Weed Adoption in Sports
the path towards full legalization
As part of the latest 4/20 holiday celebration, we’ll dive into the latest developments of weed adoption in sports and the reasons why it’s an important topic to follow.
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Weed Adoption in Sports
The new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the National Basketball Players Association and the NBA will no longer penalize players for using marihuana, according to The Athletic.
Although the NBA stopped testing players for cannabis in 2021, this explicit policy statement means the league has officially changed its position on the substance.
An Evolving Attitude
This shift in attitude is part of a broader trend in the sports industry, as increasing state legalization and the adoption of marihuana in sports have pushed leagues, associations, and organizing committees to reconsider their stances:
The MLB removed marihuana from its banned substances in 2019, allows teams to sell sponsorships to cannabis companies, and even signed an exclusive deal with Charlotte’s Web — a major CBD brand — as the official CBD partner of the league.
The NHL tests for cannabis but doesn’t punish usage — it uses it to provide health and wellness services and recommendations to players.
The NFL reduced its testing windows in 2021, allowing players to use cannabis during the offseason without any punishment.
Countless other sports organizations have loosened their regulations around cannabis — primarily due to the legal changes around it.
A Better Substitute
The alarming rise in deaths related to traditional opioid abuse — e.g., painkillers — has increased interest in alternatives that could be less harmful to users.
Some evidence suggests marihuana and its diverse strains can help reduce pain, inflammation, and stress.
Recent research findings suggest people have turned to marihuana as an alternative way to treat pain, avoiding more dangerously addictive drugs and reducing opioid prescriptions overall.
By accepting medical marihuana, sports leagues contribute to a healthier trend of safer alternatives to more harmful substances — but its potential does not end there.
A Gold Mine?
Sports properties can align their brands with a bigger purpose and monetize partnerships with medical marihuana companies.
Athletes can also invest or become brand ambassadors for weed companies and monetize their name image and likeness.
Although marihuana is only legal in 21 states in the U.S., many properties and athletes are already advocating for it:
The UFC, the BIG3, and World Surf League have partnered with weed companies.
Current and former athletes like NFL tight end Rob Gronkowski, NHL star Mike Cammalleri, and NBA superstar Kevin Durant are some of the few embracing the trend.
While the NBA statement might feel like a minor change, it is part of a growing trend.
Sports leagues are continuously reacting and reevaluating their stances to evolving trends due to changes in laws, novel research findings, and attitudes toward specific substances.
Although full legalization might take more years, the increased marriage between sports and cannabis in the form of partnerships, deals, and endorsements suggests we must keep an eye on this growing intersection.
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