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David Stern: NBA Should ‘Probably’ Remove Medical Marijuana From Banned List

The former league commissioner spoke with former NBA star Al Harrington about players using medical marijuana to treat injuries.

David Stern: NBA Should ‘Probably’ Remove Medical Marijuana From Banned List
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE

Advocates for the use of medical marijuana in professional sports just got a big ally: former NBA commissioner David Stern.

It’s “probably” the right time for the league to allow players to use medical marijuana for treating injuries, Stern said in an interview with former NBA player Al Harrington for a documentary on LeBron James' Uninterrupted media platform.

"I'm now at the point where, personally, I think it probably should be removed from the banned list," Stern said. "You've persuaded me."

Ironically, it was Stern who previously tightened NBA rules on marijuana during his time as commissioner from 1984 to 2014.

"It was generally known at some point, until we tightened the rules, that a lot of our players were smoking a lot of marijuana," Stern said to Harrington. "In fact, some of our players came to us and said, 'Some of these guys are high coming into the game.' But we began tightening it up, and at that time, people accepted the generally held wisdom that marijuana was a gateway drug and that if you start smoking, you're liable to go on to bigger and better stuff."

Stern cited the current overall perception of marijuana in society and a CNN series on medical marijuana as the main reasons for his change of stance. He added: "There's universal agreement that marijuana for medical purposes should be completely legal."

In his conversation with Stern, Harrington described how he used CBD, a marijuana derivative, to help recoever from a “botched knee surgery”.

"I think all of the leagues are now appropriately focused on player training, structuring of the right parts of their body, player rehabilitation in the case of injury, player nutrition, player this, player that,” Stern said. “This should be a part of that conversation. Can you imagine if we could create a situation where every superstar was able to play one additional year?"

Current NBA commissioner Adam Silver has been cagey about the possibility of a change in the league's stance. "I would say it's something we will look at," Silver said when asked about the future of medical marijuana during a Reddit interview in August. "I'm very interested in the science when it comes to medical marijuana."

The NBA has no current plans to change any marijuana policies, NBA spokesman Mike Bass stated in the wake of Stern’s comments. "While Commissioner Silver has said that we are interested in better understanding the safety and efficacy of medical marijuana, our position remains unchanged regarding the use by current NBA players of marijuana for recreational purposes," Bass said.

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