Retired Players Urge For CBD Oil Regulation In The NBA

Both active and retired NBA athletes endorse products. While athletic and performance products such as shoes and sports gear are at the top of the list, there is a growing number of retired players who are endorsing hemp-derived CBD products. These endorsements are paid endorsements, but they are also the products many athletic retirees use to manage the chronic pain caused by their sports injuries. Several retired players are urging for CBD oil regulation in the NBA and throughout all athletic industries.

Retired Players Who Advocate For CBD

While most active players remain publicly silent, several retired NBA players are singing the praises of cannabis. Many sponsor or endorse the products they use and speak openly about how CBD oil positively impacts their life. From Al Harrington to Jamal Mashburn, Lamar Odom, Rick Barry, Paul Pierce, and many more.

Even former NBA commissioner, David Stern, supported changing the regulations regarding marijuana. This was a change of tune, as Stern once played a vital role in tightening up marijuana restrictions in the NBA. But, as states began to legalize both medicinal and recreational marijuana, Stern supported following state laws. His shift in mindset was before the legalization of hemp-derived CBD in 2018, so now the conversation is completely different. With CBD there is no risk of players coming to practice or games high, whether from marijuana or opioid use.

Education Is Essential

It is standard for amateur and professional athletes to have strict drug and conduct policies. So, even though hemp-derived CBD (also referred to as cannabis) is legal in all 50 states, athletes across many sports are prohibited from using cannabis. Unfortunately, too few are educated on the difference between hemp-derived CBD and marijuana.

Both contain cannabinoids, the active ingredient that provides the medicinal benefits of marijuana. However, cannabis and hemp-derived CBD oil products do not contain high enough levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) , the compound responsible for getting you high. That means that you can take CBD oil and you are still safe to drive, play sports, operate machinery, and perform all daily activities without worry of cognitive impairment.

Per the Farm Bill of 2018, the legalization of a strain of the cannabis plant with .03% THC is now legal for sale in all 50 states. This is an entirely different set of laws and regulations per that of legalized marijuana for medicinal or recreational use. The education between these differences is not yet wide-spread, leaving many to believe that CBD oil and marijuana are the same product—which they are not.

However, you must learn how to read labels. Hemp seed oil is made from hemp seeds and is designed for cooking. It does not have the medicinal benefits of marijuana. Unfortunately, many hemp oil products label themselves as CBD. For example, CBD is not legal for sale on Amazon, so anything sold on the site is hemp seed oil. If recreational marijuana is legal in your state, the products may be labeled “low-THC” or “CBD”, but they may not be of the .03% variety, and may get you high. So, you must learn to read the labels and ask questions to verify what you are purchasing.

Why So Many Retired NBA Players Advocate For CBD Regulation

Athlete’s bodies are their instrument. They don’t just workout they push themselves to the max, often ignoring their pain. Even with one day off a week and taking the offseason to rest, there is not enough time to recover and heal. They play through the pain and work with the top sports physicians in the world, but injury, inflammation, and pain are inevitable. These injuries are ongoing, and worsen in retirement.

Heat, ice, massage, and physical therapy are part of every athlete’s standard routine—but these natural remedies can only go so far. When inflammation and pain are high or after a recent injury, over-the-counter medications can’t do enough to keep pain at bay. The most common route is to prescribe an opioid such as oxycodone. As one of the most addictive prescription medications on the market today, addiction becomes a problem for many athletes. In fact, opioid addiction is a growing crisis across every demographic, often prescribed first for pain.

Athletes are in genuine and severe pain, but if addiction sets in, it can disrupt their athletic performance and personal life. This is one of the many reasons retired NBA players use CBD instead as a non-addictive alternative that they can stop using at any time.

Stigma In Communities Of Color

Currently, just over 80% of NBA players are African American. While many retired athletes are vocal about regulating CBD in the NBA, other active and retired athletes remain silent or in opposition. The stigmas and stereotypes surrounding communities of color and drug use are alive and well. Athletes work hard to maintain their personal and professional reputation and respect. They don’t want to be labeled a statistic or a pothead looking to find an excuse to use drugs. So, advocating for regulation is something many refrain from.

These same stigmas contribute to a lack of diversity in the cannabis industry. This is particularly problematic as minority-owned businesses remain low across every industry. It’s rare that a true emerging industry is born, but because of the stigmas associated with CBD use—many entrepreneurs of color refrain from launching a cannabis business or working in the industry in any way.

Other Countries Industries Are Paving The Way For Regulation

The conversation regarding both cannabis and marijuana vary greatly from one country to the next. Marijuana has long been legal in several countries around the world, and a growing number of countries are legalizing cannabis.

Legalized use by amateur, collegiate, and professional athletes continues to vary by country—but in 2018 the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) removed cannabis from their list, not marijuana, but only hemp-derived CBD. That meant that as of the 2020 Olympics CBD was no longer screened for in Olympic-level athletes. And no, there is not a guarantee that CBD won’t show up on a drug test.

The WADA’s decision is paving the way for acceptance in the United States and many other countries. As education and stigmas begin to fade, it is expected that regulation will trickle down into other sports.


With the opioid epidemic on the rise, athletic organizations such as the NBA can no longer ignore the rapidly rising rates of prescription addiction. They are accountable for their athlete’s current and ongoing health, and continue to explore alternatives to the current go-tos. With an increased focus on wellness and naturally-derived holistic health, people of every ethnicity, industry, and walk of life are educating themselves and exploring prescription-alternatives—including CBD oil. As cannabis use becomes normalized by the general population, athletic organizations are expected to loosen up their regulations.

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