Is the NBA Changing its Tune on Cannabis?
While most professional sports organizations list cannabis as a banned substance, there is increasing pressure from athletes, officials, and the public to reconsider. This is due to several factors: states legalizing it in one form or another, increased awareness of the benefits of cannabis, and the recent opioid crisis. Athletes in particular are vulnerable to opioid abuse because they are prescribed the pills for sports-related injuries, and see cannabis as a much safer way to treat their pain. And they have an ally in former NBA commissioner David Stern, who served for 30 years. He firmly believes that the times have changed and marijuana should no longer be on the banned substance list. Stern made this clear when he sat down for a discussion with NBA veteran Al Harrington, who now runs his own cannabis extraction company.
Changing Times, Changing Minds
David Stern served as the NBA commissioner from 1984-2014, during which time he actually placed greater restrictions on cannabis usage. He says that other players were complaining about their teammates playing stoned and,“At that time, people generally accepted that marijuana was a gateway drug and if you start smoking you’re liable to go on to bigger and better stuff.” Stern has since realized that this isn’t the case, and that there are legitimate benefits to using cannabis beyond just lighting up a blunt to get stoned. During the conversation, Harrington explains that many professional athletes use cannabis; they just don’t talk about it.
There just doesn’t seem to be any real reason for keeping the marijuana ban in place. Former commissioner Stern currently favors a state-by-state rule, where if it’s legal where you live, you’re free to use it: ”If marijuana is now in the process of being legalized, I would think you should be allowed to do what is legal in your state. Now I think it's up to the sports leagues to anticipate where this is going and maybe lead the way."
Legitimate Relief from Pain
Unlike Stern, Al Harrington has experienced firsthand the healing properties of medical marijuana. While Harrington was playing, he had a knee injury that affected his performance, and after seeking medical attention, he discovered that CBD can successfully relieve pain. He explains, ”How I started using cannabis, is when I played for the Denver Nuggets I had a botched knee surgery that I ended up getting a staph injection. Ended up having to get four more surgeries just to clean the infection out. You know, I was on all kinds of pain meds. This lady that runs this university, she seen all of the medicine that I had on the thing and she said ‘Al, have you ever tried CBD?’ And I was just like, ‘nah I never really tried’ and she gave me a couple of things to try and I immediately felt the difference.” This is one advantage of medical cannabis in sports since physical injuries can be debilitating, even career-ending, as can the side effects of taking lots of prescription pills.
From Consumer to Producer
Harrington has seen cannabis heal others, too. His grandmother was able to effectively manage a diabetic condition using medical cannabis. Today, he has several farms where he cultivates the flower he uses to create his extracts. The venture is great for his lifestyle and is also very lucrative. Between the medical and economic benefits, it’s time to federally legalize marijuana. But while we wait for that, we can at least hope the NBA will come around.