The HIGH TIMES Interview: Cliff Robinson

Cliff Robinson played 18 seasons in the NBA for four different teams. Throughout his career, “Uncle Cliffy” was durable, versatile and consistent, having made the playoffs in 17 of those seasons. He retired in 8th place on the all-time games played list with 1,380. He was also known to partake in smoking marijuana, which one would need to recover from all those minutes on the hardwood, but subsequently lead to him being suspended twice from the league.

Growing up around it, marijuana has always been a part of Robinson’s life. Now, the 49-year-old, who lives in Oregon where marijuana is legal for adult use, is entering the $5.4 billion legal pot industry by starting his own cannabis-based business, aptly named Uncle Spliffy. The site is live, but currently only serves to collect information from visitors so it can alert them when products will be on the site.

Robinson, on the heels of his speaking engagement at the Cannabis Collaborative Conference, spoke with HIGH TIMES by phone to discuss his new business venture, the NBA’s drug policy and smoking “shit.”

HT: What are your plans for Uncle Spliffy?

CR: Our plans are to start a cannabis-based business. Now we’re getting ourselves into position to go through the licensing process. What we’re going to do first is start with an e-commerce store and sell Uncle Spliffy apparel and some hemp-based products. Everything is being rolled out a specific way: The producers first, retail will be the last thing to roll out in Oregon for us. I’m going to take the slow approach and just put ourselves into position to bring items to the consumer once we get our license and these things continue to come online.

Are you going to grow your own strain of marijuana and sell it?

That’s eventually the plan. Right now, we’re being contacted by a lot of people about a lot of different opportunities. So we’re in the process of vetting things out as we continue to dot our I’s and cross our T’s.

You’re in Oregon where recreational use is legal. For e-commerce are you allowed to ship to states where recreational use is illegal?

No. We will not be doing that until that’s legal for us to do. Once we get our license, we can only sell within the state of Oregon until we’re able to cross state lines into other states that have it medically or recreationally.

When you made the announcement of Uncle Spliffy, it was the biggest news story. What’s been the feedback from your fans and other athletes?

Everything’s been positive. I expected some backlash because we still live in a time where there’s still a negative perception of people around cannabis in general. So I knew there would be some negative response, but for the most part, everything has been positive. For me, the focus is on the positive. I can’t really worry about what someone who has a negative perception might be thinking, because right now we’re living in a time where states are coming online recreationally, more states are using it as an alternative means to treat some things. The conversation needs to continue to be had so the positive will always outweigh the negative.

What are those positives?

Well, it’s great for relaxing! It’s definitely always helped me focus more when I wanted to be focused on something. I find I can really gear into what I want to get done. So from those two standpoints alone, it helps me.

During your playing days, how often would you smoke marijuana?

I don’t know. As the collective bargaining agreement changed, you found you couldn’t do it. I ran into an issue where I tried to do, and it caused me to be off the court, so as the collective bargaining agreement changed and they put more testing in, you couldn’t use it during the season. Early in my career when they only tested one time at the beginning of the season, I probably used it more then than I did later in my career.

While you were playing, did you find a large percentage of players smoking marijuana?

One thing I don’t want to make this into is something where I’m throwing other players under the bus. I would hope that other players who might of felt it helped them in some kind of way would come out and say something. Eventually, hopefully, something like that will happen. So guys smoked, but as far as the number, I don’t know.

What are your thoughts on the drug policy in the NBA?

I think there’s a compromise somewhere. Having the conversation opens up the dialogue and continues to open the dialogue more as more states open up to use it medically and more states come online recreationally. I think the conversation will have to continue to be had, because how can you expect guys to not partake in something that is legal?

How would you implement legalizing use of marijuana in the NBA?

First, I would allow CBD-based products to be used, whether it’s the topicals or it’s the creams, maybe some recovery drinks—stuff that’s high in CBD count and low in THC because THC is the first thing they think of. It’s a matter of trying to create a more positive stigma around it than negative.

What are your thoughts on prescription drugs?

I was never really into pharmaceutical drugs unless it was something I had to take. It was always something about the stomach, which I hated. You would have to eat before this…I never really reacted to them well, as far as my stomach is concerned, and when you look at pharmaceutical drugs on these advertisements, they give you the benefits, but then they give you so many different side-effects that may occur while taking these pharmaceutical drugs.

When did you realize you wanted to start this business and become an advocate for marijuana use?

I think I’ve always been an advocate. I have friends who are on the medical side in Oregon and in Michigan, so it kept coming across my desk since I retired. I didn’t think it was the right time until now when Oregon opened up recreationally.

Since it has become legal for recreational use in Oregon, how has the scene and perception changed?

I think it’s an exciting time here in Oregon. We’re in a position where we can take advantage of this by trying to lead the way by doing things right. I think Oregon has always been known for having good cannabis, and now we should be known for doing good business. I think we’re in a unique position where we can help lead the way and be that beacon of light so to speak across the country for other states to say ‘Look at Oregon. They’re doing it right, they’re working together, they’re helping each other to achieve their goals’—whether it be helping the different businesses reach their goals, help OLCC [Oregon Liquor Control Commission] achieve their goals—and in turn, it helps Oregon achieve its goals. When you look at that, that’s just a positive. If we can keep the big picture in mind, I think this will continue to roll out in a successful way and help continue knocking down that negative perception around cannabis.

What are some other positives and are there any drawbacks to legalizing marijuana?

Well, I think the drawbacks, first, are if, as a group of business people, we don’t abide by the rules and regulations and don’t continue to roll this out the right way. The most positive thing is it has taken businesses that have been behind closed doors and really legitimize them. There was such a wealth of knowledge behind these closed doors and on this black market, so to speak, that now this knowledge is being shared, and now we’re becoming more educated. The recreational smoker is going to be a more educated smoker, which helps in people understanding that you have to use it responsibly.

What’s one thing you want to say to the naysayers about legalizing marijuana?

I would just tell them to continue to open up their minds to the research that’s being done and understand that this is a natural growing product. The people who are producing these plants are developing strains that are very beneficial to people. They should not have that closed perception to it because Reefer Madness is over.

For people who are advocates in states where marijuana is not legal, what can they do to push it forward?

You can’t have change without having a voice. So, continue to voice your opinion and be a part of the conversation.

Are doctors not getting on board with prescribing medical marijuana?

I think doctors are used to pushing pharmaceutical drugs on their patients, and I think they’re in a position where they’re in bed with those pharmaceutical companies and a lot of times, they need the pharmaceuticals. I’m not saying cannabis is the cure-all. Cannabis is definitely not the cure-all. But it is an alternative to treating certain things. They’re using it to treat migraines, and they’re using it to treat epilepsy. There’s a gamut of things they’re starting to use it for.

You mentioned Oregon is known for having really good strains. What’s your favorite strain to smoke?

I like sativas more than indicas. I don’t want to be laid out on the couch, I want to continue on my day.

Any kind of bud you prefer more than others?

I had some not too long ago that I really enjoyed. It was called Electric Dog Shit.

Did I hear you correct?

Yes you did. Yes you did.

What did you like about it?

For the most part, I’m kind of mellow, not too talkative, but I found that when I did partake in that particular strain, I was a little more talkative than usual.

What are your thoughts on edibles?

I think edibles are great, especially for people who don’t enjoy smoking it and inhaling it. Edibles are a great way to get introduced to it and for someone who wants to partake in it.

What edibles have you eaten?

I’ve had brownies and chocolate bars.

When was the first time you tried marijuana?

Oh wow, I was in high school. It’s always been a part of my upbringing, so for me I never really looked at it as a big deal.

Which candidate would be best…

I don’t! I don’t. When I played in the NBA, they changed rules every year, and as players, we adjusted to the rules. And I think as players in the cannabis business, all we can do is play by the rules. So if things change, we have to make adjustments, but hopefully things have gone a little too far for them to go back the other way. 

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