The NBA and NFL still ban all cannabis products even though many athletes say they help with pain.
LOS ANGELES, CA – APRIL 12: BIG3 co-founder Ice Cube speaks during the BIG3 2018 Player Draft at Fox Sports Studio on April 12, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Ice Cube’s BIG3 3-on-3 basketball league, which features lots of former NBA pros, announced last week that it would allow players to use cannabis-derived CBD products for pain management and recovery, USA Today reported. The policy went into effect immediately, making it the first professional sports league to ease up on any cannabis product.
Nodding to calls from NFL players, NBA players and famed NBA Coach Steve Kerr for their respective leagues to ease up on cannabis, BIG3 co-founder and CEO Jeff Kwatinetz said: “The BIG3 is uniquely positioned in professional sports as a player-powered league that looks at our players as partners not property. As a testament to our relationship with our players, we listened to their feedback on CBD, as well as feedback from professionals in the regulatory and CBD industry, and decided to take this major step to support their health.”
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) already removed cannabidiol from their list of banned substances, but U.S. sports leagues have been slow to catch up. CBD doesn’t have the same psychoactive properties that THC, the principal cannabinoid in cannabis, does and extracts containing only CBD aren’t designed for recreational use.
Asked for comment by TMZ, Ice Cube wouldn’t confirm whether the league had any plans to allow THC in the future, but came out strongly in favor of CBD, reiterating that: “It’s medicine.” The BIG3’s official statement expanded saying:
“More than a dozen countries, including Canada and Israel, have approved CBD-based medications for both professional athletes and consumers,’’ the BIG3 statement said. “In the U.S., the shift is beginning to happen as the medication is not only used for pain management but preferred over the powerfully addictive opioids and pain-relief drugs that are often the only other option.’’
Ice Cube also suggested that BIG3 allowing CBD would force other leagues to follow suit. “Yup, they’re gonna have to,” he said, replying to a question from the TMZ reporter.
Ice Cube isn’t the BIG3’s only cannabis supporter (though he might be the most fervent). Al Harrington, a 16-year NBA veteran and current BIG3 star for the Trilogy team, owns Colorado cannabis manufacturer Viola. He was inspired to start the company after helping his grandmother treat her glaucoma with medical cannabis, a subject he’s written eloquently on before.
He’s also been a staunch advocate of allowing cannabis in the NBA, and agreed, in a CBS Sports interview, with Ice Cube’s assessment that the BIG3 announcement was a big deal.
“There’s now a pharmaceutical cannabis drug on the market,” he said, referencing the recent FDA approval of Epidiolex. “The government is trying to allow vets to be able to use cannabis and give ’em more access to cannabis. And then from a sports standpoint, being that the BIG3 will be the first professional league to allow CBD use in the league, I think it’s just huge.”
I think we know who the first cannabis company to sponsor NBA athletes will be if the league ever does ease up on it.