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Views on Cannabis Are Changing in the NBA

It’s no longer a secret that NBA players smoke cannabis. Kenyon Martin, ex-Denver Nugget and retired NBA power forward, estimated that 85 percent of the NBA smoked cannabis during his 15-year career. Former NBA small forward Matt Barnes, who retired just a season ago, claimed that he played better when he smoked. “All my best games I was medicated.”

The NBA currently tests players four times during the year, and not at all during the off-season. Compared to other leagues such as the NFL, the commission does not see marijuana usage as much of an issue – and the punishment is looked at as a “slap on the wrist.” The first infraction is a mandatory completion of a substance abuse program. The second infraction is a $25,000 fine without suspension. The third is a 5 game suspension, and the fourth is a 10 game suspension.

$25,000 may seem like a lot of money, but the average NBA player makes $6.4 million per season. While most players wait until they retire to admit to using cannabis, it seems as though the league understands that it is a much better option that opiate based medications like Vicodin and OxyContin which normally end up addicting patients.

“I do feel strongly that it (marijuana) is a much better option that some of the prescription drugs, and I know it’s helping a lot of people, which is great,” says Steve Kerr, head coach of the World Champion Golden State Warriors.

David Stern, who was commissioner of the NBA for 30 years before retiring in February 2014, holds similar views. “I think we’ve got to change the collective bargaining agreement and let you do what is legal in your state. If marijuana is now in the process of being legalized, I would think you should be allowed to do what’s legal in your state…I’m now at the point where, personally, I think it probably should be removed from the ban list”

It may only be a matter of time before the league changes its policy and makes cannabinoid based medications legal for their players to use.

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