A healthy new image for Cannabis

By Jennifer Stein

Deuvall Dorsey taking on the Desert Dash Trails of Glory 2016 course at Cottonwood Valley in Las Vegas (Shanti Colangelo-Curran).

Although recreational marijuana use recently became legal in California and Nevada, destigmatizing its use in connection with running and other endurance sports is still a challenge. Meet Deuvall Dorsey, aka the Vegas 420 Runner, an ultra-runner and triathlete. As a  cannabis advocate, Dorsey aims to dispel myths and help raise awareness about cannabis benefits in the athletic community. Through his PR firm, Redefine Cannabis, and his Vegas running team, 420 Cross Country, Dorsey is on a mission to promote marijuana’s healthy new image.

Why and when did you start running and how did you become the ultra runner you are today?
I started running in May 2012 when I was elected student body president of Nevada State College. While taking classes full time and leading the student government I had a very busy schedule and discovered that I could use running to help me with time management by structuring my schedule around my training.

After my first 5k, peer pressured by a friend, I signed up for my first half marathon a month later. I went from 5k to 10k to half marathon to 30k and with the completion of each new distance came the desire to go further. While training for a 70.3 half triathlon I began using ultra running as a training tool to help me prepare for the fatigue of the final running portion of a triathlon.

How long have you been using cannabis in connection with your running? Do you use it as a performance enhancing drug?
I’ve used cannabis my entire adult life so using it with running came naturally for me. Although I use cannabis to enhance my experience and not to enhance my performance, I do believe it does. I’ve found that cannabis eases muscle inflammation, spasms, cramps, and overall pain when I’m deep into an ultra-training session. I sometimes get a feeling of nausea after 30 or 40 miles and cannabis has helped me manage that. Also, I believe ultra-running is 90% mental so cannabis has played an important role of helping me keep my cool and focus on the task at hand.

And then there’s the obvious: rest and recovery. After training or racing, having some edibles is a relaxing way to deal with post workout pain. I use cannabis after every training session and race.

What happened when you went public with your marijuana use?
I went public with my cannabis use as part of a school project but hadn’t thought about the possible consequences of revealing my marijuana patient status online. I transformed my endurance athlete blog into a cannabis running website. Many friends and supporters took a step back to give me room to maneuver and space to grow.

Since legalization, have you had any reactions from the people who gave you a hard time in the past?
As time went on people warmed up to the idea and I later learned that the only reservation many had regarding cannabis was due to the legal mysteriousness of the substance and what others would think. As my running career developed so did the cannabis legalization movement in Nevada, leading to more efforts being made to raise awareness across the state which have trickled down to the running community, who are slowly becoming more knowledgeable about the benefits of cannabis.

How did you become involved with the public relations side of the cannabis industry?
My bachelor’s degree is in visual media and communications with a focus in public relations. For the last two years of my undergrad program I completed a number of cannabis themed class projects and assignments, as well as several independent study courses focused specifically on the Nevada cannabis industry under the guidance of my professors. Through my assignments I put together an imaginary public relations firm called High Performance PR complete with brand guide, mission statement, cannabis concepts and athletic promotional campaign ideas, target audiences, strategies, tactics, budget, and timeline.

After developing a robust network and learning through hands-on experiences and on the job training with Nevada cannabis industry leaders, I turned that school project into a real world PR firm, REDEFINE Cannabis. We specialize in redefining cannabis and those who use it by way of athletics and academics.

Marijuana use recently became legal in California and Nevada. Did that change the negative stigma associated with cannabis and sports? What challenges are you and the industry still facing?
The post legalization era appears to be ushering in a more favorable outlook on cannabis in athletics. The Nevada Athletic Commission is considering striking cannabis from the banned substances list. With major governing bodies of professional sports beginning to take a second look at cannabis, local people seem to be softening up to the idea that it’s going to be around bringing benefits to people they know.

One of the main challenges the industry faces is educating people on what exactly cannabis is. Many people are under the impression that it’s just “weed” that can be smoked to get high and feel relaxed. Most runners have no idea about topical lotions, tinctures, sublinguals, drinks, and bath oils all offered as CBD (Cannabidiol) with no psycho-active effects. That means runners can benefit from the relief cannabis offers without even smoking or getting high. There is a lot of work to be done raising awareness in the running community.

You’re the founder of the 420 Cross Country race team. Tell us about your mission and goals.
The 420 Cross Country team is a group of runners and cannabis supporters who promote cannabis use among athletes as a healthy alternative to alcohol and aspirin for post workout recovery. Our overall goal is to normalize cannabis and destigmatize it across the country. This year we hope to sign up 420 runners at the pro and rookie membership levels. We also want to establish multi-city teams that will be first in line to have their entry fees paid once we begin partnering with cannabis businesses to promote their brands in the running community. To bolster recruiting we are creating a web series called Puff & Run Tv that follows us to each of the 420 Games.

You’ll be competing in the 420  Games in Los Angeles in April. Is this your first time participating?
Yes, the 420 Games in Los Angeles will be my very first 420 Games event. This year I plan to attend all eight 420 Games events in six different states. As a Vegas 420 Runner I feel I have a responsibility to do whatever I can to help the 420 Games event in Vegas (in November) be a huge success. 420 Games speaks directly to my target audience of cannabis/fitness/running, so my 2017 race schedule was built around their event calendar. For me it’s important to attend these events to collaborate with the 420 Games organizing leaders to learn ways that we can make the Vegas event the best ever.

What do you see for the future of the cannabis industry? And what are your personal goals in relation to that?
In the future, cannabis businesses will pay athletes top dollar to represent their brands. The healing benefits of cannabis will penetrate every athletic competition leading to rule and regulation changes in all professional sports allowing for increased amounts of cannabis use. The performance enhancing aspects of cannabis will be proven to exist within select athletic competitions, particularly those involving endurance or long physical/mental fatigue. Cannabis products will be viewed as vitamins and essential supplements for peak performance. Cannabis brands will sponsor ultra teams to represent their brand while competing in international multi-day ultra marathons.

My personal goal is to destigmatize cannabis in my local community and across the country by using my life story, my running, and the 420 Cross Country team to educate people about the plant. I also want to help the student Cannabis Awareness Network go from being a Nevada based student organization to becoming a multi-state national organization.

Learn more about Dorsey’s efforts at 420crosscountry.org and  REDEFINEcannabis.com.

Interviewer Jennifer Stein with Dorsey at Trail Trashed 2017 held at Sloan Canyon Conservation Area in Henderson, Nevada (Phil Rosati).