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Kevin Durant's changing the conversation on cannabis and athletics


PHOTO: Public Domain | Wikimedia Commons

Pro basketball player Kevin Durant and his venture capital firm are partnering with cannabis-focused search engine Weedmaps to destigmatize cannabis use in athletics and advocate for legalization.

Durant’s company, Thirty Five Ventures, and Weedmaps — a geo-search platform that helps people find dispensaries, medical resources, and products near them — reached a multi-year agreement. Through Boardroom, Thirty Five Ventures’ sports-focused media company, Weedmaps will also create a storytelling series in 2022.


"Being able to partner and tell stories — there’s so many OGs and people who have clawed their way to get to this point where we are now — I couldn’t think of a better partnership to help shed light on that.” — Chris Beals, Weedmaps CEO

“The partnership is aimed at combating the negative stigma associated with cannabis and furthering the conversation about weed’s impact on athlete wellness and recovery,” writes Kristian Winfield for New York Daily News.


In a video release about the new partnership, the Brooklyn Nets player said that while the stigma is fading in mainstream society, it’s still strong in athletics.

“In the sports world, it’s kind of an undercover thing that players use cannabis,” Durant said. “I live in San Francisco and you walk around the corner and there are four or five dispensaries. Athletes are still being tested four times a year for cannabis.”


One recent example of the impact: star sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson, who was suspended from competing in the Tokyo Olympics after testing positive for cannabis. Richardson acknowledged that she had indeed used cannabis in a Today Show interview, telling host Savannah Guthrie she'd turned to the plant after learning that her biological mother had died. This was during the Olympic trials in Oregon, where recreational cannabis is legal. (And then she ran the 100-meter dash in 10.86 seconds.)


“We are all pretty smart to know that cannabis in no way enhances your performance,” said Durant’s business manager, Rich Kleiman, told the New York Post. “The whole fact of the matter that this is a broken system was only amplified with Sha’Carri Richardson. It cemented how important this deal is.”

“I live in San Francisco and you walk around the corner and there are four or five dispensaries. Athletes are still being tested four times a year for cannabis.” — NBA player Kevin Durant

The NBA stopped testing for cannabis from the Orlando bubble through the 2020-21 season, Winfield noted for the Daily News.

“NBA commissioner Adam Silver has spoken on the league’s relationship with cannabis on a number of occasions and has been open to changing the rule permanently, but has his reservations,” Winfield reported.

One of those is the message sent to minors and young adults.


“At the end of the day, I think we all agree that, whether or not marijuana is a legal substance, just like with alcohol, you still have to teach young people how to use a substance like that appropriately and responsibly and so it doesn’t overwhelm your life. So, it’s a complicated issue,” Silver told Yahoo Sports in 2019.

Weedmaps’ chief executive officer, Chris Beals, noted that the industry is in a position to help the people who have been most maligned by past cannabis policy and enforcement.


“We’re at this … inflection point where the cannabis industry can go on a path where it’s creating opportunity for a lot of people,” Beals said in a video about the collaboration. “It’s giving back to the communities that, frankly, got screwed over as a result of the War on Drugs. Being able to partner and tell stories — there’s so many OGs and people who have clawed their way to get to this point where we are now — I couldn’t think of a better partnership to help shed light on that.”


Durant expressed a similar thought, saying, “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."

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