Tag: basketball

NBA Seems to Be Changing Its Cannabis Stance, and Fast

Suddenly, the National Basketball Association appears to be opening up to the use of cannabis among its players. In recent days several league stakeholders have spoken out in support of both medical and recreational cannabis.

It began last week when former NBA Commissioner David Stern said in an interview that he is “convinced that cannabis does have medicinal qualities and should be taken off the league’s list of banned substances.”

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“I’m now at the point where, personally, I think it probably should be removed from the banned list. You’ve persuaded me,” Stern told former NBA player Al Harrington for a documentary on Uninterrupted, a multimedia site backed by LeBron James.

That was a bit of a shock for anyone familiar with Stern’s tenure. Under his watch, the NBA continued to list cannabis as a banned substance. The league routinely handed down five-game suspensions for players who registered a third violation for cannabis. And it still does. Several players were hit last season with cannabis violations—all resulting in five-game suspensions.

Stern told Harrington that a CNN series on medical marijuana helped change his mind. He now thinks there is near-universal agreement that cannabis for medical purposes should be “completely legal.”

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“I think all of the leagues are now appropriately focused on player training, structuring of the right parts of their body, player rehabilitation in the case of injury, player nutrition, player this, player that. This should be a part of that conversation,” Stern said. “Can you imagine if we could create a situation where every superstar was able to play one additional year?”

Harrington, a 16-year NBA veteran, has become a medical marijuana advocate since his playing days ended in 2015. Harrington told Stern during the interview that he consumed CBD during the last three years of his NBA career, while he was playing in Denver.

To that point in his life, Harrington had never consumed cannabis and actually believed that if you smoked marijuana you could end up dying.

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Over the weekend, Detroit Pistons Head Coach Stan Van Gundy stopped short of agreeing with Stern’s new cannabis outlook, according to the Detroit Free Press. But Van Gundy admitted that the NBA will now face some pretty complex issues regarding cannabis—especially with more and more states legalizing the plant.

“I think the NBA is going to be in a tough spot down the road – not just medical – but as more states legalize marijuana even for recreational use,” Van Gundy told the Free Press. ““That doesn’t mean you have to allow it. There’s still some businesses who test for it, but you let people be impaired by alcohol because it’s legal, how are you going to draw that distinction with marijuana in states that it’s legal?

He would add, “To me, That’s a tough one.”

To Van Gundy, the NBA could get in a sticky situation with players who play in Denver, Boston, Oakland, Portland, or Los Angeles, where recreational cannabis is, or will soon be, legal. Van Gundy asked how it would be okay to tell a player in Denver that there will be repercussions for using a substance that is legal for adults to consume.

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Per a recent statement from NBA spokesman Mike Bass, “While (current NBA) commissioner (Adam) Silver has said that we are interested in better understanding the safety and efficacy of medical marijuana, our position remains unchanged regarding the use by current NBA players of marijuana for recreational purposes,” Bass said.

For Van Gundy, he doesn’t want to tell Silver what to do, but he definitely thinks this is something that will not go away.

“I’m not telling Adam Silver and the league what to do, but’s it’s not going to be an easy question as more and more states legalize it for recreational use.”

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Warriors Coach Tries Medical Cannabis, NBA Freaks Out

Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr made waves over the weekend when he said, during a CSN Bay Area Podcast on Friday, that he has consumed medical marijuana for back pain he experienced over the past two years.

“I guess maybe I could even get in some trouble for this, but I’ve actually tried [marijuana] twice during the last year and a half when I’ve been going through this pain, this chronic pain that I’ve been dealing with,” Kerr told host Monte Poole.

According to the interview, Kerr said that after a lot of research and advice, he decided to give cannabis a try – despite not knowing whether or not he would be subject to a drug test, because he is a coach. But still, Kerr tried it.

“And it didn’t help at all,” he said. “But it was worth it, because I’m searching for answers on pain. But I’ve tried painkillers and drugs of other kinds, as well, and those have been worse.”

Kerr would add that, “it’s tricky,” when talking about possible answers to his back problem. The former player-turned-coach underwent two back surgeries last year, which led him to miss the first half of the 2015-16 season. Complications from those surgeries have caused him continuing discomfort.

“I understand that it’s a perception issue around the country and the NFL, NBA. It’s a business, so you don’t want your customers thinking, ‘These guys are a bunch of potheads.’ That’s what it is.”

Steve Kerr, head coach, Golden State Warriors

Despite his own disappointing experience, Kerr does believe medicinal cannabis is a better alternative to what professional athletes are being handed for pain today, which is typically a large dose of potentially habit-forming opioids. The former Bulls point guard said that he hopes professional sports leagues soften their stance on cannabis use.

“I’m not a pot person,” Kerr said. “It doesn’t agree with me. I tried it a few times, and it did not agree with me at all. So I’m not the expert on this stuff. But I do know this: If you’re an NFL player, in particular, and you got lot of pain, I don’t think there’s any question that pot is better for your body than Vicodin.”

The NBA, in a statement, said: “All of our coaches are drug tested each season. Marijuana is included on our banned substances list. There are medical exceptions to our policy but, in this case, it’s not relevant because Steve said he did not find marijuana to be helpful in relieving his back pain.”

The league’s statement raised more questions than it answered, though. Kerr lives in California, where medical cannabis is legal but adult-use cannabis won’t be available in retail stores until 2018. Which means Kerr would have had to obtain a California medical card, and purchased from a medical dispensary. The personal efficacy of the medicine, by law, has nothing to do with its status as medical cannabis.

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On Saturday, Kerr said he was surprised by the attention his comments received, but mentioned how important the conversation of pain relief in professional sports is.

“The issue that’s really important is how do we do what’s best for the players? But I understand that it’s a perception issue around the country and the NFL, NBA. It’s a business, so you don’t want your customers thinking, ‘These guys are a bunch of potheads.’ That’s what it is. But to me it’s only a matter of time before medicinal marijuana is allowed in sports leagues because the education will overwhelm the perception.”

He added, “I’m actually kind of glad it became an issue because I think it’s a very important issue to talk about, having gone through a tough spell over the last year with my own recovery back surgery, a lot of pain, chronic pain,” he said.

The Warriors remain top class in the NBA, as they currently sit atop the Western Conference with a 17-3 record. Their next game is set to tip tonight in Oakland, versus the Pacers at 7:30 p.m. (PT).