MLB, Charlotte’s Web partnership indicative of sports’ changing cannabis mindset
COLORADO SPRINGS — When you think of professional baseball and drugs, what comes to mind? The cocaine-fueled 1986 New York Mets? The 1990s steroid era? The 2019 opioid overdose death of Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs?
You’re probably not thinking about cannabis products, but perhaps someday you will — at least that’s what Boulder-born CBD company Charlotte’s Web Holdings Inc. (OTCQX: CWBHF) is hoping.
Last year CW inked a sponsorship deal with Major League Baseball, making it the first CBD company to partner with a professional sports league. Simultaneously, the company launched a line of sports products starting with Daily Edge, a CBD tincture that underwent strict testing and was uniquely designed to adhere to MLB’s banned substances policy.
The partnership came about as a result of a “perfect storm for the industry” and for the MLB, Jared Stanley, Charlotte’s Web co-founder and chief operating officer, said during a panel discussion Wednesday at the annual NoCo Hemp Expo held at the Broadmoor resort in Colorado Springs.
“When you’re involved with an entity like MLB — a national brand … (and) a social brand that’s ingrained in the society of our country — you have to be very careful to protect that brand,” MLB’s vice president of drug, health and safety programs Jon Coyles said. But two events galvanized support for the league’s embrace of cannabinoids: passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which established the nationwide framework for hemp commerce; and Skagg’s death, which highlighted the dangers of widespread opioid use among athletes.
“We were kind of handcuffed” prior to the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill because league drug policy is linked to controlled-substances laws, Coyles said. “We were very interested in taking a different approach toward natural cannabinoids, but we weren’t really in a position to do that because of federal legislation.”
When the Farm Bill was passed, “that change in policy opened up opportunities on the commercial sponsorship side,” and prompted the league to rethink its stance on cannabis products.
The league’s embrace of natural alternatives to opioids was further spurred by Skaggs’ death, which “triggered a change in our industry” to “take a different approach with respect to THC and CBD,” Coyles said.
As a result of this reconsideration, players are no longer drug tested for cannabis, he said. “It was an important move, an overdue move.”
The “pioneering, groundbreaking” decision by the MLB to “embrace the category” of CBD helps Charlotte’s Web “broaden the consumer base and establish credibility” among athletes across the sports landscape, Stanley said.