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First pro-athlete granted medical cannabis exemption in US

MMA fighter Elias Theodorou has been granted a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) for medical cannabis



Theodorou is the first athlete to secure an exemption for the use of medical cannabis

Canadian MMA fighter Elias Theodorou is the first US athlete to secure a medical cannabis exemption in professional sport.

The MMA Champion and medical cannabis advocate, who has bilateral neuropathy, has been granted a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) for medical cannabis from the State of Colorado. 

Theodorou is the first athlete to secure an exemption for the use of medical cannabis in professional sport in the United States, after the same achievement in Canada in 2020. 


Known as ‘The Spartan’, Theodorou, is a top-ranked middleweight fighter who amassed an impressive 8-3 record during his time in the UFC. 

Elias Theodorou has bilateral neuropathy

The US exemption comes after several years of advocacy to fight the stigma of medical cannabis in athletics.

After being granted a TUE in Canada in 2020, Elias competed and won as a ‘cannabis athlete’ in March 2021 at the Rise Fighting Championship 6 against Matt Dwyer

He was able to medicate with doctor-prescribed cannabis for leading up to his fight.

Theodorou commented: “Professional sports cause a lot of challenges like injury and pain. Opioids are readily available and often encouraged to help with pain issues.

“As someone who has bilateral neuropathy, but not interested in consuming opioids, it is important to continuously advocate for the medicinal benefits of cannabis and our right as athletes to be able to utilise it.” 

He added: “If that means me securing my TUE state by state, country by country, then I will; I will do whatever it takes to fight the stigma, and advocate for all individuals.”

Erik Magraken, Elias’ Legal Counsel, managing partner of MacIsaac & Company and combat sports regulator lawyer, said: “This is a precedent that Elias is rightfully proud of. He has been fighting the stigma of cannabis in sport and cannabis as medicine for years and getting the first US Athletic Commission to recognise his medical rights in granting a TUE is a huge leap forward that can assist many other athletes.”



Sarah Sinclair is a respected cannabis journalist writing on subjects related to science, medicine, research, health and wellness. She is managing editor of Cannabis Health, the UK’s leading title covering medical cannabis and CBD, and sister titles, Cannabis Wealth and Psychedelic Health. Sarah has an NCTJ journalism qualification and an MA in Journalism from the University of Sunderland. Sarah has over six years experience working on newspapers, magazines and digital-first titles, the last two of which have been in the cannabis sector. She has also completed training through the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society securing a certificate in Medical Cannabis Explained. She is a member of PLEA’s (Patient-Led Engagement for Access) advisory board, has hosted several webinars on cannabis and women's health and has moderated at industry events such as Cannabis Europa. Sarah Sinclair is the editor of Cannabis Health. Got a story? Email / Follow us on Twitter: @CannabisHNews / Instagram: @cannabishealthmag


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