As medical marijuana becomes legal in more and more states — as does recreational marijuana — professional sports leagues will have to at least look into their drug policies banning its use. The NFL reportedly plans to study marijuana’s effectiveness as an option for pain management, and whether it is a safer alternative to prescription pain medicines for the future.
That is a significant departure from the hard line opposition stance that every pro sports league has held towards marijuana for years despite the fight to legalize the drug, and it seems as though the NBA is beginning to come around as well.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver is in Israel for a Basketball Without Borders camp and the topic of medical marijuana was brought up. Silver, who has been against opening up the NBA’s drug policy with regards to marijuana in the past, sounded more open to looking into its effectiveness and potential usefulness for pain management, as the NFL is reportedly doing, and having discussions about that with the Players’ Association. Silver was asked about the NFL’s interest in medical marijuana studies, and said its certainly something the NBA will look into as a league and have a conversation about.
We saw the NFL suggesting players could inhale or smoke cannabis. With the NBA’s very liberal stance on many other matters, would you think it’s possible that the NBA would legalize the use of cannabis for medical purposes?
“I would say it’s something we will look at,” Silver said. ” I’m very interested in the science when it comes to medical marijuana. My personal view is that it should be regulated in the same way that other medications are if the plan is to use it for pain management. And it’s something that needs to be discussed with our Players Association, but to the extent that science demonstrates that there are effective uses for medical reasons, we’ll be open to it. Hopefully there’s not as much pain involved in our sport as some others, so there’s not as much need for it.”
How those conversations with the NBPA go and what the NBA feels the legitimacy of the science around medical marijuana is remains to be seen, but this is a significant step and shift in the NBA’s stance on the subject and at least opens the dialogue for change in the policy going forward. The league has long been considered one of the most progressive when it comes to social issues, but it has not been as open in the past on the issues of marijuana.
That doesn’t mean anyone should anticipate any swift changes to come in the near future, and Silver still seemed unsure whether the necessity is there in the NBA compared to a contact sport like the NFL. Silver was recently asked about marijuana legality and the NBA’s drug policy by C.J. McCollum, and explained that travel and marijuana not being legal in all 50 states makes it risky for the league to change its policy.
“I don’t see the need for any changes right now,” Silver told McCollum. “I mean, it’s legal in certain states. But as you know, our players are constantly traveling, and it might be a bit of a trap to say we’re going to legalize it in these states, but no, it’s illegal in other states. And then players get in a position where they’re traveling with marijuana, and we’re obviously getting into trouble.”
Piecing together these two quotes, you can assume that the NBA will do its due diligence in studying the positive effects of medical marijuana on pain management and discuss possibilities for the future with the Players’ Association, but a change in policy is highly unlikely to be on the table for discussion so long as it remains a state-by-state legalization issue and isn’t opened up nationally, taking the issue of travel out of the equation.
(h/t r/NBA user Ed Hamden, full transcript via the NBA)