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Schools And NCAA Could Ban Marijuana Sponsorships Under Bill To Let Student Athletes Monetize Their Success

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A new bipartisan congressional bill aimed at helping student athletes monetize their success contains a provision that would let colleges and intercollegiate organizations block them from making sponsorship deals with marijuana businesses.

While the legislation would address a longstanding controversy over inequitable payment to college athletes, drug policy reform advocates are disappointed to see the legislation perpetuate anti-cannabis policies despite the growing, state-level legalization movement.

The Student Athlete Level Playing Field Act, introduced by Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH) and seven other original cosponsors, would make it so colleges and associations like the NCAA could not prohibit students from being involved in intercollegiate athletics if they’ve entered into sponsorship agreements.

However, it stipulates that the exception would not apply if the sponsorship is from a “seller or dispensary of a controlled substance, including marijuana.”

Student drug policy reform advocates took exception to the cannabis provision.

“Student-athletes are professionals and deserve the right to earn funding from any legal service they deem fit. As young professionals, they can determine for themselves if an endorsement is going to hurt or help their career,” Luis Montoya, co-interim executive director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, told Marijuana Moment. “These restrictions are not based in any science, and in particular ignore community re-investment efforts by the cannabis industry. Banning student-athletes from accepting endorsements from an industry that wants to reinvest in local communities only limits the opportunities afforded to these young professionals.”

The bill, filed last month, would also allow actions against students who get endorsement deals with alcohol, tobacco, adult entertainment or gambling companies.

Meanwhile, for lead bill sponsor Gonzalez, this particular provision seems to depart from his overall record on cannabis reform.

The congressman voted in favor of spending bill riders to protect all state, territory and tribal marijuana programs from federal intervention in 2019 and this year.

In other education-related drug policy developments, a separate House bill filed last year would repeal a federal law punishing college students who are convicted of drug offenses by stripping them of their financial aid. That reform cleared the Education & Labor Committee as part of a broader college affordability bill, but it has not advanced further.

In any case, Gonzalez touted his new legislation, arguing in a press release that it “delivers meaningful reforms and will make a difference in the lives of student athletes of all levels of competition across the country.”

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), an original cosponsor, said the measure “is a civil rights issue.”

“For far too long college athletes across the country—many of whom are people of color—have been denied the basic right to control their name, image and likeness,” he said. “What we wanted to do from the outset was come to a bipartisan consensus that puts forth a national framework that gives college athletes the same rights every other American in the country is already afforded.”

But while the congressman acknowledged racially disparate policies in college sports, it’s also the case that the war on drugs has disproportionately impacted African Americans and Latinos. Reform advocates who support cannabis legalization have emphasized the need to create opportunities for people from communities harmed by prohibition enforcement to participate in the newly legal marijuana market.

And so while the athletics bill seeks to make a seemingly benign exemption for allowing marijuana-related sponsorships, the policy also makes it so students of color who’ve been most negatively affected by these college policies are unable to benefit from endorsement deals with an industry that advocates are hoping can play a proactive role in fostering racial equity.

Earlier this year, Major League Baseball clarified that players can consume cannabis without being disciplined, but moved to ban them from entering sponsorship deals with marijuana companies.

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Colorado Is Auctioning Marijuana-Themed License Plates To Raise Money For People With Disabilities

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Colorado is really leaning into its reputation as the marijuana state—for a good cause. Officials are taking the unique step of auctioning off cannabis-themed license plates to help raise money for a disability fund.

From April 1 to April 20, residents can bid on the vanity plates with terms like “BONG,” “GANJA,” “GOTWAX,” “HEMP,” “ISIT420” and even “TEGRIDY,” a nod to the fictional South Park marijuana farm.

Via Colorado Disability Funding Committee.

Bids on several of the plates start at $420, of course.

“The Colorado Disability Funding Committee had the TEGRIDY to STASH away some great HERB related license plate configurations and is making them available to you,” a Facebook post states. “Don’t be GREEN with envy because your neighbor GOTWAX and HONEY, bid on a plate and support people with disabilities!”

“Colorado GANJA themed license plates could make you as HAPPY as your 100% HEMP t-shirt,” the post, which was uploaded on April 1 but is not an April Fool’s joke, continues. “Leave ya SATIVA and INDICA, put down the BONG, use our HASHtags to follow along.”

Via Colorado Disability Funding Committee.

The page for each license plate up for auction includes a disclaimer not to drive while impaired and to use cannabis responsibly.

The proceeds of the auction will go to the Colorado Disability Funding Committee, which issues grants to organizations that “have new and innovative ideas that benefit the disability community.”

Given the popularity of Colorado’s marijuana market, which exceeded $2 billion in sales last year alone, it stands to reason that the plates will be a hit.

People who don’t live in Colorado can also bid. If they win, they will be sent a novelty plate without the security features that come on a normal plate.

Despite being one of the first states to legalize for adult use, Colorado’s cannabis program is continually evolving.

Last month, for example, the state House passed a bill to increase the lawful possession limit for marijuana and the governor signed legislation to create a social equity fund for the marijuana industry.

Gov. Jared Polis (D) visited a marijuana dispensary in Denver to sign the measure, which will establish a program within the state Office of Economic Development and International Trade that’s intended to support cannabis businesses owned by people who qualify as social equity licensees, primarily people most impacted by the drug war.

The program will receive an initial infusion of $4 million from the state’s marijuana tax fund—about $1 million short of what the governor had requested in January. The legislation was created in consultation with Black Brown and Red Badged (BBRB), a coalition of minority-owned cannabis businesses.

Last year, Polis signed a separate bill that creates a statewide definition of cannabis social equity licensees. Those businesses are now the ones that will primarily benefit from the new legislation.

This kind of funding is largely made possible from tax revenue derived by the state’s robust cannabis market. Data from the state’s Department of Revenue shows that more than $10 billion of marijuana has been sold since the adult-use program launched in 2014.

Another piece of cannabis reform legislation that cleared the Senate last month would require schools and school district to institute policies permitting employees to store and administer marijuana products for students who are registered medical cannabis patients.

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Seth Rogen’s Marijuana Biz Expands To U.S. While Jay-Z Gets Political With Cannabis Ad Campaign

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Monday was a big day in the celebrity marijuana space, with actor Seth Rogen announcing the U.S. launch of his cannabis brand and rapper Jay-Z revealing an ad campaign for his company that’s meant to highlight the absurdity of the war on drugs by pointing out that some states are more lax on cousin marriage, cannibalism or sex with farm animals than they are on weed.

Rogen’s elation in bringing his business, Houseplant, to the U.S. market was evident in a one-minute video he shared on social media.

After showcasing the tins his line of sativa and indica strains come in—as well a “table lighter” that’s part of the Houseplant collection—the actor of Pineapple Express and Superbad fame said that this is “honestly my life’s work and I’ve never been more excited about anything.”

The company also produced vinyl records with playlists that are meant to complement the effects of the various marijuana varieties like Pancake Ice.

Rogen has also leveraged his marijuana stardom for philanthropic purposes, putting on an adult carnival last year where the plant was featured to raise money for research into Alzheimer’s disease.

He appeared at a congressional hearing in 2014 and joked that while people might expect him to advocate for marijuana reform before the Senate committee, he was actually there to promote research into the disease, which his mother-in-law suffers from.

The actor also appeared in a PSA for National Expungement Week, an effort to help people free themselves from the burdens of prior marijuana convictions.

Meanwhile, JAY-Z, whose real name is Shawn Carter, has his cannabis business, MONOGRAM. And on Monday, the company started a “national awareness campaign that draws attention to the hypocrisy of current regulations governing cannabis” in the U.S., a press release states.

Via Monogram.

Billboards and murals featuring text that compare laws prohibiting marijuana and other state and federal statutes have been posted in cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, D.C. and New York.

Here are a few examples of the campaign messages: 

“Weed is a federal crime. Even in the states where sex with farm animals isn’t.”

“You can marry your first cousin in more states than you can buy recreational weed.”

“The war on drugs worked. If systemic racism was the goal.”

Via Monogram.

“Cannabis laws are out of date and disproportionately cruel and punishing when compared to the rest of the legal code,” Carter said. “I created this campaign to amplify the voices of those who have been penalized for the very same thing that venture capitalists are now prospering from with the emerging legal cannabis market.”

 

Earlier this year, the artist announced that he was putting $10 million toward a fund to promote participation in state-legal marijuana markets by communities most impacted by prohibition—an action that earned the praise of California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D).

“I led the effort to decriminalize & legalize cannabis because the war on drugs has been an abject failure—with disproportionate & devastating impacts on communities of color,” the governor said. “These are the types of entrepreneurial opportunities we dreamed of—thanks Jay-Z!”

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Photo courtesy of Monogram.

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NFL Explores How Marijuana And CBD Can Be Used As Opioid Alternatives For Players

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The National Football League and NFL Players Association are launching an effort to learn about the potential of marijuana and its components like CBD as alternative treatment options for pain.

They’re also more generally interested in discovering how cannabis use affects athletic performance.

A request for information that was published on Tuesday states that the league’s goal is “to identify investigators who have the current capability to carry out studies aimed at supplementing the NFL-NFLPA Pain Management Committee’s (‘PMC’) knowledge about pain management and athletic performance in NFL players.”

The notice lists three areas of interest:

1. The potential therapeutic role of medications and non-pharmacological interventions that are considered to be alternatives to opioids in routine pain management of NFL players. Medications may include, but are not limited to, cannabinoids such as cannabidiol (“CBD”).

2. The impact of cannabis or cannabinoids on athletic performance in NFL players.

3. The potential therapeutic role of medications and non-pharmacological interventions that are considered adjunctive to routine post-surgical orthopedic pain management in NFL football players.

The joint NFL-NFLPA committee also noted that, in 2020, it held two informational forums on CBD “to learn about the current state of CBD science and manufacturing in North America.”

The findings of those forums weren’t definitive, as PMC found that while the non-intoxicating cannabis compound shows promise in the treatment of some forms of pain, the science doesn’t currently live up to the “hype.”

“CBD is a promising compound, but the level of its use in the United States outpaces the level of research at this point,” the committee wrote in a white paper for players. “Most of the hype about CBD is based upon results from animal studies.”

This new request for information stresses that NFL is not committing to funding any particular studies but is more generally meant to help the league find qualified scientists if it does move forward with research projects on these issues. Interested parties have until March 31 to submit relevant information.

Meanwhile, the league’s drug testing policy changed demonstrably last year as part of a collective bargaining agreement.

Under the new policy, NFL players will not face the possibility of being suspended from games over positive tests for any drug—not just marijuana.

The decision reflects a significant shift in the league’s approach to drug use by players, with the agreement emphasizing the need to focus on “ensuring evaluation and treatment” rather than punishment. Now those who test positive for drugs, exhibit behaviors that indicate drug misuse or self-refer themselves will be required to enter an “intervention program” where they would receive an evaluation and treatment plan.

Testing positive for prohibited substances after that point would result in a half-week salary loss for first violations, a one-week salary loss for second violations, a two-week salary loss for third violations and a three-week salary loss for fourth and subsequent violations. The threat of suspensions would be removed.

In a similar vein, the MLB decided in 2019 to remove cannabis from the league’s list of banned substances. Baseball players can consume marijuana without risk of discipline, but officials clarified last year that they can’t work while under the influence and can’t enter into sponsorship contracts with cannabis businesses, at least for the time being.

Meanwhile, a temporary NBA policy not to randomly drug test players for marijuana amid the coronavirus pandemic may soon become permanent, the league’s top official said in December. Rather than mandate blanket tests, Commissioner Adam Silver said the league would be reaching out to players who show signs of problematic dependency, not those who are “using marijuana casually.”

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Image element courtesy of Marco Verch.

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