We've already reported about KD expressing his view that the use of marijuana should be allowed in the NBA. If we are to trust former players, 85% of the league smoked, including coaches and GM's. We had the former commissioner David Stern talking to Al Harrington saying he changed his mind and believes the league should allow it.
Now we have the actual commissioner Adam Silver speaking about the league's position, and it is more advanced than we knew before. Silver appeared on "The Full 48", a podcast with Howard Beck (What'up Beck), and shared some information:
I didn't intend to break news, but there are ongoing discussions with our Player's Association and there have been for some time. I don't want to speak for Michelle Roberts but I think she and I have a somewhat similar view on this which is we should follow the signs.
Silver pointed out that this is not an ethical or moral issue for him. He said the league is monitoring the evolution in so many states and that they are aware of the change in attitude towards medical and recreational use of marijuana. As a lawyer, he also understands the technical difficulty the current rules create.
First of all, just as a practical matter when we have teams in so many states that it creates difficulty for us, and for the players when there's a hodge-podge of regulation. For example, you still as I understand it, under FAA rules, you cannot legally travel with marijuana. So it's a bit of a trap in some ways for our players, or any team employee for that matter, that they could be living or playing in one state, travel with marijuana to another state and they could be violating the law. Those laws apply to charter planes as well.
The main point Silver was making is that the league office and the players union want to make this decision based on scientific research. They are taking into consideration the acceptance society is slowly developing, but the ultimate reason has to be backed up by scientific research. In the end, the NBA is a huge business, and any decision like this has to be iron-clad. This is where he was surprised by the lack of in-depth understanding by the scientific community:
We and the players association are both looking into this and it surprises me, there's not much science out there as I would've thought in terms of how, the medical efficacy of using marijuana. I don't mean to suggest that people who say it's effective for it, that it's not. I understand that it's like a lot of issues we deal with in the league. It's a balancing of issues that even, first of all, it may be the case when you have professional athletes you can consume it a lot of different ways. Smoke is very bad for your lungs, so maybe they shouldn't be doing it mid season.
Kevin Love and DeMar DeRozan speaking out about their mental health also contributed to this process. Removing the stigma from mental health issues and the benefits the use of marijuana has in dealing with such matters elevated the conversation about marijuana to a level beyond the original discussion. Silver realizes people try to deal with issues the best they can and banning marijuana just pushes them to use legal substances that actually may be worse for them.
I understand that for some players, they may be self-medicating, but that marijuana is a way of dealing with those issues. It's a question if we ban marijuana what else will they use. I've had players tell me that ''I don't smoke marijuana, use marijuana, because you guys drug test and it's banned and I accept that so I was written a prescription by a team doctor for anti-anxiety medication and that medication makes me uncomfortable." I recognize that that medication may be worse for the player than smoking marijuana, even if marijuana isn't great for you and I also recognize if they don't want anti-anxiety medication and they can't smoke marijuana, they may drink more which is perfectly legal, you know, you can't over-use alcohol in our league, but we don't have a prohibition on drinking and that may be much worse for them.
Silver also pointed out the importance of social responsibility. A lot of young people are fans and take everything the league does seriously. Condoning the use of marijuana will surely influence their position on it, so they want to be sure they have all their bases covered.
An interesting nugget was finding out how the league treats marijuana use right now. It seems they are already quite forgiving when it comes to using:
If a player tests positive for marijuana, we should make this clear, there's no public disclosure of it. the team in the first instance isn't even informed. It's a confidential program where a player talks to a drug counselor and often that's a trigger for a player to talk to a counselor about issued they are dealing in their life. I recognize for some player everything may be fine and he smoked pot, everybody moves on and the player goes ''I got it, I can't do this under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, I tested positive, I recognize there are ramifications", but the ramifications for testing positive the first time are essentially you talk to a drug counselor, and essentially the same thing the second time. It's only the third time you get into sanctions.
From all this, we can conclude this is a coordinated plan to slowly introduce the idea to the public, prepare everything for a change. The NBA is a multi billon dollar business and while most fans probably already have a positive attitude towards marijuana, a lot of them have paretns that need to be sensitized to the idea.
A former commissioner, a current superstar, and the current commissioner speaking up in public general within a year points to a shift in league policy. One small step for the NBA, one giant leap for potheads everywhere.