OPED: Cannabis Could Be the Next Revenue Stream for Athletic Departments

October 11th, 2018 | by Jonathan Yates
OPED: Cannabis Could Be the Next Revenue Stream for Athletic Departments

More than 30 states have passed laws in favor of legalized cannabis. Medical use is spreading. It is increasing rapidly in consumption by the general public. Overall, the entire cannabis industry is booming. The numbers are compelling, imposing and increasing: millions of users with billions in revenues!

It is inevitable that it will be a major force in college athletics in the future, sooner rather than later for the savvy athletic director.

No athletic director wants their stadium smelling like a Grateful Dead Concert with the stands filled with fans whose heads are slumped in buckets of buttered popcorn, but there is much that can be done with the cannabis industry at even the most conservative school.

All that is left is for athletic directors to move forward and fully utilize what the cannabis industry has to offer for their program and institution, which is considerable; and burgeoning on a daily basis.

It is impossible to deny what cannabis can do to improve the health of many student-athletes. It is not just impossible, it is a lawsuit waiting to happen if it is denied when it is legal and its best for the student-athlete. Recently, there was the case of the NCAA penalizing an Auburn football player for using a legal cannabis product to treat seizures. Being the athletic director whose school is the first one sued for not allowing legal cannabis due to department policy even though it is best for a student-athlete is not going to be a career-enhancing move.

The financial health of college athletic departments could be greatly improved by legal marijuana. Publicly traded companies in the industry are now being listed on the New York Stock Exchange. There is no denying this momentum on its side.

Eventually, every college athletic department will have a relationship with the legal cannabis industry.

There is simply no way this will not happen. It is legal in the majority of states. Athletic departments need the money as about 80% of FBS programs are in the red, and that is with major tax breaks that might not be here next year! Most of the profits come from just two schools (UT and Texas A&M), so the overall financial picture is even worse.

There are three major reasons why athletic directors should accept that legal marijuana must be a major part of planning for the future.

In many cases, it is what is best for the student-athletes. The medicinal benefits are proven. For the Auburn football player and many others, legal cannabis was the best remedy, as prescribed by his doctor. My brother’s 17-year old Yorkie enjoyed his last days much more thanks to the doggie herb oil for his joints from his veterinarian.

It is also a major new revenue stream.

Football still provides about 70% of revenues. Schools need to diversify. Bloomberg just reported that Coca-Cola is discussing with Auroas Canabis about launching new beverages containing cannabidiol, otherwise known as CBD. Pity the athletic director who is put in a position of having to end relationships with Coca-Cola due to this development.

For those 18-34, legal marijuana is one of the most important issues. In a generation, they will start retiring. Their outlook will dominate society even more in the future. Now is the time to get out in front of this new development. It is the same with bitcoins, other cryptocurrencies, and block-chain technology.

Legal cannabis and these others are exciting new developments for college sports that cannot be ignored, rather they should be embraced by athletic directors at all programs.

Jonathan Yates About Jonathan Yates
Jonathan Yates spent much of his career working for Members of Congress in a variety of press and legislative posts. Positions he has held working for Members of Congress and state legislators include Chief of Staff, General Counsel, Legislative Director, Press Secretary, and Legislative Assistant. His journalistic work has appeared in such periodicals as The Washington Post, Foreign Policy, Investor's Business Daily, and TheStreet, among others. He has degrees from Harvard, Johns Hopkins, and Georgetown University Law Center; and has also matriculated at the U.S. Naval War College and The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). Jonathan also hosts The Culture of Sports You can follow Jonathan Yates on Twitter at @politicsports13

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