Isiah Thomas pumps new hemp enterprise, Detroit Pistons rebuild

Isiah Thomas’ path from NBA Hall of Famer to business journeyman has taken a new turn toward the cannabis industry.

More specifically, Colombian hemp.

Thomas recently invested $3 million into One World Pharma Inc., a Las Vegas-based global supplier of hemp, of which Thomas took the helm last year. The investment makes him majority owner of the company and one of the largest minority business owners in the Pan-American cannabis space, according to a news release.

“When people are looking at the plant itself, most of the time the conversation automatically flows to THC and CBD,” Thomas told Crain’s. “We see the modern use of hemp in commodities, from technical textiles to bio fuel.”

Thomas, revered by Detroit sports fans since the Detroit Piston’s “Bad Boys” era of the late 1980s, has dabbled in a wide array of enterprises off the court. Launched in 2017, Cheurlin Champagne has become the bubbly flagship of his Chicago-based holding company Isiah International LLC, which also reaches into real estate and waste management.

Hemp, though, is where he sees the future. Thomas joins a growing list of former star professional athletes in the cannabis industry, including Calvin Johnson, John Salley and Al Harrington.

“The impact that we’re going to have with this plant in every single industry makes us excited,” Thomas said.

One World Pharma was formed in 2017 to capitalize on a fast growing global cannabis market expected to reach $47 billion in annual sales by 2025. The environmental and health benefits of cannabis, combined with the revenue potential, moved Thomas to invest.

“When Isiah Thomas assumed the role of CEO he lent us his good name and his world-renowned leadership and business acumen,” Kenneth Perego, the company’s executive chairman, said in the news release. “Today, he provides the funding for the company to truly execute on its plan to become a leading international supplier of the finest cannabis ingredients.”

Thomas said he’s in discussions with major automotive and food companies regarding the supply of hemp products and their potential to help companies reduce carbon emissions. He declined to name the companies.

“I believe that hemp will be the plant that will be the answer to a lot of the climate change and a lot of the carbon that’s being released,” he said.

Thomas declined to discuss his companies’ finances. One World Pharma entered a “revenue phase” in June, according to a news release. The company has not disclosed who its customers are.

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