Matt Barnes: From NBA Champ to Cannabis Hero
Professional athlete-turned-cannapreneur isn’t a new story. However, the way one approaches the cannabis game is. We’ve seen NFL Veteran Eugene Monroe
’s advocacy with his emphasis on cannabis education; you’ve got NBA Veteran Al Harrington
making huge moves with his brand, Viola; and now we’ve got NBA Champion Matt Barnes doing special things with, well, everything and everyone.
On August 9th, Matt Barnes kicks off his 5th annual ATHLETES VS CANCER All-Star Weekend: a three-day event aimed at raising awareness for cancer research and helping its many victims. Started in 2008, the year after his mother died of cancer, ATHLETES VS CANCER has evolved over time through a three-stage process.
“We’ve done multiple screenings and health fairs. Then we transitioned to paying for anything cancer-related, whether that be hospice, funerals, surgeries, medications, or bills. And now we’re transitioning to the final step, which I’m most excited about: Creating a scholarship program for kids who beat cancer and want to go to college,” Barnes tells Leafly.
While this is the 5th AVC All-Star Weekend, it’s the first year that’ll include a cannabis component, Smoke4ACure, a celebration of the cannabis plant and its medicinal benefits, hosted by Matt Barnes and Snoop Dogg at Snoop Dogg’s Compound. It features a pro-athlete and celebrity panel, professional chefs and cannabis-infused tastings, as well as special musical guest appearances, with all proceeds going towards helping cannabis survivors get back on their feet. Ya boy will DEFINITELY be in attendance.
Considering his passion behind cancer research and the search for a cure, it makes sense that Matt, a 23-year user of the plant, would gravitate towards the cannabis industry, a business he has learned can be dirty, yet rewarding. Since his 4/20 round table for Bleacher Report, Matt’s phone has been constantly ringing with opportunities. “People are really starting to come to me to endorse their brands and help get the message out. And in turn, obviously I get free weed, but I either get equity in their company or I’m able to sit on their board and really help guide their brand as far as what’s cool/what’s not cool, directions we need to attack, and the strategic side of it.”
As a brand ambassador of Viola, as well as being the first athlete ever endorsed by RAW Papers, a deal he (BREAKING!) inked just last month, it’s clear that Barnes is already making some serious moves within the industry. Partnering with Seven Leaves, a cannabis production company in his hometown of Sacramento, Matt is also developing a line of pre-rolls, aimed more at the role of medicinal education than sheer recreational use.
“Being an athlete, I have to be careful about the way I present my cannabis use. So this is going to be more on the educational side. We’re going to launch four different joints to enjoy throughout the day. The first one is Wake-N-Bake, a sativa, then we’ll have a midday sativa-dominant hybrid, Post Workout. Then I’ll have Happy Hour, something about 5 o’clock, which is another hybrid, indica-dominant. And then the nightcap, it’s called Loaded Dreams, which is going be a heavy indica. I’m going to launch all of those and explain when I use them and why I use them.”
With all of the important work Barnes is doing, it’s funny to think that just a year ago, he would’ve never been able to speak on any of these things, something that doesn’t fall short on him. “I’m really living the dream post-career as far as cannabis goes. To think that I was playing for an NBA championship a year ago, and now I’m retired and I’m getting paid to smoke weed. It’s crazy.”
Though heavily involved in the business side of things, for Barnes, cannabis isn’t simply about making money. It’s about how he can change lives in relation to it. Because of this, his true pride and joy is his partnership with his alma mater, UCLA, on the UCLA Cannabis Research Initiative, the first ever athlete-funded UCLA cannabis research program.
“My ultimate goal is to get it legalized, or to be a part of the team that gets it legalized in professional sports. There’s such negative stigma. If you smoke weed, you’re a loser, it’s a gateway drug or whatever, but some of the top athletes in the world are cannabis consumers, and some of the top doctors in the world, lawyers, you name it, all consume cannabis. So I’m hoping my efforts with UCLA can take the stigma out of it where people can be more comfortable, not afraid to come out and say ‘I’m a cannabis user.’”
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