The Brooklyn Nets and New York Liberty have entered into partnerships with a CBD beverage company—the first teams in the National Basketball Association (NBA) and Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), respectively, to forge deals with the cannabis industry.
The New York-based clubs are partnering with Mynd Drinks, a hemp-based CBD sparkling beverage company that also made history last year when it became an official partner of the Major League Baseball (MLB) team the Chicago Cubs.
Now, months after the NBA removed marijuana from the banned substances list for players and also freed them up to invest in and promote cannabis companies, the first team has signed a multi-year contract to make Mynd its official wellness and recovery drink partner, Bloomberg first reported.
Details about the terms of the agreement with the Brooklyn Nets, as well as WNBA’s New York Liberty, have not been disclosed. But with the Chicago Cubs deal, the partnership involves marketing the CBD drinks in signage promoting them through in-game features.
Marijuana Moment reached out to MYND DRINKS for comment, but a representative was not immediately available.
The deals represent some of the latest examples of the mainstreaming of hemp and CBD since the crop and its derivatives were federally legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill. Multiple professional athletics organizations have contributed to that normalization, both with corporate partnerships and by revising cannabis policies for athletes amid the state marijuana legalization movement.
Last year, for example, the Kansas City Royals became the second MLB team after the Cubs to join up with a cannabis company, Pure Spectrum CBD, which produces hemp-derived cannabidiol products like oils and gummies. That followed a 2022 announcement from the MLB itself about league-wide partnership with the popular CBD brand Charlotte’s Web Holdings.
The New York Media Softball League (NYMSL)—which has teams representing The Wall Street Journal, High Times and BuzzFeed among its ranks—announced last July that it was launching a sponsorship deal with a Kentucky-based CBD company.
Meanwhile, the National Football League’s (NFL) drug testing policy changed demonstrably in 2020 as part of a collective bargaining agreement. It stipulates that players will not face the possibility of being suspended from games over positive tests for any drug—not just marijuana.
NFL recently announced that it is partnering with Canadian researchers on a clinical trial to test the safety and efficacy of CBD for pain management and neuroprotection from concussions—key issues for many football players who experience injuries as part of the game.
Also, a new collegiate athletics proposal would remove marijuana from the list of substances included in drug screenings for National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championship competitions, with officials set to vote on the matter in June.
The plan would build on a 2022 change that increased the allowable THC threshold for college athletes, aligning NCAA’s rules with those of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) announced in December that it is formally removing marijuana from its newly modified banned substances list for athletes, also building on an earlier reform.
However, ahead of a UFC event this month, a California athletics commission said they could still face penalties under state rules for testing positive for THC over a certain limit, as the state body’s policy is based around WADA guidance.
Nevada sports regulators voted last year to send a proposed regulatory amendment to the governor that would protect athletes from being penalized over using or possessing marijuana in compliance with state law.
While advocates have welcomed these changes, there’s been criticism of WADA over its ongoing cannabis ban. Members of a panel within the agency said in an opinion piece last August that marijuana use by athletes violates the “spirit of sport,” making them unfit role models whose potential impairment could put others at risk.
Advocates strongly urged WADA to enact a reform after U.S. runner Sha’Carri Richardson was suspended from participating in Olympics events due to a positive THC test in 2021.
Following that suspension, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) said that the international rules on marijuana “must change,” the White House and President Joe Biden himself signaled that it was time for new policies and congressional lawmakers amplified that message.
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