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Ice Cube is bringing medical marijuana to professional sports. The Big3, a professional three-on-three basketball league founded by the West Coast rapper, has announced that it will explicitly sanction the use of cannabidiol, or CBD, becoming the first American sports organization to officially embrace cannabis in any form.
In a press release before this weekend's Big3 tour stop in Chicago, Big3 co-founder and co-CEO Jeff Kwatinetz said that players would now be allowed to use cannabidiol medication freely, for pain relief and injury recovery.
"The Big3 is uniquely positioned in professional sports as a player-powered league that looks at our players as partners not property," Kwatinetz said in the release. "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."
With one full season in the books and the second tour already underway, the Big3 is home to some of the NBA's biggest, recently-retired stars, including Mike Bibby, Nate Robinson, Stephen Jackson, and more. But while those players were banned from using weed entirely while playing in the NBA, the Big3 has both declined to drug test players and embraced medical marijuana, making progressive steps to change the way other pro leagues look at cannabis.
"Despite many states around the country making efforts to decriminalize or legalize cannabis, both medicinally and recreationally, professional athletes who could benefit medicinally are prevented from doing so by league outdated mandates," Kwatinetz said, taking an apparent shot at the NBA.
Across professional sports, retired athletes and officials have called for leagues to remove mandatory marijuana tests, with NBA and NFL athletes proselytizing cannabis as a safe replacement for opioid painkillers prescribed without discretion by team doctors.
While the NBA and Commissioner Adam Silver have said that they are open to looking into medical marijuana, the world's most popular basketball league has made no concrete inroads into those claims. Despite frequent tests for THC and other narcotics, former NBA player, current Big3 player, and legal cannabis business owner Al Harrington told MERRY JANE earlier this year that he used CBD frequently during the final years of his NBA career and never failed a drug test.
But even with non-psychoactive CBD products flying under the NBA's radar, Harrington told MERRY JANE that the league's cannabis stigma still prevented players from treating their bodies properly. In the Big3, Harrington said that cannabis is a frequent topic of conversation in locker rooms and at practice.
"We all talk about cannabis. The best thing about the Big3 is that the league doesn't govern how we take care of our bodies," Harrington told MERRY JANE. "We're all grown and we've made our money, so there's no need to crack down on things like that. There's players that use cannabis, there's players that talk about it, there's players that are interested and just trying to get more information about it. It's definitely prevalent. And you see the type of product we put out there, it just goes to show that cannabis does not deteriorate performance."
In an impromptu interview with TMZ after Wednesday's CBD announcement, Big3 co-founder Ice Cube told reporters that the league would not officially sponsor THC use among players before federal legalization, but said that it would "cross that bridge when we come to it."
Last year, the World Doping Agency removed CBD from its list of outlawed substances, but upheld its ban on THC.
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