“Our bodies are beat to s— every single night. … And a lot of guys use cannabis to cope with that”
Al Harrington is going hard to the hoop.
The former NBA player and current cannabis advocate was buoyed by news that major league baseball has dropped marijuana from its banned substance list and said he believes it is just a matter of time before professional basketball follows suit.
“The day-to-day pain management issues that players deal with can be dealt with through cannabis,” Harrington, who founded a cannabis company called Viola, told The Washington Post. “Something that is all-natural and nowhere near as harmful as the stuff that they’re using now.”
The harmful stuff he is referring to are the powerful opioids players are overprescribed to help manage the pain of playing through a gruelling 82-game season. Although Harrington would like to see marijuana fully permitted in the NBA, he said the league would likely be much more open to CBD, a non-intoxicating component of cannabis that possesses the same therapeutic effects.
But for anything to happen, the NBA’s stars need to lead the charge, he said, adding that 90 percent of the players he has spoken to fully support ending the ban. “I know that — in order to get things done because I’ve played in the league so long — it has to start at the players,” he said. “That’s when barriers can be broken down.”
With NBA commissioner Adam Silver expressing openness to re-examine the ban on the drug, NBA Players Association executive director Michele Roberts said a change could be coming before the presidential election in November.
Silver would have the support of former NBA commissioner David Stern — the man who wrote the league’s cannabis policy — who said it is time to end the outright ban, particularly in light of the opioid crisis. “I think it’s time to take a whole new look at it,” Stern told CNBC at the SeventySix Capital Sports Innovation Conference and Pitch Competition in Philadelphia. He said the rise of medical cannabis for the treatment of pain, anxiety and other issues forced him to reassess his views about the drug.
Acceptance couldn’t come soon enough for Antonio Harvey, another former player preaching the good gospel of cannabis and its powerful pain-management potential. “We think that athletes use cannabis to get high, and that’s not the case,” he said. “Our bodies are beat to s— every single night. … And a lot of guys use cannabis to cope with that. They don’t get high to get high. They get high to feel better.”
Harrington can personally attest to that, the former star said cannabis is the only thing enabling him to go through life pain free after a 16-year playing career forced him to undergo 13 surgeries to stay on the court.
“No one is really averse to amending these things; we’re trying to do it in a way that eliminates the possible jeopardy of our players,” Roberts said. “That’s the key. If the feds tomorrow announce we’re no longer in the marijuana prosecution business, then I’d think we’d have a deal by tomorrow night.”
Written by David Yasvinski