Retired NBA baller Al Harrington is continuing his transition from the hardwood to the dispensary by starting a brand of industrial hemp-based CBD products for the athlete in all of us.
Further, despite an outright ban on all things cannabis in the NBA — no matter what local laws say — league officials only test players for THC, not it's non-psychoactive sibling, CBD. So while your favorite point guard can still be put in the league's substance abuse program or even suspended for smoking a joint or two, players can use CBD without worry; a fact Harrington had to learn the hard way.
"It was surprising to me because I was taking CBD while I was in the league and I never turned up dirty on one of my drug tests," Harrington told MERRY JANE. "All the products I was taking were less than 1% THC so it was never detectable."
And while most discussions about cannabis in professional sports have focused on retired players trying nobly to reform league policy in the face of institutional push-back, Harrington is taking a more grassroots approach by bringing together players, coaches, and executives from the NBA's past, presen,t and future to try and end the cannabis stigma from the inside out.
"I want Harrington Wellness to bring an educational proponent to the marketplace," Harrington told MERRY JANE. "We can let these athletes know that if they do decide to use CBD, that there are no real true side effects and that it can only do good for them. All it does is heal."
Whether it was educational or not, Thursday night's Harrington Wellness release party was a veritable NBA who's who, with Cleveland Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue, Toronto Raptors All-Star Kyle Lowry, and legendary New York Knick Charles Oakley all in attendance, shirking cannabis's outlaw image.
For Harrington, who has already expanded his cannabusiness from Colorado to Oregon, with plans to enter legal weed markets in California and Michigan, the goal is not just profit, but progress. And in a league where bumps and bruises quickly turn into lifelong injuries and addictions, the sooner the better.
"We had a bunch of ex-players who have already turned their lives over to cannabis to deal with the bodily harm that comes from playing 10 or 12 years in the NBA," Harrington told MERRY JANE. "And then we had current players there, and that's key because we want to push the narrative with them. Because the more and more we can get active players on our page, too, then they can start speaking up while they're playing and their voice is more powerful. We just have to arm them with the ammunition so that when these conversations come up, they know what they're talking about."
In the months since Harrington's Uninterrupted documentary went viral, NBA coaches Steve Kerr and Stan Van Gundy and Minnesota Timberwolves' All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns have spoken out in favor of medical marijuana, but they've all hedged their bets by speaking only vaguely about ways in which cannabis could be incorporated into the league. In his journey to educate the NBA about the realities of cannabis on a whole, Harrington hopes to make it abundantly clear that no matter how marijuana is incorporated into professional sports, it will only improve the quality of play.
"The support I've seen is amazing, but when you look at the NBA, and we won't name names, but there's only about 125 or so players that are at the cream of the crop. Even with those guys who are at the top of their game, I would say that most of them use cannabis from time to time to deal with different ailments, and they're still the most elite athletes in the world," Harrington said. "The stigma that cannabis ruins them or that they won't be the same is nonsense."
He continued, "Until they're in a position to speak on how it helps them and how absurd league policy is, I'll be here to speak on it."
Harrington Wellness will roll out its initial product release in California, before hopefully bringing the athlete-focused CBD products to a nationwide, and eventually global, audience.
"I know international soccer players and some Australian cricket players, and they've told me they use cannabis for pain relief, too," Harrington told MERRY JANE. "I would love to make some custom products for their needs as well."
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