It is NBA All-Star weekend, which is one of my favorite weekends of the year. I have been an avid NBA fan since I was a little kid and have always dreamed of attending an NBA All-Star weekend. I used to have a deeply held belief that the NBA All-Star game would come to Portland, Oregon so I could attend in my home state, but as I got older I realized that was very unlikely to ever happen because Portland is such a small metro area compared to big NBA cities like Los Angeles and New York City.
This year’s NBA All-Star game is taking place in Los Angeles and retired NBA player Al Harrington launched his new CBD company this week in Beverly Hills to coincide with the start of NBA All-Star weekend. Harrington has been advocating for cannabis reform in the NBA as well as in society, having publicly endorsed the successful California initiative that was approved by voters in 2016 which legalized cannabis in California.
Al Harrington had already launched Viola Extracts and his new CBD company, Harrington Wellness, will serve as a sister company to Viola Extracts along with another company called Butter Baby (edibles). All three companies are part of an umbrella company called The Harrington Group. Viola Extracts products are already on sale in California and Oregon, and Harrington Wellness products are expected to make it to dispensary shelves this summer.
The launch of Al Harrington’s new company involved a star-studded dinner that was attended by a number of celebrities. What was really significant to me was members 0f the NBA community who were in attendance. Current Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue was there, as was current executive director of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) Michele Roberts. Current NBA players Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors) and Trevor Ariza were also in attendance (Houston Rockets). Retired NBA players such as Stephen Jackson, Charles Oakley, and Kenyon Martin were there too. To be clear, on the off-chance that a league prohibitionist is reading this article, there’s no evidence that any of the previously mentioned names actually consumed any cannabis products while attending the dinner (not that there’s anything wrong in my opinion if they did!).
I think in years past such high-profile members of the NBA community would have been scared to show up to a CBD company launch out of fear of the stigma that was associated with such companies. However, it’s a new era where the stigma is not nearly what it once was. The NBA currently prohibits any form of cannabis consumption (although it only tests for THC) but players such as retired NBA All-Star Clifford ‘Uncle Cliffy’ Robinson have been putting pressure on the league to allow players to consume cannabis. Cannabis reform has a greater level of support now in the United States than ever before.
There are two ways that the NBA could end cannabis prohibition. The first is if the league itself made the decision to end cannabis prohibition, which for whatever reason doesn’t seem likely. The more likely route is via collective bargaining negotiations between the league and the NBPA, which is why Michele Roberts being in attendance for Al Harrington’s CBD company launch is a really big deal in my opinion. Hopefully she learned about the benefits of cannabis and will publicly join the push to get the NBA on the right side of history.
Al Harrington’s new company, Harrington Wellness, is going to produce, market, and sell CBD products that are derived from hemp. Hemp and marijuana are both part of the same cannabis species, but from a public policy standpoint are treated differently. Hemp is defined as having a THC level of 0.3 percent or less. Hemp is often rich in CBD, which is why so many people are making products out of hemp now.
CBD products derived from hemp are complicated from a legal perspective. Anyone who says otherwise is likely a seller of CBD products. The only CBD products that are legal in all 50 states, and therefore can cross state lines according to the United States federal government, are those that contain no THC and are imported from another country. Per the U.S. Customs and Border Protection:
Federal law prohibits human consumption and possession of schedule I controlled substances. Products containing tetrahydrocannabinols (THC), the hallucinogenic substance in marijuana are illegal to import. Products that do not cause THC to enter the human body are therefore legal products.
The following hemp products such as clothing hats, shirts, shoes, cosmetics, lotion, paper, rope, twine, yarn, shampoo, and soap, (containing sterilized cannabis seeds or oils extracted from the seeds), etc. may be imported into the U.S.
Via a provision in a 2014 Farm Bill hemp cultivation and sales are legal within states that have created a legal hemp pilot and/or research program. Because of that specific provision, intrastate sales of hemp and hemp products (including CBD products) is legal. However, when it crosses state lines it’s a different story, at least according to the DEA. In March 2017 the DEA made it clear that CBD products are not legal in all 50 states with the exception of the previously mentioned imported products. Many CBD product sellers have claimed that the DEA is wrong and/or that the DEA is just making empty threats, but that proved to not be the case this month when 23 businesses selling CBD products were raided by the DEA.
To be fair, just because the DEA took action does not mean that the entities raided will be found guilty. It’s quite possible that the CBD products were imported from out of the country. Tennessee enacted hemp legislation in 2017, so it’s possible that’s how the CBD products involved came about, although I do not think that Tennessee has issued hemp cultivation permits yet (I could be wrong, feel free to correct me in the comments if that is not the case). There is also a CBD lawsuit working its way through the federal court system, so that could end the matter, but only time will tell if that proves to be the case.
Regardless of the legalities involved, the launch of Al Harrington’s company and the people in attendance are a very big deal for the sports cannabis movement. Hopefully it encourages more members of the NBA community to come out in support of reform in professional sports and encourages members of other league communities to do the same as well. All cannabinoids, including CBD, are safer than alcohol and pharmaceutical drugs, two things that are widely embraced by the NBA and other professional sports leagues that prohibit cannabis consumption. Athletes in professional sports leagues should be allowed to make the safer choice. Congratulations to Al Harrington and his team on their big announcement!