A San Francisco gym slated to open this fall will encourage clients to use cannabis as part of their fitness routine.
Power Plant Fitness clients will have the option to bring their own cannabis or order edibles, the gym’s preferred form of cannabis, while they are at the gym. A delivery service will bring desired edibles to the gym within 15 minutes after clients place orders, owner Jim McAlpine told USA TODAY. Adult-use, recreational marijuana is legal in California, but only dispensaries can sell it. Using marijuana in public is banned. The gym will have a designated space for those inhaling marijuana.
The gym, which advertises itself as the world's first cannabis gym, touts using the drug for pain, focus and meditation.
McAlpine, who is already hosting Power Plant boot camps, wants people to know this isn’t going to be “a stoner gym.” While cannabis use is welcome, the focus is on fitness, he said.
“For the people that it affects the right way, cannabis can make working out fun,” McAlpine said. “If you make it more fun, people are going to do it more.”
McAlpine said personally, cannabis helps him control his weight and focus during workouts. But, he said this isn’t the case for everyone.
When clients join the gym, McAlpine said they will complete a cannabis performance assessment. That means staff will assess clients during a sober workout and a workout after using cannabis.
McAlpine, who also founded the 420 Games, said he anticipates at least half of the clients won’t be a good fit for cannabis-influenced workouts.
“This isn’t something where we are telling someone to do this,” McAlpine said. “It’s an option to consider.”
Dr. Scott Krakower, assistant unit chief of psychiatry at Zucker Hillside Hospital in New York, said the option is dangerous.
“I worry that the philosophy of the country is going towards health, happiness, smoke weed,” Krakower said. "You are glorifying weed and saying it’s this agent that’s going to cure everything. I don’t think that’s going to be the case.”
He said that message can be especially damaging to children and young adults.
“Ingesting compounds at a younger age …19 and 20 years old, brains are still forming,” he said. “I worry that they could be exposed to something that could be potentially negative to them.”
Dr. Marc J. Romano, director of medical services at Delphi Behavioral Health in Florida, said people could feel more relaxed when using and working out. The World Anti-Doping Agency actually cites research saying cannabis can give athletes an advantage by decreasing anxiety, allowing users to perform better under pressure. But, in the same vein, Romano said that feeling could impair users' ability to lift weights and operate gym equipment.
“If your awareness cognition is in any way impaired, you could be a danger to those around you,” Romano said.
Cannabis in adolescence and young adulthood has been linked to developing psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia. Marijuana smoke can also cause respiratory problems, elevated heart rate and mental illness, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports. But, cannabis research is hazy.
Dr. Sue Sisley, who has conducted FDA-approved clinical trails on cannabis and recently served on a panel at SXSW with McAlpine, said doctors have to be skeptical.
"We’ve never been exposed to the idea of cannabis as medicine," Sisley said. "We have been systematically misled."
While Sisley said she wouldn't advise adolescent use of cannabis for fitness, she said trying cannabis later in life would pose little risk.
“Bottom line is the plant is very benign,” she said. “It has a very mild side effect profile. It’s far less toxic than many of the prescriptions I write every day.”
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