Former Golden State Warriors player Al Harrington made some news recently when a clip of his interview with ex-NBA Commissioner David Stern went viral.
Stern said that marijuana “probably should be removed from the [banned substances] list” and also suggested that the issue could be opened up in the next round of labor agreements, perhaps matching legality of applicable state laws.
Obviously, this would be more important if Stern were still in charge, but it indicates a big shift in the general perception of pot and the acceptance of the legitimacy of medical marijuana. And that’s one of the reasons why Harrington picked Stern to interview saying that Stern “was the commissioner during the roughest time in the NBA for drugs and what I wanted to talk to him about was to... separate marijuana from all that other stuff.”
And “all that other stuff” represents a history of drug abuse that has most recently caught OJ Mayo, who is currently serving a two-year ban.
“The Concept of Cannabis”
You can (and should) watch the full 15-minute “The Concept of Cannabis” documentary that Harrington made in partnership with Uninterupted. Pay particular attention to what Harrington says around around the 9 minute mark about his use of cannabidiol (CBD), a compound that has significant medical benefits, but does not make people feel “stoned.” Harrington started taking CDB in 2012 instead of traditional pain medicine like Vicodin: “CBD. It’s like the anti-inflammatory part...I was self-prescribing myself through people in the industry.”
Medical marijuana is a touchy subject. On the one hand, it is praised for natural properties that make it useful for treating things like seizures, multiple sclerosis, swelling and joint pain (as Harrington says); and may also reduce depression and relieve anxiety. All problems that are commonly addressed via prescribed heavy-duty pharmaceuticals. And here is what Warriors coach Steve Kerr had to say on this dichotomy:
“I’m not a pot person; it doesn’t agree with me,” Kerr said. “I’ve 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’ve got a lot of pain, I don’t think there is any question that pot is better for your body than Vicodin. And yet athletes everywhere are prescribed Vicodin like it’s Vitamin C, like it’s no big deal.”
On the other hand, it is nearly impossible to separate the medical and recreational uses of marijuana, which opens up a whole other avenue of concern. Do we want to send the message to kids that marijuana is so safe that it is being decriminalized/is medicine and therefore normalized?
States continuing to legalize medicinal/recreational use
Regardless of where you stand on the issue, recreational and medicinal marijuana usage and experimentation has increased and states continue to legalize it with already something like 1 in 8 of American adults smoking pot. California goes fully legal on January 1, 2018.
Kerr made waves late last year when he admitted to using marijuana while recuperating from back surgery.
“I guess maybe I can even get in some trouble for this, but I’ve actually tried it twice during the last year and a half, when I’ve been going through this chronic pain that I’ve been dealing with,” Kerr said on The Warriors Insider Podcast.
“(After) a lot of research, a lot of advice from people and I have no idea if maybe I would have failed a drug test. I don’t even know if I’m subject to a drug test or any laws from the NBA.”
At the time, the NBA responded to say that coaches are indeed tested and reiterated that the substance remains on the league’s so-called Ban List. In light of the new soundbite from Stern, Kerr doubled down on this sentiment prior to Wednesday’s game against the Toronto Raptors:
“I don’t think it makes sense for everybody to use recreational marijuana, I do think it makes sense to use it for specific injuries. I don’t know how that happens or manifests itself, but it would be wise to look into it and I think every sports league would.”
The Warriors (and I) have something of a special attachment to this issue and not just due to our location in California — a couple of our stars (and I) are heavily rumored to occasionally partake of the devil’s weed. Now, it should be noted that NONE of these rumors are proven to be true. Durant’s image at the header of this story is purported to be from tobacco from a hookah, Thompson’s run-in was a long time ago. Who’s to say what was in that container? But it is probably safe to say that there are players using marijuana either for medical or recreational purposes already.
I’ll stay away from further conjecture about who does what, but I’m glad to see this issue hit the radar of public perception.
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