As fitness buffs, parents, and foodies openly make cannabis part of their lifestyles, we can expect to see more cannabis-related firms sponsoring cultural, arts, and athletic events. Just like alcohol purveyors have for decades, cannabis companies see financially backing athletes and events as a way to both advance the brand, and be a community player. Both are good things, especially for a traditionally stigmatized industry.
While Jamaica's Cannabis Cup or the 420 Games might be fine with selling ad space to vape manufacturers, growers, edibles manufacturers and the like, mainstream athletes and sporting events have been slower to hop on board.
Anti-doping restrictions on athletes are partially to blame - as is the outmoded idea that cannabis users can't succeed athletically.
An active, outdoor life is compatible with cannabis use
Doug Leighton is a principal partner and co-founder at Dutchess Capital, a Boston-headquartered global hedge fund that recently purchased Roll-uh-Bowl - a collapsible, durable water pipe that's perfect for outdoorsy activities like skiing, camping, and hiking.
"We're trying to change the view of the typical cannabis consumer and what they do," Leighton tells Civilized.
Roll-uh-Bowl just signed a deal to sponsor 22-year-old Avery Collins, who is competing in upcoming ultra-marathons in Hawaii and San Francisco. Collins uses cannabis to get himself through the intense training and post-training associated with gruelling 50- and 100-mile races that can take 18 hours to complete.
"If you can find the right level, [marijuana] takes the stress out of running," Collins told the Wall Street Journal.
Leighton says Collins was a natural fit. "We want people to get out and experience life outdoors while consuming cannabis."
But many other athletes declined offers from Roll-uh-Bowl, says Leighton. "It's really hard to find athletes, other than maybe skateboarders in regional competitions. There really aren't that many that aren't under a drug prohibition."
"Athletes were afraid it would look negative at some point, even though they privately admitted to using cannabis."
Runners can take sponsorships from cannabis companies
There is currently no administrative or governing body that bans drug use for ultra-marathoners, meaning athletes like Collins are free to accept sponsorships from cannabis companies if they so choose.
Not many are taking advantage of the opportunity, but Leighton is hoping that will change over time.
"As more people consume cannabis and realize there are benefits to it, that will change. The biggest stigma in the U.S., unlike Canada, is that you can't do research. When there are studies published, that will remove the stigma."
And hey, it's possible that's happening already. While individual athletes might have misgivings, the medical marijuana company Cresco Labs was one of the sponsors of this year's Chicago Marathon. As part of its sponsorship, Cresco Founder Charles Bachtell said the company placed an information pamphlet about medical marijuana in the kit bags of all of the runners.
"The educational marijuana insert, which passed the Bank of America's rigorous screening process, is the first-of-its-kind to be a sponsor of any mainstream athletic event in the country," said Bachtell.