Let’s face it: Any team led by Chris Webber is destined for success. The former NBA standout and Detroit native is about to launch Players Only, a $175 million cannabis training facility in southwest Detroit for the region’s cannabis workers and entrepreneurs of color.
In a partnership with BIPOC-led cannabis corporation Cookies, the educational facility plans on preparing individuals for all aspects of the industry — from cultivation to sale, and will include an online GED program and courses on financial literacy.
"This is my biggest priority in life," Webber said at Tuesday’s ceremony, wearing a grey suit and matching grey Adidas sneakers. "I've seen who (business partner and former Notre Dame basketball standout Lavetta Willis) and I have helped across the country and the lives that have been disrupted by cannabis. Hopefully, we can do a little repairing. Hopefully, we can help the city.”
The facility is planned at 180,000 square feet, with a 60,000 square foot cultivation floor, and a consumption lounge for those looking to enjoy the fruits of their labor on-site.
Work training programs at the center will be run through Cookies U, a program launched this year by Webber and global cannabis corporation Cookies that focuses on creating business opportunities for people who have been impacted by the War on Drugs.
“Not only have minorities been excessively punished and incarcerated for cannabis while others profited, but they have had unequal access to education, which perpetuates cycles of low-pay and unemployment,” said Webber upon the launch of Cookies U. “It is crucial that we allow those who have been impacted by the Drug War and racism to participate and benefit from the cannabis industry.”
Webber is among several former NBA players who are looking to make waves in the cannabis industry. The presence of such well-monied entrepreneurs of color is a big deal in the weed business, which has a serious racial equity problem.
Other former professional athletes who have stepped into the legal marijuana business include Al Harrington, Matt Barnes, Travis Best, Gary Payton, and Ricky Williams. The latter, who founded his cannabis company Real Wellness in 2018, estimates that he lost some $10 million in salary and endorsements due to the NFL’s punishments of marijuana consumption.
Michigan’s cannabis licensing program has been accused of being inaccessible to Black and Brown communities. Players Only hopes to correct that disparity with concentrated training programs tailored for the Detroit community.
“This is an area that has been desperately needing investment and for folks to come and recognize the history and the attribute of this community,” said Jonathan Kinloch, Wayne County Commissioner, upon presenting Webber with a proclamation from the commission on Tuesday.
“It feels so good to come home and to be a part of all the great things again,” said the Detroit native, who attended Detroit Country Day High School and the University of Michigan.
Webber’s ongoing cannabis projects include his own company Webber Wellness, and the WebberWildWillis Foundation, a project he formed with DADA Footwear founder Willis and Jason Wild, who runs a $1 billion hedge fund.