NBA officially signs contract to remove marijuana from banned substance list and allows players to invest in cannabis businesses

The National Basketball Association (NBA) and its players union have officially signed a collective bargaining agreement that removes marijuana from the league’s banned substances list and establishes rules that allow players to invest in and promote cannabis brands — with certain exceptions.

About two months after the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) reached an agreement on the seven-year contract, it has now been signed and will take effect this weekend. The 676-page document contains a number of cannabis provisions – although perhaps the most impactful is the removal of marijuana from the list of banned substances for players.

Players will also be allowed to “own a direct or indirect interest (whether controlling or not controlling) in an entity that produces or sells CBD products,” which is defined as cannabis containing up to 0.3 percent THC by dry weight , consistent with the federal definition of legal hemp.

They can also invest in marijuana businesses as long as the investment is passive and the player’s ownership is less than 50 percent of the business.

Another part of the collective agreement states that players “may not participate in the promotion or endorsement of any brand, product or service of an entity that manufactures or sells CBD products, so long as the entity is not a marijuana business.

But “a player may request permission from the NBA and the Players Association to promote or endorse CBD products produced or sold by a marijuana company.”

“Such request must be in writing and contain (A) a complete list of the products that the Marihuana Company manufactures or sells, (B) a complete list of all ingredients in such products, (C) a description of the player’s proposed promotion or endorsement activity for the Marijuana Company’s CBD products and (D) a detailed outline of the non-financial terms of any proposed promotional or endorsement agreement between the Player and the Marihuana Company.Unless a Player’s request has been approved in writing by the NBA and the Players Association, the Player may not promote or endorse any CBD products manufactured or sold by a Marijuana Company.”

Requests for promotion will be denied if the CBD products associated with a marijuana business are “marketed or sold under a brand that also includes or refers to marijuana products,” or if the promotion would create “a reasonable risk for public confusion with any marijuana product.”

The undersigned appointment further establishes penalties for players convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance and for those who have “participated in a crime involving the distribution of marijuana.”

It also generally puts cannabis use by players on par with alcohol, saying that if an NBA team has “reasonable grounds to believe that the player was under the influence of marijuana and/or alcohol while engaged in activities for such team or for the NBA, or that the player has an addiction or other related problem involving the use of marijuana and/or alcohol, the team may refer the player to the medical director for a mandatory evaluation.”

“A player may at any time seek assistance from the medical director for addiction to or any other problem related to the use of marijuana or alcohol,” another section says.

Players who fail to comply with a mandatory alcohol or marijuana treatment program will also be subject to disciplinary sanctions, including a fine of $5,000 per day of non-compliance. Fines and penalties will escalate for players who enter required treatment and exhibit a “pattern of conduct demonstrating a willful disregard for his treatment responsibilities” or “a positive test for marijuana and/or alcohol (as the case may be) that is not clinically expected by the doctor.”

There will also be a voluntary treatment option for players seeking help with the use of synthetic cannabinoids such as delta-8 THC. Voluntary participation in the program will not result in any penalties. However, non-compliance after entry into the program will result in sanctions, including fines and possible suspensions.

The total elimination of marijuana from the NBA’s banned substance list formally codifies what has been the league’s decision to temporarily suspend cannabis testing for the past three seasons.

Marijuana icon and NBA commentator Snoop Dogg weighed in on the policy change in April, applauding the league for taking steps that would allow players to use cannabis for medical purposes, including as a potential opioid alternative.

Michele Roberts, a former head of the NBPA who also joined the board of major cannabis company Cresco Labs in 2020, previously predicted that a formal change to codify the policy could come soon.

In 2021, it was announced that online marijuana marketplace Weedmaps teamed up with NBA star Kevin Durant for a multi-year partnership aimed at destigmatizing cannabis and showcasing the plant’s potential value for “athlete wellness and recovery.”

A growing number of professional leagues have taken steps to adopt marijuana policy reforms as more states have moved to legalize cannabis.

For example, the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) committee focused on promoting the health and wellness of student athletes has proposed removing marijuana from the organization’s list of banned substances.

Earlier this year, Nevada sports regulators voted to send a proposed regulatory change to the governor that would formally protect athletes from being penalized for using or possessing marijuana in accordance with state law.

The UFC announced in 2021 that they would no longer penalize fighters for positive marijuana tests.

The National Football League’s (NFL) drug testing policy demonstrably changed in 2020 as part of a collective bargaining agreement.

The NFL and its players union also announced this month that they are jointly awarding another round of funding to support independent research into the therapeutic benefits of CBD as a pain management alternative to opioids for players with concussions.

Meanwhile, the Kansas City Royals recently formed a partnership with a cannabis brand to promote education about the potential therapeutic benefits of CBD – the second Major League Baseball (MLB) team to do so after the Chicago Cubs.

MLB itself announced its league-wide partnership with a popular CBD brand last year. Charlotte’s Web Holdings, one of the most recognizable hemp-derived CBD companies in the country, signed the agreement with the league to become the “Official CBD of MLB.”

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