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Op-Ed: MLB Allows CBD Sponsorships: Could This Change The Outlook on Marijuana in Professional Sports?

Even with cannabis being officially legalized in 38 states as of 2022, the stigmatization of marijuana use is still extremely prevalent today, with an absurd amount of people still incarcerated for weed-related “crimes.” Within professional sports, one of the most recent conflicts concerning athletes’ use of weed concerns Sha’Carri Richardson, a sprinter for the U.S. who was suspended from the 2021 Olympic games after testing positive for marijuana use. Now, as of June 2022, Major League Baseball has officially announced their new policy in which teams are allowed to be officially sponsored by CBD companies, the chemical found in marijuana that promotes therapeutic effects, but does not produce any high like THC, the other prevalent chemical in marijuana.

The increase in sports teams accepting sponsorships from CBD brands seems like a step in the right direction, even though CBD products themselves do not create the same effect that smoking or other weed products generate. However, what has bothered me since the beginning of recreational weed legalization— beginning in Washington and Colorado in 2012— is the hypocrisy concerning the “harmful” reputation of weed compared to the “all in good fun” reputation of alcohol. Specifically, every single sports team as well as every league in general most likely has some sort of partnership with a beer company, where the beer logo can be found around the stadium, or even the team’s logo on the beer can itself. Considering that Budweiser and Corona are the two “Official Beers of the MLB,” it seems about time that not only CBD companies are given equal sponsorships, but also cannabis companies.

A substantial amount of research has been done that defines marijuana as healthier and safer than alcohol, yet it seems impossible that society will ever be able to shake the negative stigma surrounding weed use, considering that alcohol use is incredibly normalized. The argument that “marijuana could potentially be performance enhancing” has continually been used as sufficient reasoning to ban cannabis use in professional sports, and also punish athletes who do test positive for marijuana. Regular alcohol use by athletes would never be questioned in professional sports, and as I have mentioned, teams actually rely on alcohol brands for major funding; the extreme marketing of beer companies goes so far back into American history that it seems inherently impossible for cannabis brands to try and compete, alongside the negative societal view of weed itself. 

In MLB granting permission for teams to take on CBD sponsorships, one can only hope that this is only the beginning of the normalization of cannabis products within sports. As more dispensaries pop up across the U.S. and people currently in jail for marijuana possession are released, I am optimistic about the future of weed in professional sports, so there may be a light at the end of the tunnel after all.

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