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Cannabis Company And Major League Baseball Sign Deal For Charlotte’s Web To Be ‘Official CBD of MLB’

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Major League Baseball has signed a CBD company to serve as the league’s first-ever cannabis sponsor—with plans to promote the business at the upcoming World Series.

Charlotte’s Web Holdings, one of the most recognizable hemp-derived CBD brands in the country, signed the deal with league to become the “Official CBD of MLB,” Sports Business Journal first reported on Tuesday.

As part of the deal, Charlotte’s Web will be releasing a line of “Sport” cannabis products that feature the MLB logo. In addition to a rights fee and revenue share in sales, SBJ reported that the baseball association will also receive a portion of shares in the company, which is publicly traded in Canada.

“As a leader in the CBD category, with products that provide health and wellness benefits, Charlotte’s Web is a welcome addition to the MLB family, representing a landmark partnership in baseball and sports,” Noah Garden, MLB’s chief revenue officer, said in a press release. “We are excited about the possibilities this partnership offers as CBD becomes a more widely adopted part of the health and wellness regimen of our players and fans.”

SBJ also said the deal “includes exclusive category rights and covers this year’s postseason, plus an additional three years.”

“We applaud MLB for being the first-mover in professional sports CBD and are thrilled to welcome their league as a respected strategic partner,” Jacques Tortoroli, Charlotte’s Web’s CEO, said. “Bridging our industry-leading brands with science, innovation, and education, this pioneering partnership validates Charlotte’s Web’s core business principle and founding mission to open access to safe, quality and consistent CBD through our proprietary hemp genetics and industry-forging vision.”

MLB has been among the more progressive professional sports organizations in the U.S. when it comes to marijuana.

The new development comes about four months after it was reported that MLB started allowing baseball teams in the league to sell sponsorships to cannabis companies that market CBD products, as long as they meet certain criteria.

As SBJ reported at the time, a team could only sell a CBD sponsorship if a prospective company’s products was certified by NSF International, a consumer safety and product-testing organization that sports leagues use, and the club would also need to receive authorization from the MLB commissioner’s office.

MLB has stood out among other professional sports leagues as more willing to respond to the changing marijuana policy landscape. For example, it clarified in a memo in 2020 that players will not be punished for using cannabis while they aren’t working, but they can’t be personally sponsored by a marijuana company or hold investments in the industry.

The league also said at the time that it was teaming with NSF International to analyze and certify legal, contaminant-free CBD products in order to allow teams to store them on club premises. It’s unclear if this latest development is directly related to that collaboration.

The update built upon MLB’s decision in 2019 to remove cannabis from the league’s list of banned substances. Before that rule change, players who tested positive for THC were referred to mandatory treatment, and failure to comply carried a fine of up to $35,000. That penalty is now gone.

The policies are the result of negotiations between MLB and its players union. Both parties agreed to approach the league’s drug policy with an emphasis on treatment rather than penalties. Players who test positive for opioids or cocaine, for example, will be penalized only if they refuse treatment.

A number of athletic governance bodies have recently relaxed rules around cannabinoids as laws change and medical applications become more widely accepted.

UFC announced last year that they would no longer be punishing fighters over positive marijuana tests, MMA Fighting reported.

“There’s opportunity across sports,” UFC SVP/Global Partnerships Paul Asencio told SBJ. “I don’t think every team will have a ([CBD] partner, but probably every league will. It’s just a really good connection and marketing platform, because professional athletes are using these products and will continue to.”

For example, students athletes that are part of the NCAA would no longer automatically lose their eligibility to play following a positive marijuana test under rules that are were recommended by a key committee earlier this year.

The conversation around drug testing and professional sports came to the fore last summer after U.S. sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson was suspended from the Olympics over a positive THC test. She admitted to using cannabis in a legal state after learning of her mother’s passing.

The runner said that she’d feel “blessed and proud” if the attention her case raised would affect a policy change for other athletes. Even the White House and President Joe Biden himself weighed in on the case, suggesting that there’s a question about whether the marijuana ban should “remain the rules.”

However, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) recently decided to keep marijuana on the list of banned substances for international athletes following a scientific review and a determination that cannabis use “violates the spirit of sport.”

Meanwhile, the NFL’s drug testing policy already changed demonstrably in 2020 as part of a collective bargaining agreement.

NFL players no longer face the possibility of being suspended from games over positive tests for any drug—not just marijuana—under a collective bargaining agreement. Instead, they will face a fine. The threshold for what constitutes a positive THC test was also increased under the deal.

The NBA announced in late 2020 that was extending its policy of not randomly drug testing players for marijuana through the 2021-2022 season. The association said it wouldn’t be subjecting players to random drug testing for THC; however, they will continue to test “for cause” cases where players have histories of substance use.

Marijuana icon Snoop Dogg, who was featured at the Super Bowl halftime show this year where an ad separately aired that indirectly supported legalization, argued that sports leagues need to stop testing players for marijuana and allow to them to use it as an alternative to prescription opioids.

This story was updated to include confirmation from MLB and Charlotte’s Web.

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