As a cannabis entrepreneur, actor, vegan, and NBA star, John Salley imagines a world in which everything is possible

John Salley calls himself a “conscious capitalist”.



John Salley calls himself a “conscious capitalist”.

He’s best known as a four-time NBA-championship winning power forward with the Detroit Pistons, Chicago Bulls, and Los Angeles Lakers.

He even suited up for the Toronto Raptors in their inaugural season in 1995-96, but what he’s done postcareer has left an equally large impression. He’s been a talk-show host, actor, producer, cannabis entrepreneur, chef, vegan, philanthropist, and wellness master.

“I pay attention to everything I’m putting in my body,” Salley told the Georgia Straight on the line from California. “To some people, it may seem obsessive, but it’s not. This is the only body I have. I wouldn’t put bad gas in a Ferrari.”

He employs the same philosophy with his premium cannabis business, Deuces 22, which he cofounded with his daughter Tyla. In July, it reached a licensing agreement with Flower One Holdings to bring its organic dry flower, prerolls, and topicals to Las Vegas and other locations in Nevada.

“The world considers it to be the number one tourist attraction in the world,” Salley explained. “That means the world comes there. And if the world wants to try cannabis, you now don’t have to fly all the way to Amsterdam. You can fly into Nevada. That was my idea.”

He and his daughter made this deal because they realize that Nevada offers an opportunity for Deuces 22 to scale up production. According to Salley, Flower One “had the best grow that we had ever seen”.

He also emphasized that it was his daughter’s idea to launch Deuces 22, which is named after his jersey number in the NBA. Tyla was attending university when she told him that she wanted him to invest her tuition money in a cannabis enterprise. That was because she didn’t see any black women in this business.

Cannabis can help pro athletes

Salley said that Deuces 22 will only get involved with companies that share his family’s interest in avoiding herbicides and pesticides. And he looks forward to the day when more people recognize the role that cannabis can play in helping people, including former pro athletes, who’ve become dependent on prescription painkillers.

“We believe we’re an alternative to opioids,” Salley said. “We believe we’re a solution, not a problem.”

This is why he thinks all pro athletes should smoke or be involved with cannabis if they want to extend their careers.

For a while, he was even looking into whether athletes should bank their stem cells in preparation for what might happen to their bodies in the future. Now he realizes that cannabis extracts can play a positive role.

“The pain in your neck and your elbow and your knee—you take it for granted,” he noted. “And I told those guys, ‘Why make all that money if you can’t walk? Why make all that money and have a heart attack at 66?’ We have to literally start paying attention to health and wellness.”

He also takes environmental issues extremely seriously. Hence, the decision to go organic.

“I’ve got a size 16 shoe, but I want to leave the smallest footprint on the planet—if I ever leave the planet,” he quipped.

On a more serious note, Salley would like to see North Americans eat far less meat, which has been linked to some cancers. It’s why he was an early investor in Beyond Meat, which reflected his desire to be a conscious capitalist.

“Why don’t you put a tax on things that aren’t good for people?” he asked. “If we do it that way, there will be less animals being murdered, because people are not going to want to pay a tax to get that cancer.”

In the long run, he thinks this would save governments a tremendous amount of money currently being spent on health care.

Vancouver opened Salley’s eyes to weed

The former basketball player said he didn’t try cannabis until he was in his final season with the Lakers, in 2000.

That summer, he was cast as a seven-foot elf in The Ultimate Christmas Present, which was shot in Vancouver. While visiting the city, he discovered the Herb Museum in the 300 block of West Hastings.

“I realized I bought too much, because I had to fly back to America that weekend,” he recalled. “So I stayed up and smoked a half an ounce of weed and I have never looked back.”

Now 55 years old, Salley remembers how hard he worked as a youth in Brooklyn to get onto the road to success.

He used to wake up at 6 a.m. and go running before doing his basketball drills. He knew at that time that the kids in California were still in bed.

He also likes saying that no one can tell him what he can and can’t do.

This mindset is what has led him in so many different directions since his retirement from the NBA.

“This is the deal: for many years, I wanted to be a preacher,” Salley said. “And then for many years, I wanted to be a teacher. For the rest of my years, I’m going to be sage.”

Charlie Smith

I'm the editor of the Georgia Straight newspaper in Vancouver, as well as a CannCentral contributor.

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