The star of the Brooklyn Nets, Kevin Durant, announced on Thursday a partnership and sponsorship agreement with cannabis marketplace Weedmaps and said it plans to use its platform to destigmatize marijuana use among athletes.
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 top professional athlete has come, especially one with Durant’s visibility.
“I think it is time to address the stigmas around cannabis that still exist in the sports world and globally,” Durant told ESPN. “This partnership will help us continue to normalize those conversations, as well as create content, events and much more through our boardroom media network. This is just the beginning for us.”
Weedmaps does not sell marijuana directly, but it is an e-commerce platform that guides users to dispensaries. Durant declined to speak directly about personal marijuana use.
Marijuana is still banned by the NBA, but it exists in a decriminalized gray zone. League rules currently require four random tests for marijuana per year, but those tests were informally stopped when the league rebooted in the Orlando bubble in 2020 and then did not return in the 2020-21 season.
Representatives from the league’s office and the players’ 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 is still conducting drug testing and last month suspended Toronto Raptors guard Jalen Harris for a year due to drug policy violations.
Partly because of the sensitivity of the issue, forging the deal was a lengthy process. Negotiations with Weedmaps, which became a public company in June, between Durant and his business partner Rich Kleiman have lasted for the past six months. Other high-profile athletes have endorsed CBD products, including WNBA star Sue Bird, but none of Durant’s stature have delved into the marijuana space thus far.
“There is a changing culture and it takes a superstar like KD to embrace this and help others not to be afraid to discuss the benefits,” said former NBA player Matt Barnes, a marijuana advocate who has said he smoked weed. most of his 14-year career. . “This has been a process. There have been meetings with the league and the union for several years and both parties have hired experts to investigate this. This is a big step.”
Disciplinary actions for marijuana violations had slowed before the pandemic. The last player to be suspended for using marijuana was Thabo Sefolosha in 2018.
“I’m not going to use that as a badge of honor,” said Sefolosha, who did not play last season after 14 years in the league. “I was fighting internally to change the rules. It’s something that should have been discussed a long time ago. I understand the league doesn’t want to promote it. I’m not one to advertise marijuana and it’s not something that I do. ” I would encourage my kids to they did. I don’t want to send the wrong message. But it’s a happy substitute for the harsher drugs, the ones the team doctor might even give you, and alcohol, and I had to learn that on my own. “
That’s what Durant intends to address and plans to organize a campaign by rolling out podcasts and video content under his boardroom media banner in the coming months. His hope, Durant said, is that some of his teammates in the league will join him in discussing the benefits of marijuana.
Or as Durant put it on the “Boardroom: Out of Office” podcast published Thursday to announce the deal: “The Band-Aid has been scammed.”