After 15 years of running away from his famed reputation as "that pot-smoking snowboarder guy who (briefly) had his gold medal stripped," Canadian Ross Rebagliati has made the hard decision to embrace his past by opening a marijuana dispensary.
At the 1998 Nagano Olympics, Rebagliati won the the first-ever snowboarding gold medal when he finished first in the men's giant slalom. The 26-year-old from Whistler was—briefly, at least—a Canadian national hero. The very next day, though, he was informed that he'd tested postive for 17.8 nanograms of marijuana in his bloodstream (the legal limit was 15). He claimed it was second-hand smoke, that he hadn't smoked for nearly a year.
But the International Olympic Committee (IOC) stripped Rebagliati of his gold medal, anyway, and he was taken to a Japanese prison for cross-examining. Then, less than a day-and-a-half later, the IOC gave the medal back—it turned out marijuana wasn’t on the IOC’s banned substance list…it is now—and he was released.
Ross’s story, like so many other talented Olympic athletes who win medals before fading to obscurity, could’ve ended there. But, placed at the center of a culture war over recreational drugs, his reputation preceded him everywhere. He wasn’t known for winning the first-ever snowboarding gold medal, but for testing positive for weed (and, miraculously, coming away medal intact).
Rebagliati left snowboarding competition, and tried on a more low-key, mainstream lifestyle, first trying his hand at real estate and then taking a crack at politics. Fast forward to the global recession and the 2007 housing market crash, where he was forced with a decision—go broke, or embrace his celebrity status and try to make a living from it.
It was a no-brainer, especially once Canada announced plans, in late 2012, to privatize the distribution of prescription marijuana. Soon, Rebagliati will open the flagship location of Ross’ Gold—a cleverly named coffee shop, medical marijuana dispensary and head shop—in Whistler, British Columbia. He’s anticipating the full legalization of recreational marijuana a la Holland in the near future. And when that happens, Rebagliati plans to franchise Ross’ Gold.
Finally, after more than a decade of sitting on his gold mine of a reputation, Ross Rebagliati will cash in on his name.