Matt Barnes on Cannabis, Cancer, and Beating Snoop Dogg at Flag Football

Basketball players are trained to watch the clock. The 24-second shot clock. Three seconds to guard an opponent. Eight seconds to move the ball towards the opposition.

Professional athletes, better than most know how fleeting time can be, facing retirement at an age before most people settle into a full-time career. For former NBA player Matt Barnes it took him 14 years, his entire career, to finally win an NBA championship.

It took only 26 days for him to lose his mom to cancer.

“I lost my mom to cancer in 2007, she was diagnosed with four cancers all in stage 4 on November 1 and died November 27 only 26 days after being diagnosed,” Matt recalled. “It was kind of a whirlwind.”

On Thursday Barnes’ organization Athlete’s vs. Cancer held the first ever Smoke4ACure event, co-hosted with Snoop Dogg at Snoop’s compound. The all-star event included a celebrity/pro-athlete panel, cannabis-infused tastings and herbal mixology, as well as special musical performances, with all proceeds going to fund medical cannabis research. It also marked the beginning of Barnes 5th annual Athletes vs. Cancer All-Star Weekend, an annual event to raise awareness and funds for cancer research, as well as victims of the disease and their families.


“…the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Barnes organization evolved over time, as the former NBA player continually looked for new ways to help in the fight against cancer.

“We were geared towards health fairs, health clinics, pamphlets, understanding your body,” Barnes told PotNetwork about the early days of Athletes vs. Cancer. “About five years after that it changed into cancer-related things. We paid for surgery, pills, hospice, things of that nature. And now we’re starting another transition —starting a scholarship program for kids who beat cancer to go to college.”

In fact, Athletes vs. Cancer is very attuned to the fact that just paying for treatment these days can be crippling to a family. Barnes, who conceded that he was lucky enough to be able to pay for his mom’s hospital bills, dedicates his organization to help those who are less fortunate.

“To me, it was crazy that you’re in the fight of your life and it takes all of your money to make sure you get the best treatment, and you get healthy,” Barnes noted. “And now what?”

“So I kind of wanted Athletes vs. Cancer to be the light at the end of the tunnel,” he continued.

“…an alternative form of medication outside of opioids.”

In a recent Bleacher Report roundtable filmed for 4/20 Barnes spoke with a few other retired athletes on the benefits of cannabis. In perhaps his most candid moment on camera, Barnes admitted that for all of his best games he was “medicated.”

Far from a laughing matter for Barnes, and for most professional athletes these days, however, cannabis use has become a hot topic in light of the opioid epidemic. Substance use disorder deaths are on the rise, and professional athletes, many of whom are on the front lines when it comes to the overprescribing of pain medication are leading the charge to champion alternatives forms of medication, such as cannabis.

Barnes himself has gone back to his old school, UCLA, to push for more and better medical cannabis research.

“I’ve teamed up with my alma mater to do just that on the medical side —to show people not only that there’s not a stigma but to show them that flower, oil, CBD, and drops are okay,” said Barnes.

“I’m excited about doing that. My goal with that is to bring it mainstream not only to erase the stigma publically but to sit down with the Commissioners of the NFL and the NBA and have them understand the benefits of an alternative form of medication outside of opioids.”

“…we were just hanging out, medicating.”

The All-Star Weekend has grown over the years to include a number of fun-filled events, all for a great cause as Barnes told PotNetwork. Following Thursday night’s Smoke4ACure event Athletes vs. Cancer will hold the Bowl for a Cure event on Friday and a Pool Party on Saturday. It all wraps up on Sunday with a now-famous flag football game.

“It went from a two-day weekend to a three-day weekend, and now it’s a four-day weekend,” Barnes reflected about the growth of the event. “My initial commitment was golf, but I found that my crowd wasn’t golfers, so we transitioned to football. And now that I’m retired it’s continued to grow.”

Asked how one of the most prominent entrepreneurs in cannabis, Snoop Dogg came to join the cause, Barnes recalled that the two had known each other since his days at UCLA.

“I met Snoop when I was at UCLA in the late 90s… A few years after that we were just hanging out, medicating and we were like, let’s do a football game.” The two friends had much in common, both having been football guys, according to Barnes, and both having lost someone close to cancer —Snoop, his Uncle, and Barnes, his Mom.

“We thought it would be cool because there’s a lot of research now showing how beneficial cannabis is to cancer patients. So we came up with this smoke-out summit, and we’ll have about 20 different brands of influencers,” he added about the Smoke4ACure event.

Whether or not Barnes defeats Snoop in this year’s flag football game, something he did for the first time last year, well, only time will tell.


*To learn more about Athletes vs. Cancer, or to donate, go to

Originally published in PotNetwork News August 10, 2018