strains are THC-dominant or balanced, because that's what the market demands. But there are still CBD strains out there like ACDC, Harlequin, and Sour Tsunami.
Featured graphic by David Lozada/Weedmaps