We spoke to Rob Van Dam some time ago about cannabis and its use as a neuroprotectant against chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), in cancer and chemotherapy, and as a painkiller. He is joined by the mysterious, Rey Mysterio, a wrestler of similar legendary status.
Captain Ron: Doc. I have got a special guest – two special guests – for you today
Doctor Frank: what do you got
Captain Ron: Number one …
Doctor Frank: Through the reveal.
Captain Ron: In studio we have the only wrestler in history to have held the WWE Championship, the ECW World Heavyweight Championship and the TNA World Heavyweight Championship. He’s also won more championships than any other WWE wrestler. Ladies and gentlemen, Rob Van Dam.
Doctor Frank (joined by Captain Ron): Rob Van Dam! Rob Van Dam! Rob … But you said we have another guest?
Captain Ron: Well we do, and he’s known only as Mysterio.
Doctor Frank: Oooooo …. Mysterio
Captain Ron: All right. Well Rob, welcome to the show.
Rob Van Dam: Thank you.
Captain Ron: You’re you’re obviously an acclaimed wrestler and and awesome well a…
Doctor Frank: … World-class athlete. A world-class class athlete.
Rob Van Dam: I’m very accomplished.
Captain Ron: Why don’t you tell us a little bit about how you got involved in cannabis? How that started for you?
Rob Van Dam: How did I get involved? That’s uh … I guess it was just a really organic kind …
Captain Ron: … Nice …
Rob Van Dam: … Of transition from being a fitness-minded kid who was told in school to stay away from marijuana because it was just like LSD or acid and it was a hallucinogen. It was bad, it would make me go crazy. And then, shortly into my wrestling career I, noticed a lot of the athletes that I respected – you know, that were in very good condition – were using cannabis. And so, I started to question it and …
Captain Ron: Seems counter-intuitive right? You thought your whole life you heard that, like we talked about doc, we heard the same thing.
Rob Van Dam: Yeah I mean … I still remember like way back in 91, when my partner, the guy who helped train me Sabu, he would drive him in this guy Judge Dredd they would smoke a joint and me and this other kid that was with me, we’d be in the backseat with our head out the window and if you blow …
Doctor Frank: [Laughing] … Afraid (?)
Rob Van Dam: They try and lock the windows closed and blow it kind of myself. And we say, “Stop it, you’re killing us!” Put our shirt over our head … Yeah, and then gave in to peer pressure. You know, hit a couple times, and then it became more and more of a regular thing.
And it wasn’t until ECW days and High Times Magazine coming around my way before I think I became an advocate.
Doctor Frank: Couple questions. First of all ,when you were using the cannabis, because we just found that recently in San Francisco that they’re that’s gonna open a cannabis friendly gym. And a lot of the athletes are saying the reason we use cannabis is because it helps us focus it, helped us helps us, you know, to maintain our focus on what we’re doing …
Captain Ron: The runners …
Doctor Frank: … To, right the runners, and everything like that. So did you, did you find that it helped you you focus on your training?
Rob Van Dam: I was able to incorporate it eventually, but it didn’t start that way. It started more of like a recreational thing.
Doctor Frank: Okay.
Rob Van Dam: You know, I was in Jamaica for my 21st birthday. I never had gotten high. All the other wrestlers were so excited cuz they had garbage bags full of weed. I didn’t get it, but a couple of the guys were like, “Hit it, primadonna. Everyone else is, it’s not gonna f*****g kill you!” So I had one or two, you know, tokes on it. That was my first experience with it.
And then I was bouncing at a bar where one of the bouncers would smoke a joint every night after work in his car, and he would say, “Hey! I’m just, you know …” I’d be, “Yeah … uh … I don’t know, I mean I just I just did that like two days this week. You know what am I doing turn into a pothead?”
Doctor Frank: Right
Rob Van Dam: You know, he would say, “Well, you know you don’t have to smoke. You can sit in the car talk. You don’t have to smoke.” So started going through that so it wasn’t really … You know I was wrestling at the time, but I was like just just turned 21, old enough to drink and smoke for the first time legally actually. Well, in Jamaica. It’s when I was 21 was the point I was trying to make.
Doctor Frank: So well because as you know, as I’m sure just preaching to the choir here, part of the medicinal benefits of cannabis. Number one, it’s a bronchodilator, so it’s gonna open up your lung so you’re gonna be able to breathe better. Number two, it’s a vasodilator, so you’re not going to have any kind of hypertension. You’re gonna actually relax the the musculature of the walls of your arteries. So you’re gonna actually be able to function as a machine much more efficiently when you can transfer more of your oxygen through your blood cells by having your lungs expand by having your blood vessels open up so you can get the blood to the muscles although.
Rob Van Dam: Although, isn’t it possible though that having this in your blood system takes the place of oxygen? And that’s why my heart rate might be slightly up? Because it’s not getting enough oxygen per pump? Because I’ve always felt that like if like, if I was gonna take a pulse and try and go for my all record lowest pulse I probably wouldn’t smoke right before because of that fact.
Doctor Frank: You know, that it’s actually the complete opposite. Purely from a mechanical standpoint with the heart. The heart increases its rate with with more resistance, so when you decrease the resistance, you’re actually going to lower the amount your heart has to work in order to pump the blood through the arteries. It would be the opposite of that I don’t know how it affected you. Everybody’s is gonna be different, but number one number two …
Rob Van Dam: I don’t think it does affect me anymore
Doctor Frank: Well, but the cannabis doesn’t block the ability for the haemoglobin to hold the oxygen. It works completely differently. I mean intracellularly, the endocannabinoids system works in the cell itself to make it more efficient, so it’s not gonna work like that. But the reason I’m bringing this up … Would you consider, cuz we had this conversation last week, does the fact that cannabis can allow you to breathe better allow your muscles to work better? Would you consider that a performance-enhancing substance? I’m not really gonna call it a drug.
Is it a performance-enhancing substance if you can focus better, your heart works better and your lungs work better?
Rob Van Dam: I think it all depends on where you draw the line. Okay, because you’re asking me to look at it from a certain perspective of just athletics and I happen to believe cannabis can be a life-enhancer. And from that perspective sure can make everything better if you use it in a positive way. At the same time wherever you draw the lines, if you’re going to say, “Yeah, but it does have a chemical effect on your body and therefore …” Well, how about cigarettes?
Doctor Frank: Well, cigarettes we know actually doesn’t help, because the carbon dioxide actually does bind to the to the hemoglobin module. We know that because that’s that’s carboxyhemoglobin we know that hurts it. But the cannabis does not seem to be affecting the blood cells the same way.
Rob Van Dam: I I find it to be advantageous, but again, it’s from a wider point of view when it comes to performing, yes. I’ve written articles about it in Cannabis Culture. I had a big article after Michael Phelps got busted because it was all over the the news of course
Doctor Frank: Right.
Rob Van Dam: And it was so relevant to – – I went on a Geraldo though, and that what’s-her-name Gilfoyle? She was saying, “Michael Phelps,” um she said, “Put the bong down and eat some vegetables,” or something like that. And I just thought like, “Here’s the world’s greatest athlete …
Doctor Frank: Right, you couldn’t be a better shape.
Rob Van Dam: … And we find out that he smokes. Like, instead of trying to bring him down to everyone’s level, isn’t it possible we could learn something from it?
Like wait athletes can, you know, can be using cannabis and still perform at that level. So that’s why like I’ve always wondered why they didn’t look at it that way. It’s an ignorant perspective I think …
Doctor Frank: Right.
Rob Van Dam: To try to just say, “Well. that’s bad. Let’s not learn about it and ignore it. Truth is a lot of athletes and now we know that we know that NBA players use it, the NFL is looking at it for a neurological protectant and which I’ve been talking about for so many years … But yeah I mean it can help. It can help you focus it can help you feel at your best. You know, we’re traveling a lot a lot of times it’s different time zones.
You’re not you’re not just eating three square meals a day at home you know what I mean. You’re on the road, so there’s no telling how you feel, but when you’re there to perform … Everyone bought a ticket three weeks ago to see you at your best, and you got to deliver. So whatever … You could be tired, any negative effects you could have. You know, your body could like you said, have physical pain. You could be exhausted, whatever.
But if I find that if you can use cannabis to increase … I’d like to say, increase your your vibration your, spiritual frequency you just feel like you’re at your best. And that’s done through a coping mechanism of being able to deal with these negative effects that would otherwise bring you down. So it’s advantageous. I don’t know if it would be an enhancement from a drug perspective, but I again I mean I got to know where.you draw the lines. Where I draw the lines? No I think it’s I think it’s fine
Captain Ron: you see these articles all the times on Yahoo or whatever these wrestlers they’re banged up they’re, they’re in pain, they take a lot of vicodin, they’re on a lot of the opioids. What’s your experience with that? Have you seen that?
Rob Van Dam: Oh many times over the years. Iknow someone that took over 80 10 milligram hydrocodones day, yes.
Captain Ron: A day?!
Rob Van Dam: And a good friend of mine would take over a hundred somas, and he actually overdosed, you know, fatally. And a lot of my friends and peers have died. It was big news several years ago.For some reason, after Eddie Guerrero died, even though they they didn’t relate that to drug use, there was a lot of crack down on all the wrestlers that had died under the age of 45 in a short time period. But there they related the wrestling to like NFL or something, and said if that many football players died you know that’d be a big.
But the thing is it’s [wrestling’s] a touring entertainment, more like a rock and roll kind of lifestyle, or it can be it can be. But the one important fact like with WWE they do a very vigorous drug testing. They have a wellness program right now that the wrestlers adhere to, and it’s a whole different generation.
Captain Ron: Do they not allow opioids on there?
Doctor Frank: Well I would imagine they wouldn’t do that. But do they allow cannabis?
Rob Van Dam: No.
Captain Ron: They do not allow cannabis. In fact, Rob himself experienced the brunt of that as you know as it’s well known. You could talk about that if you want.
Rob Van Dam: Well this your talking about my right my very famous, you know, high bust for possession. It was in Ohio.
Doctor Frank: In Ohio? That’s an a*****e state.
Captain Ron: I know.
Doctor Frank: That’s where Ron’s from.
Rob Van Dam: I had the WWE championship belt and the ECW championship belt at the time, so it was really big news because I had the spotlight on me. And I lost both belts, got suspended for 30 days, cost me tens of thousands of dollars, but f**k that officer. Joke was on him. I made one phone call. I had more weed later that night
Doctor Frank: Well the question is why?
Rob Van Dam: That was before … They didn’t used to test for it. I just want to bring that up.
Doctor Frank: Why would wrestling ban cannabis?
Rob Van Dam and Doctor Frank: Because it’s illegal, federally illegal. That’s right.
Doctor Frank: What what if you were in a state where it’s legal?
Captain Ron: This was 20 years ago
Doctor Frank: But what we’re talking about it right now. Is it legal?
Rob Van Dam: Right now it’s not legal. They test for it say. Last time, it was a $1,000 fine if you get caught. And then, if you get caught a couple of times, they can use that against you especially the younger talent trying to come up, that are, you know, a little more flexible, and they will really crack down on them and say, “We need to get a positive test from you. It’s not just a choice…”
And we have come a long way in the last few years and we’re really moving now. Just a few years ago it was a minority of people that thought it should be legal. Now, it’s the majority, and I don’t think anybody truly believes that there’s no medicinal value in it.
Doctor Frank: Well, the head of the DEA does.
Rob Van Dam: I don’t think he believes that, either. You saw that, when they were questioning him and he wouldn’t answer.
Doctor Frank: Of course not. How about the one before it Michelle Lineheart, when she was sitting there in the middle of the congressional and the Congressional said, “Do you think that cannabis is as bad as heroin?”
Rob Van Dam: Right.
Doctor Frank: “I think all drugs are bad.” Okay, but that’s not what I asked. Do you think cannabis is as bad as acid? “I think all drugs are bad.” Why won’t they answer the question?
Captain Ron: His thing is RVD 4/20. That’s his t-shirt – “Rob Van Dam 4/20”. And it came because of Austin’s. Steve Austin had the 317 or whatever, and then he’s got the 4/20 which is fantastic, and his signature move is the 4/20 leg drop.
Doctor Frank: What does that entail could you maybe …?
Captain Ron: Demonstrate that on Mysterio for us!
Doctor Frank: What is the 420 legdrop?
Rob Van Dam: The 420 leg drop was when Rey Mysterio …
Doctor Frank: Ooooo …
Rob Van Dam: Who you might be related to, I don’t know. Rey Mysterio and I were a tag team champions and, I would pick him up and he would stick his legs out, and then I would jump up and kick my legs out and we would land on the guy. And to get to move called that on TV, I had to explain it because Paul Hayman, one time, he came up to me and he said that Vince said,” Is that a drug reference?”
I said no. I said, “It’s 4/20. We got four legs that are dropping down. I got size 12, he’s got size 8 so that’s our shoe size …
Captain Ron: Combined shoe size.
Doctor Frank: And they bought that?
Rob Van Dam: Yeah, yeah, that’s the 4:20 leg drop.
Doctor Frank: I think that’s a testament to your influence on the sport right there, because I don’t even think Mysterio would buy that
Rob Van Dam: A little tongue-in-cheek.
Captain Ron: It’s awesome, I think it’s brilliant that it got that by he’s very open about it, you know, and the RVD 4:20 was you know, “I smoked your ass” instead of Steve Austin’s I kicked your ass awesome.
Rob Van Dam: The fans and Queen started showing up with posters that said RVD 4:20, so that’s the way I remember it, I got to give it to them. Yeah.
Captain Ron: Yeah, and you embraced it and you put it on your shirt and it’s awesome I love that he’s just he just puts it on to know like you do, doc. It’s just like, look why are we lying to people? Why did you and I and him grow up thinking that this was an evil, awful thing? why did we think everything’s ass-backwards?
Rob Van Dam: Money, money, money. Can I share a quick little story?
Doctor Frank: Please, please.That’s why you’re here, man.
Rob Van Dam: Well six years ago probably six years ago, even longer, six. So anyway, my wife had stage three colon cancer. Went to City of Hope, went through the surgery all the chemo, all that. We’re at a dieticians, meeting nutritionist of some sort, and I’m there with all these old people and sick people. And there’s a lady on stage talking, and the lady who raises her hand this old lady and she says, “Well what can I do to to to eat more?” She says, “I’m so tired and weak and I just don’t feel like eating.”
And the lady was like, “Well, you know, just try just keep trying. You know there’s little tricks like you can put evaporated milk you know like on your food and adds some more calories.” And I was just like, “Jesus, people are f*****g dying.” I raised my hand and I said, “What about medicinal marijuana?”
She goes, “Okay, since you brought it up I can talk about this.
Doctor Frank: Right, right. It’s taboo
Rob Van Dam: She then tells everybody then some patients have found that it can help with nausea, with pain with you know not being able to [sleep] insomnia, and with with appetite. And she’s are naming all this, and I felt like not only did I feel like, “Holy f**k, what an evil, evil, evil agenda that is, to not tell the people when you’re in California where it is legal. City Hope treats thousands of, you know, sick patients but I felt obligated.
Like I thought, “I have to go there every day, at every meeting, and bring it up.” Which I didn’t but I kind of wanted to. Like if I could, if I had enough money, I’d pay someone to do that. Just sit at a meeting every time, bring it up bring it
And as a matter of fact, I actually sat in on a meeting with the board of directors, because I was gonna try to implement that change. But I didn’t. I wasn’t able to pursue it and be proactive enough.
Doctor Frank: Yeah. I mean, I hope over time it’s going, it is, moving in the right direction. You’re absolutely right but …
Rob Van Dam: For the meantime, lots of people are suffering and dying.
Doctor Frank: Yeah, listen
Captain Ron: Well, didn’t your wife use it for chemotherapy,right?
Rob Van Dam: Sure
Doctor Frank: I mean we’re out there, and we’re doing the show. I mean, this show is about making people, and I mean I’m putting it out there. I’ve got a medical degree. I mean, I don’t know what the Medical Board is gonna be looking at this kind of stuff. I do … I would love to be able to use cannabis. I can’t do that I’m afraid of what the Medical Board is gonna say.
I got hip pain, I got neck pain I don’t want to take opioids, I don’t want to take anti-inflammatories. I can’t. It’s not part of what is allowed.
Captain Ron: It seems like you really avoid stress. Stress is like the ultimate evil and should be avoided all cost. And it’s, doc, and you seem to say that that’s what destroys the body …
Rob Van Dam: Right. For sure, absolutely …
Captain Ron: So you use cannabis to help alleviate that
Rob Van Dam: [Stress] ages you, it diseases you if that’s a real word …
Doctor Frank: We’ll use it turn it into let’s turn let’s make it word. I quite like it. Mysterio, you into this?
Rob Van Dam: Perfect, alright. And yeah, I mean it’s the is the ultimate enemy to human health; and every which way besides the immediate short-term of having a life, it lowers the quality of your life. Stress sucks. Sometimes we need it in certain forms you know, like when you’re working out and you need, you know, pressure whatever.
Captain Ron: But you feel that before you go in the ring? That’s in a good way, right?
Rob Van Dam: Well, I put pressure on my myself, and I don’t think I have a choice. But it’s more afraid to f**k up, you know what I mean. Like, I do moves that are considered high-risk, and if I just slipped up on one of them I would just beat myself at the perfectionist that that I am out there. Would beat myself up for that until we were …
Captain Ron: We were watching some of that stuff.
Doctor Frank: He jumped off the loge. It really does he had the ability [to fly]. He jumped out of the loge and flew. He flew …
Doctor Frank: Right, so one of the things I want to talk about is head trauma. Obviously, that’s an issue in wrestling …
Rob Van Dam: Sure, of course.
Doctor Frank: … And right now, it’s a big issue in football, Eugene Monroe, the Ravens cornerback, has just donated forty thousand dollars to help do some of the research for head trauma, and we have found that and well, we know from the studies that have done in Israel, that cannabis has been neuroprotective.
But I want you to know that it’s not just wrestling and football where you get head trauma, Ron, and I have been debating for weeks. He really wants us to get into a slap fighting league. He’s been looking to get into it. I’m not really interested. [Ron laughs].
Do you think that there is the need to do the same kind of research? I mean all the football players, the CTE stuff. Are you finding that in any of the older wrestlers?
Rob Van Dam: Oh, of course. I’m not sure about this, but I thought that it started that way? I don’t know how long NFL’s been into it, but …
Doctor Frank: I don’t, either. I mean, I’m looking to you for answers on this.
Rob Van Dam: I donated my brain and my spine [samples], I don’t know how long ago, at least I don’t know, 2007-2008. It’s been a long time. Chris Nowinski, who started the the whole thing in Boston this study at least with the wrestlers. He was a one of my peers wrestling at WWE, and he had a concussion or two the end of his career.
He was a Harvard graduate, really smart dude. He started started doing these studies, and now he like lectures people on the encephalopathy right. And anyway, I talked to him one time, and I said, “Look”, and this was years ago, I said, “I know that they’re saying that THC helps, you know, like fight off like the the Alzheimer’s, and I know that that’s from the plaque buildup on your information highways.”
And I said, “If concussion damage is the same thing those tau proteins sitting there, isn’t it possible that marijuana could protect the brain from long-term damage from concussions?” Personally, I’ve had hundreds of concussions hundreds, hundreds.
Doctor Frank: I was going to ask you how many concussions you had. What was was the worst concussion you had?
Rob Van Dam: Oh, that’s easy. That was before I got in the business.
Doctor Frank: Okay.
Captain Ron: That was pre-wrestling, wow.
Rob Van Dam: Yeah this was … I kind of had a little a punk era, you know I know I’m like super cool and everything, and last thing I want to do is try and hurt somebody …
Doctor Frank: Right, right …
Rob Van Dam: But don’t don’t cross me!