Val Venis, the porn star turned wrestler character portrayed by Sean Morley, was one of the most edgy and controversial characters during WWE’s Attitude Era. Now, Morley is trying to shake up societal conventions even more, by putting the focus on an issue he feels strongly about: the legalization of marijuana. SLAM! Wrestling recently spoke with the Canadian-born Morley to get his view of the issue, including the Liberal government’s legalization efforts.
Now living in Arizona, where marijuana, like in Canada, is only legal for medicinal purposes, Morley is one of the biggest (no Big Valboski jokes, please) advocates of legalizing the plant for all commercial and recreational uses. Through his business, Health For Life Dispensaries, he sees how patients respond to marijuana-based treatments, which he says rival those of more traditional cures.
“People are starting to learn that you don’t need the toxic pharmaceutical medicines,” he said. “There are lots of ailments that all-natural, non-toxic cannabis can be an alternative for. Though I’m not really a fan of calling cannabis an ‘alternative medicine,’ because actually it was the original medicine. It’s the synthetic pharmaceutical products that are really the alternative medicine. I think more people are realizing the qualities of cannabis, and how it can benefit humans moving forward.”
He himself came to this view after seeing the toll that synthetic pain-killers had on his fellow wrestlers.
“(I watched too many) friends of mine in the professional wrestling business fall off the face of the earth. Having their foot in the grave and winding up six feet under because of big pharmaceutical companies’ drugs. Pain pills, anti-inflammatories, anti-anxiety medications.”
“I noticed that not only was there was no-one dying from marijuana, but also that the wrestlers that I knew that smoked marijuana a lot, on a regular basis, it wasn’t affecting their performance. They were still focused athletes, they were getting the job done.”
That evidence convinced him that his previous views against marijuana were misguided, and he started educating himself on the subject.
“In public school, I was taught that marijuana is a dangerous drug, it’s a gateway to all these other drugs. And after seeing (how the wrestlers who were using it were faring), I started to question whether I’d been lied to my whole life. So I started to do a little research on it. And as I started to do research on it, I just got really passionate about it. I couldn’t put down books, I couldn’t stop watching documentaries, I couldn’t stop interviewing experts in the field. So my knowledge continued to grow. And as my knowledge continued to grow, so did my passion. And I decided that’s the industry I wanted to get into after wrestling. And so that’s what I’ve done.”
But his goal wasn’t only to sell to medical patients. Indeed, Morley hopes for the day when marijuana is fully legalized for all purposes.
“Oh, definitely, definitely,” he confirmed. “I want to see hemp become a standard building material for homes. I want to see cars run on hemp fuel. Henry Ford envisioned American farmers growing American hemp to fuel American cars. I want to see that — so instead of (us) giving money to Saudi Arabia (for oil), we’re going to give money to the American and Canadian farmers. If I had my way, cannabis would not be in the hands of government control, it would be free to be the peoples’ plant. People should be able to grow it right next to their carrots and lettuce.”
So what’s preventing this from being the case? According to Morley, it’s a combination of things, including the influence various corporate interests have over the government.
“I think government is completely bought out by not only the big pharmaceutical companies, but also by big oil, big lumber, big cotton,” Morley theorized. “All of these industries that really do fear total cannabis legalization. Besides the pharmaceutical companies wanting to keep the medicinal benefits of marijuana illegal — because that really is their competitor — you’ve got big oil, big cotton, big lumber, for textiles or whatever, you’ve got all those huge industries that fear the legalization of hemp. If I had my way, all rules, regulations, and laws regarding cannabis would be completely abolished. And then all those big oil, big lumber companies would have to practice their business practice in the face of real free-market competition. And I don’t think they’d stand a chance against the power, safety, and effectiveness of hemp.”
Also, Morley suggests the historical stigma of the plant’s illegal nature has been an obstacle. Though he’s hopeful that more education on the subject could open peoples’ eyes, as it did his own.
“Go back to the 1930s and William Randolph Hearst, the newspaper magnate,” he urged. “Hearst was afraid of losing millions and millions of dollars when the decorticator — that made the processing of hemp very easy — was invented. He was afraid that everybody was going to turn to hemp paper, and he would lose millions of dollars on his wood paper that supported his newspaper empire.”
“He was able to demonize it. Before that, the plant was completely standard in 70% of medications before 1936, including children’s cough syrup. If one man can demonize a plant so deeply into the souls of Americans and Canadians and citizens across the world, then why can’t a group of activists undo that? I believe we can. It may take us several years to undo (that attitude), but (our advocacy efforts) are working.”
He points to countries like Uruguay, Portugal, and Spain, where cannabis is either fully legalized or decriminalized. And the several U.S. states, including Colorado, where marijuana is legal. And of course, his Canadian birthplace.
A staunch libertarian, who is against taxation and other regulations that impede the natural free market system, supporting the Liberal party in Canada isn’t something that Morley would generally do. But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s stated plan to legalize marijuana for recreational use was something Morley could fully support.
“The reality is that Justin Trudeau used the idea of legalizing pot to get people like me to say, ‘Okay, I don’t agree with all of his policies, but this is a pretty important issue that I’m really passionate about, so I’ll go ahead and support him.'”
Morley hasn’t been as thrilled about the lack of progress made towards this promise, though, and, given some of Trudeau’s recent comments, is skeptical about his commitment to getting this done.
“Recently, I saw that the Justin Trudeau administration has come out and basically said, ‘Well, we’re having a little issue legalizing cannabis right now, it’s going to be a process.’ And the process apparently will take years and years and years, because apparently they’re a party to three different international treaties.”
“My question to Justin Trudeau is, ‘Who are beholden to? Are you beholden to treaties and foreign nations, or are you beholden to the Canadian citizens that elected you as Prime Minister?’ Obviously, if he doesn’t go through with the legalization of marijuana because he’s worried about breaking international treaties, you know who he’s beholden to: international global governments. And that is grounds for him to be fired as Prime Minister of Canada as far as I’m concerned.”
Moreover, Morley argues, is that those treaties are misguided in the first place, since they’re propagating the view that marijuana should be illegal, a view which he firmly opposes.
“The reality is,” he opined, “that if you want to grow hemp, or cannabis, or marijuana at your home, you’re not violating any other person’s right to life, liberty, or property. Therefore, you’re not committing a real crime. So if you’re not committing a real crime, then let’s inject a little bit of freedom and liberty into the discussion, and say that you’re not a criminal for growing a nutritional and medicinal plant. Unless you’re committing a crime — violating someone else’s life, liberty, or property, government needs to go away.”
In order to help educate governments, or anyone else that is interested in learning more about marijuana and its possible uses, Morley is a fan of the free flow of information spreading over the Internet. To that end, he’s contributing to this information through his Kaptain Kannabis YouTube channel, on which he features videos espousing the benefits of marijuana and otherwise educating people about the plant.
“Above and beyond, it’s got to be entertaining,” he said about the channel, “that’s my number one goal. My second goal is to make sure that the entertainment is going to be educational. The walls of prohibition are crumbling at an accelerated rate now, and that’s something I want to continue to push forward. I want to hold politicians’ feet to the fire. I want to hold law enforcement’s feet to the fire. I want the walls to continue to crumble.”
“And I want to help people understand that what I used to believe, in terms of being a prohibitionist myself until I was 28 years old — I want people to understand that we’ve been lied to about this plant. In order to benefit big corporations that have synthetic products, or products that could be basically relegated to history if hemp ever became completely legal.”
One corporation that Morley would like to change its stance on marijuana is his former employer, World Wrestling Entertainment. While he would not rule out doing certain things with the company in the future — talking to schools, acting as an ambassador, for example — Morley insists he will not perform in the ring for WWE unless and until they stop fining performers for testing positive for cannabis use.
“Guys are being fined $2,500 for testing positive,” he said about the current policy. “(But) you can use hydrocodone and oxycodone, like Vicodin and Norco, if you have a valid prescription. But (when I was there) I was addicted to those pills, just like a bunch of other wrestlers were. (The doctor) who was with the testing facility for WWE would call me up and say, ‘You tested positive for hydrocodone. Do you have a prescription?’ I’d send him off a valid prescription and a week later, I’d get a letter in the mail saying ‘Congratulations, you’ve passed your wellness exam.’ You could drive a Mack truck right through that drug-testing policy. Guys didn’t want to pay $2,500 every time they got tested and caught for THC. So what did they do? They got a valid prescription for oxycodone or hydrocodone, and they’d start dropping pills.”
“Andrew ‘Test’ Martin, who was one of my best friends, he passed away several years ago from pills. I think he’s one guy who would have much rather just have used cannabis instead of pills, but at the time, he was wanting to get back in WWE, and had stopped smoking pot and taking pills again. And wound up six feet under. So that’s when I said to myself enough is enough, this is ridiculous.”
“I understand WWE’s position,” he conceded. “It’s federally illegal in the United States, they’re a corporation, and they tell me they have to follow federal laws. But when they tell me they have to follow federal laws, what they’re really telling me is that following federal law is more important than the health and well-being of their talent. And that’s a sad, sad position to be in. So until they grow some ‘nads and say ‘(To hell with) federal law, we’re going to allow guys to use cannabis, because it’s a lot safer and nobody’s going to die from it,’ until they do that, I’m not going to do any performance inside their ring.”
In the meantime, Morley is going to continue to advocate for change in both the laws, and in the societal mindset.
“In Arizona, we’re working very hard to get two initiatives on the ballot in 2016 that would allow recreational marijuana down here. There are a lot of enlightened people that are bringing out the truth about the plant, along with the free flow of information on the internet as well. That’s been a huge aspect of getting the truth out there. The information on the internet, without government interference or control, that has helped get a lot of information into peoples’ hands.”