Former NBA Player Iman Shumpert Arrested in Texas for Cannabis Possession

Former NBA athlete Iman Shumpert, known for playing on teams such as the New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Sacramento Kings, Houston Rockets, and Brooklyn Nets, and also the Dancing With the Stars Season 30 champion was arrested for cannabis possession last week while traveling.

Shumpert was in possession of 6.2 ounces of cannabis in his luggage on July 30 while going through security at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) on his way to Los Angeles. According to the Associated Press, the DFW Airport Department of Public Safety, this was a “sizeable amount of marijuana.” The police also reported that Shumpert had a Glock magazine with 14 nine-millimeter rounds, but no firearm, in his bag as well, however this is not currently a part of the charge.

The police report stated that Shumpert told officers that he had cannabis in his bag, and “asked if there was any way he could make his flight” so he could arrive on time and pick up one of his daughters.

However, police told him no, and arrested him for felony possession instead.

In Texas, recreational cannabis is illegal and medical cannabis is only permitted under specific circumstances. Currently, possession of more than four ounces (but less than five pounds) of cannabis is a state jail felony. If Shumpert is convicted, the charge could net him up to two years imprisonment and up to a $10,000 fine.

It’s a cautionary tale for anyone planning to travel with cannabis. Many airports in legal states have loosened restrictions for cannabis possession. Earlier this year in Canada, one airport was considering allowing a cannabis dispensary on-site. Airports in Chicago installed cannabis amnesty boxes in 2020 for travelers to drop their cannabis in prior to their flights. In 2018, Los Angeles International Airport changed its policy to allow cannabis possession at the airport—but not on an actual flight.

Earlier this year in January, rapper Vic Mensa was caught with 124 grams of psilocybin capsules, 178 grams of psilocybin gummies, six grams of psilocybin mushrooms, and 41 grams LSD, while at Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia after returning from Ghana. He was charged with felony narcotics possession. Despite this, Vic Mensa recently launched his own cannabis brand in Chicago, Illinois called 93 Boyz.

Traveling with cannabis abroad has proven to be dangerous, such as the case of WNBA athlete Brittney Griner, who was detained in Russia in February for possession of vape cartridges. Although she claimed the cannabis was being used for medical purposes, and she holds a medical cannabis card in the U.S., Russian judges concluded on August 4 that she is guilty of her charges and has been sentenced to nine-and-a-half years in prison. Reports have shared that the U.S. is in talks with Russian officials for a potential prisoner swap in order bring Griner home. Last week, the Biden administration made an offer to exchange Russian prisoner Viktor Bout for Griner, as well as another American, Paul Whelan, who has been imprisoned on espionage charges since 2018.

“I want to apologize to my teammates, my club, my fans and the city of (Yekaterinburg) for my mistake that I made and the embarrassment that I brought on them,” Griner said after the charge was issued, according to the Associated Press. “I want to also apologize to my parents, my siblings, the Phoenix Mercury organization back at home, the amazing women of the WNBA, and my amazing spouse back at home.”

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Griner Testifies That Russian-Provided Interpreter Gave Incomplete Translation

The American basketball star Brittney Griner on Wednesday provided details of her arrest and first moments in Russian custody, testifying that an interpreter provided by authorities left her clueless during hours of questioning.

Griner, who was arrested in February at a Moscow airport for carrying cannabis oil in her luggage, faces up to 10 years on the drug charges.

The trial began earlier this month, with Griner pleading guilty to the charges during a court appearance on July 7. In her plea, Griner said “there was no intent,” and she “didn’t want to break the law.”

Griner said at that hearing that she preferred to give her official testimony later.

That moment arrived on Wednesday, with Griner testifying for the first time and shedding light on the lead-up and aftermath of her arrest on February 17.

According to the Associated Press, Griner “described making a grueling 13-hour flight to Moscow from Arizona while recovering from COVID-19,” and “said she still does not know how the cannabis oil for which she had a doctor’s recommendation ended up in her bag but explained she had packed in haste while under great stress.”

Most notably, Griner said “that a language interpreter provided during her questioning translated only a fraction of what was said and officials instructed her to sign documents without providing an explanation,” the Associated Press reported.

The AP has more: “Along with the interpreter provided an incomplete translation, Griner said she was offered neither an explanation of her rights nor access to lawyers and was instructed to sign documents without receiving an explanation of what they implied. After hours of proceedings she did not understand, she was allowed to hand over her personal belongings to a lawyer before being led away in handcuffs, Griner said. She said she received only a cursory translation of the allegations at her during a Feb. 19 hearing where a court sanctioned her arrest.”

According to The New York Times, Griner testified “from an enclosed witness box.”

The Times, citing Griner’s lawyers, said that the “verdict is expected in August.”

Griner’s detention has become a symbol of the contentious relationship between the United States and Russia, with her arrest coming days before the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

In May, the U.S. reclassified Griner as “wrongfully detained,” a move that signaled an intention to negotiate her release.

President Joe Biden has faced mounting pressure, both from lawmakers and Griner’s brethren in the athletic world, to secure her freedom.

Last week, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators filed a resolution calling for Griner’s release.

Earlier this month, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke with Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, after the WNBA star sent the president a letter.

“As I sit here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey, or any accomplishments, I’m terrified I might be here forever,” Brittney Griner wrote in the letter to Biden.

“I realize you are dealing with so much, but please don’t forget about me and the other American Detainees,” she continued. “Please do all you can to bring us home. I voted for the first time in 2020 and I voted for you. I believe in you. I still have so much good to do with my freedom that you can help restore. I miss my wife! I miss my family! I miss my teammates! It kills me to know they are suffering so much right now. I am grateful for whatever you can do at this moment to get me home.”

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Brittney Griner Pleads Guilty to Pot Charges in Russia

Brittney Griner pleaded guilty to cannabis charges in a Russian court on Thursday, nearly five months after the WNBA star and two-time Olympic champion was detained at an airport near Moscow. Griner, who has been classified as wrongfully detained by the U.S. Department of State, now faces a sentence of up to 10 years in prison as punishment for her conviction.

“I’d like to plead guilty, your honor,” Griner said in English, which was then translated into Russian for the court. “But there was no intent. I didn’t want to break the law.”

“I’d like to give my testimony later. I need time to prepare,” she added, according to a report from Reuters.

Griner, the star center for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, was arrested outside Moscow in February. In March, after Russia invaded neighboring Ukraine in an unprovoked attack, Russian authorities announced that Griner had been arrested while going through a customs checkpoint at an airport outside Moscow.

Her arrest has prompted an international outcry from celebrities, politicians, family, and other supporters, many of whom believe that Griner’s detention and trial are being used by Russia as political leverage as the conflict in Ukraine continues. Griner’s supporters hope that her guilty plea coupled with her wrongfully detained status in the eyes of the U.S. government will make her eligible for a prisoner swap between Russia and the U.S.

Arrested for Less Than a Gram of Weed

Griner’s trial on charges of importing vape cartridges with less than a gram of cannabis oil began in a courtroom near Moscow on Friday. Prosecutors argued that Griner put the vape cartridges, which contained a total of 0.7 grams of cannabis oil, into a backpack and a suitcase and intended to import them into the country, according to a report from the Russian state news agency TASS.

Griner’s attorneys, Alexander Boykov and Maria Blagovolina, said that they expect the trial to conclude some time in August. Griner could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison under Russian law, although her legal team hopes that her guilty plea will result in leniency from the court. Boykov noted that samples taken from Griner and subjected to laboratory analysis did not reflect the presence of drugs in her system.

“She was clean, and she was tested,” the attorney said.

In a statement released to the media, Griner’s legal team said that it was the WNBA star’s decision to plead guilty to the charges she faced, adding that the move “sets an example of being brave.”

“She decided to take full responsibility for her actions as she knows that she is a role model for many people,” the statement reads. “Considering the nature of her case, the insignificant amount of the substance and BG’s personality and history of positive contributions to global and Russian sport, the defense hopes that the plea will be considered by the court as a mitigating factor and there will be no severe sentence.”

“We, as her defense, explained to her the possible consequences,” Blagovolina told reporters. “Brittney stressed that she committed the crime out of carelessness, getting ready to board a plane to Russia in a hurry, not intending to break Russian law. We certainly hope this circumstance, in combination with the defence evidence, will be taken into account when passing the sentence, and it will be mild.”

Griner Gets Response from Biden

On Wednesday, the White House revealed that President Joe Biden had received a hand-written letter from Griner pleading with the president to help secure her release from prison in Russia. The administration also noted that Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris had spoken with Griner’s wife Cherrelle Griner on the telephone and that the president had written a response to Griner’s letter. Cherrelle Griner said after the call that she was “grateful” to receive the phone call from Biden.

“While I will remain concerned and outspoken until (Brittney Griner) is back home, I am hopeful in knowing that the President read my wife’s letter and took the time to respond,” she said. “I know BG will be able to find comfort in knowing she has not been forgotten.”

After Thursday’s hearing, Elizabeth Rood, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, told reporters that she had spoken with Griner in the courtroom and shared the letter of response from Biden.

“She’s eating well, she’s able to read books and under the circumstances she’s doing well,” Rood said of Griner. “I would like again to emphasize the commitment of the U.S. government at the very highest level to bring home safely Ms. Griner and all U.S. citizens wrongfully detained as well as the commitment of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow to care for and protect the interests of all U.S. citizens detained or imprisoned in Russia.”

Griner’s next hearing in the trial is scheduled for July 14.

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NBA’s Montrezl Harrell Busted With Three Pounds of Weed

NBA forward Montrezl Harrell is facing felony drug charges after police discovered three pounds of weed during a traffic stop in Kentucky last month. Harrell, who plays for the Charlotte Hornets, was scheduled to appear in court to answer the charges filed in Madison County, Kentucky on Monday but the arraignment hearing has been delayed until next month, court records show.

According to a police report cited by the Charlotte Observer, Harrell was driving a rented 2020 Honda Pilot southbound on I-75 on the morning of May 12 when he was pulled over by a Kentucky state trooper for following too closely behind the vehicle in front of him. In the report, Trooper Jesse Owens wrote that after stopping Harrell’s vehicle, he “observed” the odor of marijuana. The citation also notes that Harrell “admitted to being in possession of marijuana and produced a small amount from his sweatpants.” Law enforcement officers then searched the vehicle Harrell was driving. During the search, the trooper discovered “three pounds of marijuana in vacuum sealed bags” in a backpack that was found on the back seat of the vehicle, according to the traffic citation.

Harrell has been charged with trafficking less than five pounds of marijuana. Under Kentucky state law, possession of more than eight ounces but less than five pounds of marijuana is classified as a Class D felony for the first offense. Those convicted of the charge are subject to a sentence of one to five years behind bars and a fine ranging from $1,000 to $10,000.

The Charlotte Hornets have declined to comment on Harrell’s case, according to multiple media reports.

8-Year NBA Career

Harrell, a North Carolina native, is in his eighth season with the NBA. He played NCAA Division 1 college basketball in Kentucky for the University of Louisville Cardinals, where he averaged 11.6 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocked shots per game. As a freshman, he played on the Cardinals’ 2013 national championship team, although the title was later taken away by the league for NCAA violations.

In June 2015, Harrell was chosen by the Houston Rockets in the second round of the NBA draft, the 32nd pick overall. On September 19, 2015, he signed a three-year contract with the Rockets and made his NBA debut with the team in the season’s opening game against the Denver Nuggets on October 28, scoring eight points and pulling down three rebounds. Harrell made his first career start with the NBA on November 13, playing 13 minutes of game time and sinking five points in the Rockets’ defeat of the Denver Nuggets. During his rookie season, he was assigned to the Rockets D-league affiliate the Rio Valley Grande Vipers several times.

In June 2017, the Los Angeles Clippers traded Chris Paul to the Rockets, acquiring Harrell, Patrick Beverley, Sam Dekker, Darrun Hilliard, DeAndre Liggins, Lou Williams, Kyle Wiltjer and a 2018 Houston first-round draft pick in the deal. In September 2020, Harrell was named the NBA Sixth Man of the Year, an award given by the league for the season’s best bench player. That season, the Clippers went to the playoffs, losing in seven games against the Denver Nuggets. Harrell averaged 10.5 points and 2.9 rebounds per game in the playoffs that saw the Nuggets advance after starting the series down three games to one.

Harrell signed with the Los Angeles Lakers on November 22, 2020, making his debut with the team one month later and logging 17 points, 10 rebounds and three assists against his former team and Lakers’ crosstown rival the Clippers. In August 2021, Harrell was traded to the Washington Wizards as part of a deal for Russell Westbrook. In February of this year, he was traded to the Charlotte Hornets, scoring 15 points and six rebounds in his team debut on February 11. Harrell is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent when the NBA’s new league year begins in July.

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LeBron James Calls for Brittney Griner’s Release from Russian Prison

NBA superstar LeBron James on Sunday called on the U.S. government to work to secure the release of WNBA champion and Olympic basketball gold medalist Brittney Griner, who has been held in a Russian prison on a cannabis possession charge for nearly four months.

“We need to come together and help do whatever we possibly can to bring BG home quickly and safely!! Our voice as athletes is stronger together,” James wrote on Twitter over the weekend.

James also shared a message from his brand Uninterrupted that calls on President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to work for Griner’s release. The post also encouraged readers to learn more about the case online.

“For over 100 days, BG has faced inhumane conditions in a Russian prison and has been denied communications with her family and loved ones,” reads a message from Uninterrupted that was included in the social media post. “As a decorated Olympian and member of an elite global sport community, BG’s detention must be resolved out of respect for the sanctity of all sport and for all Americans traveling internationally. It is imperative that the U.S. Government immediately address this human rights issue and do whatever is necessary to return Brittney home.”

James also posted a link to an online petition hosted by Change.org that maintains that “Griner is a beloved global citizen who has used her platform since her entry into the WNBA to help others.” James encouraged fans to share and sign the petition, which had collected more than 250,000 signatures as of Tuesday.

Olympic and WNBA Superstar

Griner is a seven-time WNBA All-Star center who has played for the Phoenix Mercury since 2013, including the team’s 2014 league championship squad. She has also twice won the Olympic gold medal with the U.S. women’s basketball team.

Griner has played seven seasons of professional basketball in Russia during the winter, a common practice among WNBA players. She earns about $1 million per season to play in Russia, about four times the salary she earns playing for the WNBA. On January 29, Griner played her most recent game with her team UMMC Ekaterinburg before the Russian league took a two-week break for the FIBA World Cup qualifying tournaments.

The Russian Customs Service reported on March 5 that an American women’s basketball player had been detained after cannabis vape cartridges were discovered in her luggage at the Sheremetyevo airport near Moscow. The date of the arrest was not given and Griner was not named in the report. The customs also released a video that appeared to show Griner with security officials at an airport security checkpoint.

The Russian state news agency TASS subsequently reported that the arrested player was Griner. Although the date of Griner’s arrest was not announced, media outlets reported that she has been in custody since February 17. After news of the arrest made headlines, the WNBA and the players’ union issued messages of support for the star athlete.

“Brittney Griner has the WNBA’s full support, and our main priority is her swift and safe return to the United States,” the league wrote in a statement after Griner’s arrest was announced by Russian media.

Griner’s arrest by Russian authorities has led to an outcry from lawmakers, cannabis advocates, celebrities, and fellow athletes. Democratic Representative Colin Allred of Texas, the star athlete’s home state, said on March 9 that he was looking into Griner’s arrest.

“My office has been in touch with the State Department, and we’re working with them to see what is the best way forward,” said Allred, as quoted by ESPN. “I know the administration is working hard to try and get access to her and try to be helpful here. But obviously, it’s also happening in the context of really strained relations. I do think that it’s really unusual that we’ve not been granted access to her from our embassy and our consular services.”

A month after her arrest, Russian authorities announced that Griner’s detention would be extended for two months. TASS reported on March 17 that Griner was being held in an undisclosed Russian prison pending further investigation of the case. The news agency also said that Ekaterina Kalugina of the human rights group Public Monitoring Commission, a quasi-official body with access to Russian prisons, had visited Griner. Kalugina reported that Griner was doing well and being held in humane conditions.

In May, the U.S. Department of State reclassified Griner’s status, saying that she had been “wrongfully detained” by the Russian government.

“The Department of State has determined that the Russian Federation has wrongfully detained U.S. citizen Brittney Griner,” the State Department wrote in an email to ESPN. “With this determination, the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens will lead the interagency team for securing Brittney Griner’s release.”

Since then, however, the status of Griner’s case has remained unchanged, prompting the renewed calls for her release from James on Sunday.

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NBA Won’t Randomly Test Athletes for Cannabis During 75th Season

The National Basketball Association (NBA) recently released a memo stating that it won’t be testing its athletes for cannabis for the entirety of the upcoming season.

The NBA Spokesman Mike Bass announced on October 6 that cannabis testing athletes will not occur for the rest of the association’s 75th season, which begins on October 19 and runs through May 2022

“We have agreed with the NBPA to extend the suspension of random testing for marijuana for the 2021-22 season and focus our random testing program on performance-enhancing products and drugs of abuse,” Bass stated.

NBA players were given a memo about the news, but ESPN was the first to obtain the memo and report the information, as of a statement from ESPN Senior NBA Insider Adrian Wojnarowski. 

“Players won’t be subject to random tests for marijuana this season,” according to @NBPA memo shared with players and obtained by ESPN. That’s been adjusted policy through Orlando restart and 2020-‘21 season. Testing continues for “drugs of abuse and performance enhancing substances,” he shared on Twitter.

The NBA first announced that it would suspend random drug tests for cannabis in March 2020, back when the pandemic was ramping up. According to the Associated Press, testing resumed later in summer 2020 at the Orlando Bubble to check for performance-enhancing substances—but cannabis wasn’t among the substances athletes were tested for, mainly in an effort to reduce unnecessary contact for players. 

Reporter Ben Dowsett was among the first to confirm this change through league sources later last year, which he shared in a Twitter post in December 2020. 

“Sources say this decision is largely based on COVID safety–just another way of limiting unnecessary contacts. However, there’s also significant expectation from many in the league that the entire marijuana testing program is on the way out in the near future.”

It is still a possibility that the NBA could eventually decide to end testing for cannabis permanently, although no official announcement has been made. Cannabis wasn’t included on the list of testable substances in the last NBA season, and now it is confirmed that cannabis will again not be tested for by athletes in this current season as well.

There are many factors that can be attributed to the NBA agreeing to halt cannabis testing for athletes, but one of the reasons is because of athletes speaking out in favor of cannabis and its efficacy as a medicine. Countless athletes have spoken up, and many of them have started their own cannabis businesses, such as former NBA athlete Chris Webber. His company, Players Only Holdings, recently broke ground on a $50 million production and training facility in Detroit Michigan. Another former NBA player, Kevin Durant, used his company Thirty Five Ventures to partner with Weedmaps in an effort to fight the stigma against cannabis.

The news of running athlete Sha’Carri Richardson testing positive for cannabis, resulting in her disqualification in the Tokyo Olympics, made global headlines as well. The outroar garnered intense support for her situation from many sources, including the White House and U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, as well as U.S. state legislators

Tennessee Congressman Steven Cohen joked that cannabis is a performance-enhancing substance in only one case. “Marijuana is not a performance-enhancing drug unless you’re entered in the Coney Island hot dog eating contest on the Fourth of July,” Cohen said in July.

Other sports organizations have also begun to loosen restrictions on cannabis consumption. In April, the National Football League announced that it would no longer test for cannabis during the offseason. In December 2019, the Major League Baseball association announced that it would remove cannabis from its list of abused drugs and would only continue to test athletes for opioids and cocaine.

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Celtics Icon Paul Pierce Promotes New Cannabis Brand in Boston

Former NBA star and ESPN basketball analyst Paul Pierce was in Boston over the weekend, stopping at a marijuana dispensary to promote his new line of “Truth Number 34” cannabis products. During his visit, the former Boston Celtics forward told fans and dispensary customers that the new brand’s products are as reliable as he was on the court with the clock ticking down to zero.

“I know we’re going to bring something you can depend on, something you can go to, something that’s clutch,” Pierce said at the promotional appearance on Sunday.

“Similar to my play,” he added. “That’s what my product is going to be.”

Pierce announced earlier this year that he would be launching his new brand in the capital of Massachusetts, where legal sales of adult-use cannabis began in 2018. Plans for the new venture include a line of cannabis edibles, topicals and concentrates sold under the brand name Truth, which was Pierce’s nickname as an NBA player. A signature strain of cannabis flower is slated to land on dispensary shelves next year.

“I have such a great connection with Boston,” Pierce told the Boston Globe in May, “so I’m excited to bring the brand there first and educate people on the plant—how it can help in everyday life and also in sports and recovery.”

Paul Pierce on Cannabis For Health

Pierce became a vocal cannabis advocate after surviving a brutal stabbing attack at a Boston nightclub in September 2000. He said that cannabis had saved his life after the assault, which nearly killed him and left him psychologically traumatized. Although Pierce recovered physically remarkably quickly, he struggled with paranoia, anxiety, depression and insomnia after the attack.

“I was dealing with a lot of depression and anxiety and sleep issues—a lot,” he said. “So I really leaned more on cannabis. But it was difficult, man.”

Pierce described how pharmaceuticals prescribed by the team doctors were ineffective and had undesirable if not dangerous side effects.

“Athletes don’t even know what’s in these pills. The league doctors just say, ‘Take this, take that, here’s a prescription,’” he said. “We get addicted to that stuff. It’s so harmful for your body. You don’t realize your liver and all your other organs are taking a pounding.”

“You really couldn’t do it while you were playing during the season because of the tests, but there were times I couldn’t even help it — I took an edible or smoked a joint just to get some sleep, and had to deal with the consequences,” he added. “It was really bad for me early on.”

Pierce Fired by ESPN After Posting Racy Weed Video

After retiring from the NBA in 2017, Pierce took a job as a basketball analyst for ESPN, working on the sports network’s shows The Jump and NBA Countdown. But after he posted an Instagram video earlier this year that showed him smoking marijuana with scantily clad women twerking in the background, Pierce was fired in April by ESPN, which is owned by family-oriented entertainment conglomerate Disney.

Pierce apparently took the job loss in stride, however, posting a video on Instagram the day after being fired in which he shared his positive attitude with the world.

“Yo, just want to thank all my supporters and thank my haters and everything,” Pierce said in the video. “Check it out, bigger and better things coming, baby. Don’t worry about it. You fall twice, you get up three times. Just always remember to smile, baby.”

Only three weeks later, he posted another video that showed him surrounded by cannabis plants in a cultivation facility, hinting at the upcoming business venture.

“We’re over in the lab, baby,” he said while panning the camera, adding “Coming soon, baby.”

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NBA’s Kevin Durant and Weedmaps Team Up Against Cannabis Stigma

NBA player Kevin Durant and Weedmaps announced a new partnership last week that will make the basketball star and online cannabis marketplace teammates in addressing the ongoing stigma against cannabis. Under the multiyear agreement, Durant and his financial enterprise Thirty Five Ventures will work to break down the negative stereotypes associated with cannabis while elevating the conversation around the plant’s potential for athlete wellness and recovery.

“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 deal between Weedmaps and Durant, which reportedly took six months to negotiate, comes at a time when the relationship between athletes and cannabis is under intense scrutiny. Several professional leagues have changed their policies on cannabis or testing for its use. But the stigma against marijuana continues, as could be clearly seen this summer when sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson was denied the chance to compete in the Olympic Games after testing positive for THC in a qualifying meet.

“It’s no secret that many of the present attitudes toward cannabis are rooted in outdated beliefs and, frankly, lies about the plant that have been perpetuated for decades,” Weedmaps CEO Chris Beals told Marijuana Moment, adding that the aim of the new efforts is to provide a “fresh dialogue about how cannabis can be used for athlete recovery.”

“Through this partnership we’ll look to further break down the stigmas that have made cannabis use, particularly among athletes, so taboo, while also providing broader education about the plant’s many wide-ranging benefits and its potential for overall wellness,” Beals added.

Durant and Weedmaps Deal Includes Boardroom Sponsorship

Under the strategic partnership, Weedmaps will also sponsor the Boardroom, a media network founded by Kevin Durant and Rich Kleiman that features an inside look at the business of sports. Durant, the Brooklyn Nets forward with two NBA championships under his belt, has been a vocal advocate for cannabis and has even invested in the industry. His open support for cannabis is rare for the NBA, which still has rules on the books that mandate four drug tests for cannabis each year. That policy was put on hold last year as the league went into a competition bubble in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, and the pause on testing was extended into the 2020-21 season.

“The band aid has been ripped off in the sports world,” Durant said while announcing the deal with Beals and Kleinman on the “Boardroom: Out of Office” podcast, adding “it’s kind of an undercover thing that players use cannabis, and use it throughout when they’re actively playing.”

The NBA’s ban on cannabis still exists, and representatives of the league and the players union have told ESPN “that there is ongoing dialogue about marijuana but currently no concrete plans to formally change the rule.”

Rules On Cannabis and Sports Changing Slowly

Other professional sports leagues, however, have already made changes to their cannabis policies. In 2019, Major League Baseball removed cannabis from the league’s list of banned substances, allowing players to use marijuana without fear of reprisals. And last year, the NFL changed its substance use policy, eliminating suspensions for positive tests for all drugs, cannabis included. For Durant, the changes seem overdue.

“I thought it was always interesting that the rest of the world was a little slower to be open about cannabis and its use, but to see, walking down the street—I live in San Francisco—you walk around the corner, there’s four or five dispensaries right on the corner,” Durant said.

Yet “athletes are still being tested four times a year for cannabis, and it just felt like the world was starting to close in on how people felt about the use of cannabis, and now it’s an open dialogue and it’s been amazing to hear,” he continued.

The deal between Durant and Weedmaps also includes a plan for the online cannabis resource to produce original content in collaboration with Boardroom. As part of Weedmaps’ broader sports and wellness initiative, the partnership with Thirty Five Ventures has plans to “further educate consumers about the plant’s potential for wellness and recovery,” according to a statement from Weedmaps about the deal. Former NBA player Matt Barnes, a cannabis supporter who admits he smoked marijuana through much of his 14-year career, believes that support from stars like Durant can lead to the acceptance of cannabis for all athletes.

“There’s a shifting culture and it takes a superstar like KD to embrace this and help others not be afraid to discuss the benefits,” said Barnes. “This has been a process. There have been meetings going on with the league and union for several years and both sides have hired experts to investigate this. This is a big step.”

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