NBA’s New CBA Makes Weed OK for Players

Beyond removing marijuana as a banned substance, new collective bargaining agreement also allows players to invest in cannabis brands. Let the games begin!

by Zack Ruskin · April 26, 2023

With the NBA playoffs in full swing, we’re only a few action-packed weeks away from discovering which team will be crowned the 2023 champs. The usual narratives are all in play, from scrappy underdogs to controversial fouls. But there’s one thing that decidedly won’t be causing issues for the league this year: cannabis.

Indeed, the winning squad won’t be the only ones with reason to celebrate once the NBA Finals conclude. Instead, it feels as though the entire league is buzzing from recent news that marijuana is, at long last, set to be permanently removed from the NBA’s list of banned substances for players.

Furthermore, as part of a new, seven-year collective bargaining agreement announced earlier this month, players will also be permitted to invest in cannabis companies, opening the floodgates for a myriad of lucrative, intriguing possibilities.

Even prior to this game-changing news, the NBA had already set the stage for such a pivot by temporarily pausing testing for cannabis as an extension of policies devised to accommodate play in a quarantine “bubble” in Orlando in 2020.

Following the end of that pandemic-altered season, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver indirectly suggested that the changes might soon become permanent. Now, the day has finally come — and with it, hopefully the end of NBA players being punished for using cannabis as part of their wellness regiments.

In recent years, a sizeable number of retired players have already managed to establish successful weed brands, including Viola from Al Harrington and Seven Leaves from Matt Barnes. Then there’s Leune, which counts Carmelo Anthony among its investors and strain namesake Gary Payton, who has a signature version of his eponymous strain as a collaboration with Cookies.

But provided this new CBA is formally ratified, which is largely seen as a formality, the landscape now shifts to include active players who may, for the first time, have a pathway to discussing and promoting cannabis without fearing substantial reprisals.

In many ways, it’s a chance to step out of the shadows, as Harrington told GQ in 2021 that he estimated as much as 85% of active NBA players are smoking or otherwise consuming some form of cannabis.

If that number proves accurate, it could spark the creation of an entire cottage industry. Just look at what NBA players have done for the sales of sneakers, sodas — even car insurance. To say there’s a lot of untapped potential would be an understatement on par with suggesting that Stephen Curry is just okay at making three-pointers.

Beyond the business of it all, there’s also a very real social justice element at play as well. After all, it was barely a year ago that WNBA star Brittney Griner was detained for almost ten months in Russia on drug charges stemming from her alleged possession of a cannabis vape cartridge.

Though Griner thankfully returned home in December, the harrowing ordeal cast a spotlight on the way North American sports leagues regulate cannabis usage, especially given marijuana is now legal for adult-use in 22 states (plus Washington, D.C. and Guam). Thus, it’s hardly a shock to see the NBA make this change as a means of striving to look progressive and with the times.

Additionally, the issue of professional athletes who are banned from possessing or consuming cannabis in certain states, but not others, is sure to grow only more complex considering what’s now allowed in this new CBA. If you play in Los Angeles, then travel to Texas, for instance, you’ll need to leave your weed behind. How that plays out, however, very much remains to be seen.

Regardless, the new CBA, from a cannabis perspective at least, is indisputably a strong step in the right direction for the league.