Should weed be legal on Tour? Post-suspension, Robert Garrigus lobbies for change

July 3, 2019

Robert Garrigus is returning to the PGA Tour at this week’s 3M Open for the first time since serving a three-month suspension for a failed drug test. But he doesn’t think others should suffer the same punishment.

Garrigus, 41, had elevated levels of THC; he admitted to using prescribed marijuana for knee and back pain. But he intends to meet with PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan at next week’s John Deere Classic to discuss a potential change in policy.

Robert Garrigus would like to see a change in PGA Tour policy.
Robert Garrigus would like to see a change in PGA Tour policy.
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“If you have some sort of pain and CBD or THC may help that, and you feel like it can help you and be prescribed by a doctor, then what are we doing?” Garrigus told Golf Channel’s Todd Lewis. “If you are doing marijuana then we should be testing for alcohol, too. If you can buy it in a store, then why are we testing for it? That’s my opinion.

“I wasn’t trying to degrade the PGA Tour in any way, my fellow professionals in any way. I don’t cheat the game,” Garrigus said. “I understand HGH — anything you are trying to do to cheat the game you should be suspended for, 100 percent. Everything else should be a discussion.”

Garrigus’ stance is part of an increasingly progressive view on supplements across the PGA Tour. CBD has taken professional golf by storm, drawing endorsements from Scott Piercy, Scott McCarron and Bubba Watson, while dozens of others have admitted to its use with varying levels of openness. “I’ve had doctors involved to do my research and see what companies out there make a product that’s safe for me and safe for my family. It was a no brainer,” Watson said.

Still, the PGA Tour has warned players that CBD is not carefully regulated, and has not taken steps to loosen its stance on marijuana. In 2015, an ESPN survey found that 39% of players thought the Tour should stop testing for marijuana; that number is likely higher now.

A notable element of Garrigus’ suspension is that it’s the first recreational drug suspension revealed under the PGA Tour’s new policy. Before a rules change in late 2017, only performance-enhancing breaches were revealed. Since then, a series of lesser-known players have received suspensions. Bhavik Patel and Doug Barron were each suspended for a year after failing tests for performance-enhancing drugs. Brad Fritsch self-reported that an over-the-counter weight-loss product had contained a banned substance. Mark Hensby declined a test and was banned. Scott Stallings self-reported taking a growth hormone and received a three-month suspension.

Garrigus’ stands out, particularly because the Tour’s guide agrees with Garrigus that marijuana is not performance-enhancing. “Athletes are unlikely to use cannabinoids to improve their performance; however, some athletes have used cannabinoids to decrease anxiety before a competition,” the player guide reads. “They are more likely to be used as a recreational drug.”

In addition to cannabinoids, others in that same category banned by the Tour include cocaine, methylenedioxymethamphetamine (Ecstasy), phencyclidine (PCP) and meth. “Involvement with illegal substances goes against the spirit of our sport,” the policy states.

Garrigus, who himself owns a marijuana farm in Washington state, referred to the failed test as a “relapse” in a statement at the time of his suspension.

“After a long period of sobriety, I had a relapse and subsequently failed a drug test for marijuana, a drug that, although legal in many states, is not permitted under the PGA Tour’s anti-doping rules.”

As legislation passes in more and more states reducing the penalties associated with marijuana use, only time will tell if the PGA Tour follows suit.

Garrigus, who has slipped to No. 603 in the world during his absence, will make his first start since the Puerto Rico Open this week. He tees off alongside Lucas Glover and Brandon Harkins on Thursday.

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