On Thursday, Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant announced a partnership and sponsorship deal with Weedmaps, an online marketplace for cannabis consumers and businesses.
According to ESPN's Brian Windhorst, "Durant has been an advocate for the benefits of marijuana in the past and has invested in cannabis-related businesses. It's the furthest an active major pro athlete, especially one with Durant's visibility, has gone in the pot space."
As part of the partnership, Weedmaps will be an official sponsor of Thirty Five Ventures’ sports business media network, Boardroom.
"I think it's far past time to address the stigmas around cannabis that still exist in the sports world as well as globally," Durant told ESPN. "This partnership is going to help us continue to normalize those conversations, as well as create content, events, and a lot more through our Boardroom media network. This is just the beginning for us."
The NBA has made major strides in decriminalizing marijuana use. Just last season, the NBA and NBPA agreed to suspend all randomized marijuana tests for the year, and something similar could go into effect for the upcoming 2021-22 season as well.
Durant is one of many athletes who have publicly advocated for the health benefits associated with marijuana. Marijuana can be used as a natural alternative to pain-medication pills that athletes are often prescribed for inflammation and injury recovery, and many athletes have gone on record to say that they prefer marijuana over opiates.
"Marijuana remains banned by the NBA but exists in a decriminalized gray area," Windhorst added. "League rules currently require four random tests for marijuana per year but those tests were informally halted when the league re-started in the Orlando bubble in 2020 and then didn't return in the 2020-21 season.
"Representatives from the league office and player's union told ESPN Thursday that there is ongoing dialogue about marijuana but there are currently no concrete plans to formally change the rule. The league still does drug testing and last month suspended Toronto Raptors guard Jalen Harris for a year because of violations of the anti-drug policy."
If some of the NBA's biggest stars start to become the face of cannabis companies (like Durant with Weedmaps) and openly support the use of cannabis in sports, it isn't too far-fetched to think Adam Silver and the NBA could remove marijuana from their banned-substances list in the near future.