Kevin Durant Latest A-List Name to Fight Marijuana Stigma in Sports

Stephen Andrews
01 Sep 2021

Two-time NBA champion teams up with online marijuana marketplace Weedmaps.

Kevin Durant and his company, Thirty-Five Ventures, have agreed on a multi-year partnership with Weedmaps that will aim to destigmatize the use of cannabis in sports and open conversation on how the plant can help athletes improve their wellbeing or recover from injuries. Within the agreement, Weedmaps will also become an official sponsor of Thirty Five Venture's sports business media network called Boardroom. 

The Durant-Weedmaps initiative comes at a time when there's an ever-expanding legalization movement and also when the use of cannabis among athletes and sportspeople remains a hot topic. 

"Now more than ever, there is so much opportunity for growth in the cannabis industry as well as the removal of any remaining stigmas around its use," said in a statement NBA star Durant.

Durant added: "As the technology leader in the industry, Weedmaps has consistently been at the forefront of change over the last decade. In partnering with Boardroom and Thirty Five Ventures, they've shown an even bigger commitment to innovation."

In an August episode of Boardroom's Out of Office podcast, Durant discussed the partnership with his longtime manager and Thirty Five Venture business partner Rich Kleiman and Weedmaps CEO Chris Beals.

"The band aid has been ripped off in the sports world," Durant said. However, "it's kind of an undercover thing that players use cannabis, and use it throughout when they're actively playing." 

He said: "I thought it was always interesting that the rest of the world was a little slower to be open about cannabis and its use, but to see, walking down the street—I live in San Francisco—you walk around the corner, there's four or five dispensaries right on the corner."

"Athletes are still being tested four times a year for cannabis, and it just felt like the world was starting to close in on how people felt about the use of cannabis, and how it's an open dialogue and it's been amazing to hear," he said. 

Weedmaps CEO Beals said, "as the largest technology provider in the sector, we are serious about our responsibility to lead the national discussion around cannabis and the need for cannabis regulations to be updated across the board." 

He added: "This partnership with Kevin Durant, Rich Kleiman, and the team at Thirty Five Ventures is a pivotal step forward in our ongoing efforts to break down stigmas surrounding cannabis, especially in the sports industry."

Beals said that the cannabis industry can now create opportunities for young people and give back to communities that "frankly got screwed over as a result of the war on drugs." 

With Boardroom, Weedmaps will also produce an original content series, to be released next year. The agreement includes ongoing integration with Boardroom such as Out of Office podcast, development and distribution of original content, co-branded collaborations and events, and launching merchandise, among other things. 

Discussions on cannabis use among athletes took hold earlier during the summer as star sprinter Sha-Carri Richardson got suspended from the Olympics after returning a positive test on the use of marijuana. The case prompted the White House to step up and engage in talks with World Anti-Doping Agency to push changes in cannabis policy. 

While it may take a little longer for the athletics world to drop its harsh anti-marijuana policies, other leagues have already made progress. 

In December, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said that a temporary policy ban on randomly testing players for the presence of THC could become permanent. Silver said the league would instead target players who showcase signs of serious dependency, and it will not penalize those who use pot casually. 

NFL and NFLPA have also shifted policies, reducing penalties for players caught using marijuana. The pain committee of the NFL and the NFL Player Association even launched a million-dollar research initiative this summer in a bid to investigate if cannabis can help players for recovery and pain management.

Reform in sport is long overdue, especially given how much the legalization movement has progressed. The stigma, as Durant puts it, is gradually eroding, however, a lot more work remains to be done.

Stephen Andrews