Article by Morgan Campbell, Toronto Star
BioSteel has a long track record of signing top-tier endorsers but last week the Toronto-based sports nutrition outfit closed its biggest deal to date, selling a majority stake in the company to Canopy, a Canadian cannabis retailer. The deal aims to make BioSteel a player in the rapidly-expanding market for cannabidiol (CBD) products.
On Thursday morning the Toronto Wolfpack, five days removed from the biggest win in franchise history, kicked off a crucial new phase of the business by launching Rugby Strength, its team-branded line of hemp-based CBD topical creams.
The back-to-back developments signal that cannabis is on the brink of widespread acceptance in mainstream professional sports and that Toronto could function as an entry point.
It’s not clear when BioSteel’s cannabis-based products will hit local stores, but the Wolfpack’s pain-relieving cream is already being marketed and sold to athletes in the United Kingdom. Both companies are part of a growing list of sports industry stakeholders ready to integrate CBD products into training rooms when rules governing the substance allow it.
When Canopy acquired their stake in BioSteel, Dallas Cowboys tailback Ezekiel Elliot updated his BioSteel contract so he could also endorse the company’s upcoming products — once the NFL makes them legal. Right now BioSteel and Canopy are consulting with NSF International, the U.S.-based product testing and certification agency, to create standards for CBD products in sports.
“As soon as it’s certified for sport, you’re going to see it in every locker room,” BioSteel CEO John Celenza said. “There’s a genuine demand.”
Elliott is far from the first NFLer to promote the purposeful use of cannabis and related products.
Even before retiring in 2011, long-time Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman Eugene Monroe advocated for medicinal marijuana to help players manage chronic pain. And in a recent interview with The Bleacher Report, retired NFL receiver Percy Harvin revealed that he kept anxiety in check by smoking a joint before every game.