If canna-business is booming, will the marijuana industry make the foray into sports sponsorship? There is already controversy surrounding sports advertising when it comes to alcohol and gambling. With big business opportunities ahead for the cannabis industry, will they get in on the game? A recent stateside attempt at NASCAR sponsorship was bungled through a misunderstanding. Heading over to Europe, an Austrian football team has made history, signing with a cannabis industry sponsor. Read on to find out more. Oh, and American readers, note the rest of the world's use of the term “football” and not “soccer”.

WIENER VIKTORIA

One of the most resilient football teams in Vienna is Sportclub Wiener Viktoria. They currently train under coach Toni Polster, an Austrian football legend. Along with club chairman Roman Zeisel, Polster has defended the announcement of a new partnership with cannabis cultivators Flowery Field. Wiener Viktoria has previously had craft brewers as sponsors as well. Throughout European football, alcohol industry sponsors are very common.

"Top clubs are sponsored by bookmakers and brewers", said Zeisel "and that is seen as completely normal. We don't think we are any different". Zeisel and Polster acknowledged the novelty of their situation, but highlighted the value of educating the public on cannabis. Polster is satisfied with the new sponsor as long as they operate within the law. The words "Flowery Field" over a bed of flowers will now appear on players' jerseys. 30% of the sponsorship revenue will support the philanthropic work of the VIK Social organisation.

This association with such an unusual brand hopes to bolster support and publicity for the team. They are, after all, trying to break into Austria's third division for football. This move could encourage other clubs to think creatively about teaming up with cannabis brands. Cannabis industry logos could make it to the jerseys of Europe's major teams someday. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Cannabis isn't even legal in Austria. So how was a sports team able to make this arrangement? And what is Flowery Field?

Toni Polster Cannabis Wiener Viktoria

FLOWERY FIELD

Flowery Field GmbH operate a cultivation facility just outside Vienna. Their website claims that they are the largest hemp producer in Austria, producing and selling around 25,000 plants every week. When Austrian police confiscated around 4,000 of their plants, Flowery Field took legal action. They were able to convince Austrian courts that they operated within a loophole in Austrian law. Austrian laws do tolerate hemp and cannabis plants when they have below 0.3% THC content.

This is the case with many cannabis plants during their vegetative phase. It is during the flowering phase when plants begin to develop psychoactive THC. Flowery Field take great care in cultivating their plants, as seen from their promotional videos. 

Once their plants have been nurtured into the vegetative phase, they are trimmed for neatness. Many of these plants are developed for medical and scientific research purposes. This is permissible under Austrian law. Selling cannabis, however, isn't. Possessing fewer than five grams of cannabis has been decriminalised, but larger amounts carry harsh penalties.

The loophole Flowery Field discovered is that they could sell plants in their vegetative state. At that point, they have not developed high levels of THC and are not guaranteed to. Someone could buy one of these plants and continue cultivating it at home. If this plant flowered with psychoactive buds, then the owner of the plant will have committed an offence. Flowery Field warn customers of this and thereby absolve themselves of responsibility for illegal activity. With this business model, they have flourished, providing the nation with much of its hemp and cannabis.

Flowery Fields Cannabis Austria

MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN?

As more countries legalize cannabis, for both medical or recreational purposes, demand for savvy industry movers will grow. This is an innovative move on Flowery Field's part to sponsor a sports team. Cannabis is a controversial issue in sports, especially concerning whether it should be included in doping tests. Notably, UFC fighters like Nick Diaz, Ronda Rousey, and Kyle Kingsbury have supported tolerance of cannabis. There are medical arguments to be made for its effectiveness in helping athletes’ recovery and pain management as well. Maybe sports will be another arena through which stigma against cannabis is broken down.

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