Despite shifting opinions on marijuana in America, there is one area where pot is still definitely unaccepted – major league sports. The NFL, MLB, and NBA all have “substance abuse” policies outlawing any illicit drug use – even if it’s legal to obtain in the athlete’s home state. And while some current and former professional sports stars have openly come out in favor of marijuana, the majority of officials and coaches have stayed by the book.
However, former NBA player and current Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr has recently come out in favor of marijuana use, specifically for alleviating pain. Kerr admitted in a recent podcast interview that he tried medical cannabis after undergoing back surgery in 2015. He had been prescribed powerful painkillers, and was looking for an alternative treatment.
“I’m searching for answers on pain,” Kerr said. “I’ve tried painkillers and drugs of other kinds, as well, and those have been worse. It’s tricky.”
After the interview was aired, Kerr followed up on the subject during a press conference, going as far as to state that the league should consider allowing players to use medical marijuana for pain. Kerr encouraged the topic to be discussed during upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations.
“I’m talking about pain relief, and what’s best for our players’ health,” Kerr explained. “That’s what should be in the CBA, and that’s what our owners and the league and the players union should be most concerned with.”
Kerr went on to say that as research and development continues to grow in our society, so will attitudes about the use of cannabis in sports medicine. In his podcast interview, Kerr stated that he believes medical marijuana could be a better – and safer – alternative than traditional opioid painkillers.
“I do know this: If you’re an NFL player, in particular, and you got a lot of pain, I don’t think there’s 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. And there’s like this perception in our country that over-the-counter drugs are fine but pot is bad. Now, I think that’s changing.”
Marijuana continues to remain illegal at the federal level, and with the election of Donald Trump, it’s not clear what the future holds. Even if the NBA players’ union and league officials agree on medical marijuana use, it may be a while before we see LeBron James or Kevin Love endorsing vape pens. League commissioner Adam Silver told GQ in 2014:
“It’s our strong preference that our players do not consume marijuana. We believe it will affect their performance on the court.”