KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kevin Croom received the break of his life in 2020 when he was asked to fly to Las Vegas for a fight with 36 hour's notice. He fought Roosevelt Roberts and won in 30 seconds.
However, that win was taken away because Croom, a Kansas City metro MMA fighter known as "Crash," tested positive for cannabis, something he said he was honest about. He paid a fine but was allowed to keep his $50,000 bonus for winning the fight.
"It can really help athletes with not putting chemicals in your body, you know what I mean," Croom said. "It's a plant. It grows in the ground."
Considering his own experiences, Croom said, he feels for U.S. sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson, who was banned from competing the Tokyo Olympics after testing positive for "a chemical found in marijuana," according to an Associated Press report.
Days after Richardson's Olympic hopes were dashed, the The Evolution Magazine, Kansas City's monthly cannabis publication hosted a Facebook Live asking the question – Is cannabis a performance-enhancing drug?
Chris Wolfenbarger, a retired sergeant and founder of the Veteran Patient Access Foundation who hosted the discussion, said cannabis is a life enhancer. It's different, according to Wolfenbarger, than "doping" or steroids, some of the buzz words assocaited with performance enhancers.
"Cannabis is kind of a different dog than that," Wolfenbarger said.
In Croom's situation, he said, his win being taken away was ridiculous because he wasn't high when he was fighting. He doesn't understand why the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and the Nevada State Athletic Commission don't care about substances like alcohol but care about cannabis.
"What's the perception of one versus the other?" he said. "It does really need to change 'cause alcohol is a lot worse, it's a worse for your body."
He said the UFC's major sponsors have included alcohol companies, like Modelo and Bud Light.
"Globally, there's going to be a lot of reform and work that needs to be done for sure," Croom said. "It's starting here, and it's about time, but I would say it's going to be a while before it's globally accepted."
Both the Anti-Doping Agency and, more recently, the Nevada State Athletic Commission have announced they won't punish MMA athletes for cannabis use.
"Which is awesome, but also, like, ugh, why'd I have to go through that?" Croom said with a laugh.
There's even a stigma with CBD, said Joshua Byers, hemp consultant for CBD American Shaman and an MMA media insider. He also appeared on The Evolution's discussion.
Byers said CBD and cannabis come up a lot when he talks with MMA fighters. They put their bodies on the line, Byers said, and both help them alleviate pain and be able to train the next day.
"So just giving people another option in getting away from opioids and things that have big side effects, where they can just go to this plant, and if you don't want to get high, you can still get your benefits from it," Byers said.
Byers said he thinks Richardson and other athletes, like Croom, can help merge the realms of sports and cannabis.
"People are just going to get more relief at the end of the day," Byers said.