As the world of professional sports continues to grapple with changing cannabis laws, a rising pool of athletic talent is continuing to demand that they be allowed to consume and compete. At the same time, some legends of the game who’ve already hung up their kicks are going professional as well.
Only recently, onetime Denver Nugget Al Harrington expanded operations for his venture, Viola. Named for Harrington’s grandmother, the multi-state brand is currently serving customers in Colorado, Oregon, Michigan, California, Arizona, and Nevada. Harrington is also currently in partnership with the Black-owned, vertically-integrated Ball Family Farms in Los Angeles.
But what about Washington? Only last week, the state earned headlines for a landmark vote in favor of legalizing medically-administered psilocybin, which is more commonly known as the active ingredient in so-called “magic” mushrooms. Well, at the same time, there was big news on the weed front as six-time All Star and cherished former Seattle SuperSonic Shawn Kemp became the latest ex-NBA star to make the move to weed with a hometown splash.
A bit of background on Kemp: born in Indiana, the power forward nicknamed “Reign Man” also played stints with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Portland Trail Blazers, and Orlando Magic over the course of his 14-year career. He has also run afoul of the law several times since retiring as player.
In 2005, Kemp was arrested in Shoreline, Washington with roughly two ounces of cannabis. He was later charged with drug possession and pleaded guilty. The following year, Kemp was again arrested, this time in Houston, Texas, for misdemeanor marijuana possession.
In a recent interview with TMZ, Kemp candidly discussed consuming cannabis during his NBA career as well.
“When I played,” Kemp told TMZ Sports, “absolutely we smoked pot back in the day when we played. We was responsible with it but we definitely smoked.”
Noting that he personally uses cannabis to help with arthritis as well as other pains, Kemp also shared that he hopes to open three additional dispensaries. In the interim, however, it’s evident that Kemp’s post-career arrests marred his efforts at an NBA comeback. With that quest now behind him, opening a legal pot shop with his name on it nonetheless marks quite the notable new chapter in Shawn Kemp’s story.
Located “just a stone’s throw” from the Sonic’s KeyArena, Shawn Kemp’s Cannabis is instantly recognizable thanks to “a vibrant 30-foot-by-80-foot mural of the Reign Man in Sonics green” painted by local muralist Jeff Jacobson on the shop’s arena.
Reporting on the opening of the dispensary, the Seattle Times also noted that Kemp was joined by his onetime teammate (and NBA Hall of Famer) Gary Payton for a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday, Oct. 30. Payton, it should come as no surprise, has skin in the game too. His company, CannaSports, provides THC and CBD vape cartridges as well as batteries branded with popular team jersey color schemes.
In a release issued to commemorate the opening of Shawn Kemp’s Cannabis, the titular hoopster acknowledged the significance of opening a legal, Black-owned cannabis business in Seattle.
“I’m looking forward to welcoming Sonics fans on a regular basis, starting with opening day,” Kemp said. “I hope that Shawn Kemp’s Cannabis will be an inspiration for people to get involved with the legal cannabis industry, especially people of color.”
On that front, it’s thus notable that Kemp’s debut in the industry finds him partnered with Matt Schoenlein and Ramsey Hamide. According to the Seattle Times, the pair are industry veterans, having co-founded Main Street Marijuana, “which has remained the No. 1 cannabis retailer in Washington state since its inception in 2014.”
When it comes to launching new cannabis ventures, it’s certainly no exception to the rule to see a famous face partner with industry experts when launching new cannabis ventures. Regardless, Kemp emphasized in the release that his ownership and investment in this dispensary is for real.
“My name is on this company and I have worked hard to bring Shawn Kemp’s Cannabis to fruition,” he said. “I want to provide nothing short of the best selection, customer experience and prices in Seattle. I have incredible partners in Matt Schoenlein and Ramsey Hamide to make sure we deliver on that promise to our customers, who are our top priority.”
It appears the odds of Shawn Kemp’s Cannabis scoring a slam dunk are high, although any business opening under the unkind auspices of the Covid-19 pandemic undoubtedly have their work cut out for them. Game time!